If there's a child in your house, then you probably know what's going to happen when the clock strikes 12 tonight. The final Harry Potter book—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—will be unleashed on the world.
The big question that has millions of kids on edge: Will Harry live—or will he die?
But the big question many parents have is: Should their kids be reading novels about wizards and witches and magic?
A Christian expert on Potter mania says, "It depends."
Connie Neal, a veteran youth pastor and mother of three, is the author of a book titled What's a Christian To Do with Harry Potter? Neal says parents must use discernment in deciding whether to allow their kids to read Harry Potter. For example, kids with an unhealthy interest in the occult should probably not read these books. Other Christians believe their kids benefit from the moral lessons the Potter books teach.
Neal's belief that it's okay for Christians to read secular novels comes from her reading of the biblical book of Daniel. Daniel, you will remember, was a teenager when he was taken away from Jerusalem to live in exile in Babylon. There, he was taught the language and literature of the pagan culture. He studied at a school that trained Babylon's magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers. The actual practice of sorcery and astrology was, of course, forbidden by God. But Daniel studied it well to understand it.
One day King Nebuchadnezzer called on his magicians and astrologers to interpret a dream; none could do it. In a rage, the king ordered that all of his wise men be put to death. Daniel asked to see the king, who then asked him, "Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?" Daniel responded: "No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery which the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days."
Daniel had immersed himself in his culture's pagan literature in order to understand it. But, because of his deep devotion to God, he didn't defile himself. As Connie Neal told BreakPoint, "God put Daniel in Babylon to be a light in the darkness—and he was. He was not afraid to read literature that resounded in the hearts of the people with whom he lived. He used his familiarity with this pagan literature to reveal the true and living God." And Neal knows some kids who have done the same in our own post-Christian culture.
Now personally, I don't recommend the Potter books. I'd rather Christian kids not read them. But with some 325 million of them in print, your kids will probably see them and hear others talk about them, and they're probably going to read them anyway. So use this occasion to teach them to be discerning—like Daniel. Dare them to have Daniel as their role model, not Harry Potter.
And if your kids do enjoy Harry's magical world, you should give them copies of C.S. Lewis's Narnia books and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy.
These books also feature wizards and witches and magic, but in addition, they inspire the imagination within a Christian framework—and prepare the hearts of readers for the real-life story of Jesus Christ.
From BreakPoint®, July 20, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship