Harry Potter is the New Alcohol

For the past month, I’ve been expecting someone to jump in the comments and chew me out for reading Harry Potter. Thankfully, it hasn’t happened, but I’ve been thinking about what I might say if and when that time comes.

I don’t climb on soapboxes very much, as they tend to be slippery and I prefer keeping my feet on non-skid surfaces. However, it seems to me that Harry Potter is the new alcohol. By that I mean admitting to reading Harry Potter can be somewhat of a taboo Christian freedom that half of evangelicals think is sinful and the other half think is laughable.

This isn’t to say that we have license to go ahead and abuse our freedoms (and I’m not going to go to the other extreme of saying Harry Potter needs to be tucked in the pew next to the Bible and the Trinity Hymnal). Still, it seems one has to be either very anti-Harry or in-your-face-everyone-must-read-Harry. I’m neither.

I talk freely about reading Harry Potter here because I don’t think reading the books is sinful. I think it could very well be a stumbling block for someone, though, so I don’t carry my current copy into church with me. I’m not afraid of having the discussion, but I don’t want to bring about dissension where there is none already.

Having lived more than half of my life on the “Alcohol = Sin” side of that issue, I can spot legalism when I see it. Now in my recovering legalist days, I enjoy a very occasional dip into my once-heavily-debated freedom, but again, I don’t go around flaunting it. This isn’t particularly spiritual, but mostly because I have the alcoholic tolerance of a two-year-old.

That said, and with regard to reading J. K. Rowling’s oft-debated creation, I just enjoy really good literature. And I’m so glad I can say with full assurance that Harry Potter is just that and nothing more.

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24 thoughts on “Harry Potter is the New Alcohol

  1. Renae says:

    After I began reading through the series, it occurred to me that the “real” pagan worshippers, wiccans, Satanics, occultists, what-have-you, must be totally offended by the idea that the Harry Potter books somehow glorify their craft and their “religious” practices. I mean, really, should anyone be concerned that reading about kids saying “Expelliarmus” while waving about a phoenix feather wand will lead down *that* slippery slope?
    In a review of a book for Catholics, The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide, someone pointed out a primary difference between the two kinds of magic. That is, that Harry Potter’s magic doesn’t channel a “higher power” but instead is more of an inborn super-hero-ish superpower. Reading that point was an “aha!” moment for me, because I knew there was something that didn’t make sense in relating the two kinds of “magic,” but I hadn’t been able to put words to it.
    Glad to hear you’ve been enjoying your reading!

    Like

  2. Margaret says:

    This is why I read your blog; you’re honest and real and not holier-than-thou.
    I am REALLY interested in your thoughts on #7. I see a CS Lewis influence on Rowling (I have read all the Narnia series multiple times, his other fiction and some of his theology/philosophy).

    Like

  3. chickadee says:

    i have not read one word of harry potter (yet!) i’m sure i will some day and i in no way see it as sinful. i think people, christians particularly, view fiction in a negative light and i think that they are missing out on so much if they do.
    when we think about the way jesus himself taught it was through stories. we learn so much from stories and there is so much truth to fiction that really sticks with us more than the lectures we get.
    read! enjoy! tell us all about it. i won’t be judging you.

    Like

  4. Megan says:

    Well, I suppose a case could be made; however, there is a definite ending point to it, whereas with alcohol, well you know.
    If reading Harry Potter becomes a sin issue for me, it will have to do with lack of self-discipline and selfishness in wanting to spend my time reading it. That’s what I have to watch for!

    Like

  5. Chelsea says:

    I once wasted 12 bucks on a book called “Looking for God in Harry Potter.” I was trying to find some ammunition against the group that claims reading Potter is a highway to the devil. The book was a dud except for one chapter that explained WHY symbolism is important instead of just pointing out the symbolism. Nonetheless, the Potter books do lend themselves to great discussions about good and evil and the vast area in between. Plus, I just love some of the characters.

    Like

  6. Renae says:

    After I began reading through the series, it occurred to me that the “real” pagan worshippers, wiccans, Satanics, occultists, what-have-you, must be totally offended by the idea that the Harry Potter books somehow glorify their craft and their “religious” practices. I mean, really, should anyone be concerned that reading about kids saying “Expelliarmus” while waving about a phoenix feather wand will lead down *that* slippery slope?
    In a review of a book for Catholics, The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide, someone pointed out a primary difference between the two kinds of magic. That is, that Harry Potter’s magic doesn’t channel a “higher power” but instead is more of an inborn super-hero-ish superpower. Reading that point was an “aha!” moment for me, because I knew there was something that didn’t make sense in relating the two kinds of “magic,” but I hadn’t been able to put words to it.
    Glad to hear you’ve been enjoying your reading!

    Like

  7. Margaret says:

    This is why I read your blog; you’re honest and real and not holier-than-thou.
    I am REALLY interested in your thoughts on #7. I see a CS Lewis influence on Rowling (I have read all the Narnia series multiple times, his other fiction and some of his theology/philosophy).

    Like

  8. chickadee says:

    i have not read one word of harry potter (yet!) i’m sure i will some day and i in no way see it as sinful. i think people, christians particularly, view fiction in a negative light and i think that they are missing out on so much if they do.
    when we think about the way jesus himself taught it was through stories. we learn so much from stories and there is so much truth to fiction that really sticks with us more than the lectures we get.
    read! enjoy! tell us all about it. i won’t be judging you.

    Like

  9. Megan says:

    Well, I suppose a case could be made; however, there is a definite ending point to it, whereas with alcohol, well you know.
    If reading Harry Potter becomes a sin issue for me, it will have to do with lack of self-discipline and selfishness in wanting to spend my time reading it. That’s what I have to watch for!

    Like

  10. Chelsea says:

    I once wasted 12 bucks on a book called “Looking for God in Harry Potter.” I was trying to find some ammunition against the group that claims reading Potter is a highway to the devil. The book was a dud except for one chapter that explained WHY symbolism is important instead of just pointing out the symbolism. Nonetheless, the Potter books do lend themselves to great discussions about good and evil and the vast area in between. Plus, I just love some of the characters.

    Like

  11. Megan says:

    I put this post up hoping I would offend you, Lindsey, you know? Ha Ha! I did actually put the post up because of your previous comment, but I’d been planning to do it anyway.
    Life *would* be so much easier with some cooking and cleaning spells and perhaps a few of those permanent sticking charms… πŸ™‚

    Like

  12. Lindsey @ ETJ says:

    GASP!
    I’m shocked. I’m offended. I want my money back.
    Oh wait, I didn’t pay to read your blog πŸ™‚
    GIRL YOU KNOW I’M TOTALLY KIDDING YOU!
    If people only knew the things I did. I’d have zero readers. I keep my mouth shut about Harry Potter at church not because I don’t want anyone to know, but because I’m not willing to “die on that hill” as they say. I have found out (the hard way) that you really can’t argue with the anti-HP people anyway. So why even try?
    Meanwhile I cast evil spells on them as they drone on and on about it being bad for me and my kids. (Kidding on that too!)
    Boy I’m feeling snarky and sarcastic tonight!

    Like

  13. Clay says:

    This article on the benefits of popular literature like Harry Potter really helped me place the books in the spectrum of literature and gave me the freedom to cast off the last bit of reluctance in my enjoyment of the books. Y’all can thank Chesterton:
    http://tinyurl.com/2z95a2

    Like

  14. Megan says:

    I put this post up hoping I would offend you, Lindsey, you know? Ha Ha! I did actually put the post up because of your previous comment, but I’d been planning to do it anyway.
    Life *would* be so much easier with some cooking and cleaning spells and perhaps a few of those permanent sticking charms… πŸ™‚

    Like

  15. Lindsey @ ETJ says:

    GASP!
    I’m shocked. I’m offended. I want my money back.
    Oh wait, I didn’t pay to read your blog πŸ™‚
    GIRL YOU KNOW I’M TOTALLY KIDDING YOU!
    If people only knew the things I did. I’d have zero readers. I keep my mouth shut about Harry Potter at church not because I don’t want anyone to know, but because I’m not willing to “die on that hill” as they say. I have found out (the hard way) that you really can’t argue with the anti-HP people anyway. So why even try?
    Meanwhile I cast evil spells on them as they drone on and on about it being bad for me and my kids. (Kidding on that too!)
    Boy I’m feeling snarky and sarcastic tonight!

    Like

  16. Clay says:

    This article on the benefits of popular literature like Harry Potter really helped me place the books in the spectrum of literature and gave me the freedom to cast off the last bit of reluctance in my enjoyment of the books. Y’all can thank Chesterton:
    http://tinyurl.com/2z95a2

    Like

  17. Emily says:

    Well said, Megan! We love the Harry Potter books. My husband and I read them aloud together. Someone told me that Rowling is writing a Crime Novel. I think that I was crime.
    Hey, I am the Emily from our brief evening in St. Louis. Joanna’s friend! Just thought I would drop a memory jogger!

    Like

  18. Emily says:

    Well said, Megan! We love the Harry Potter books. My husband and I read them aloud together. Someone told me that Rowling is writing a Crime Novel. I think that I was crime.
    Hey, I am the Emily from our brief evening in St. Louis. Joanna’s friend! Just thought I would drop a memory jogger!

    Like

  19. Joanna says:

    Just for fun, I wanted to leave a link for others who have a Potter addiction. You can find your house at http://sorting-hat.com. They also have OWLS and NEWTS to test your knowledge of the books. I’m curious to know what house you are in Megan.

    Like

  20. Joanna says:

    Just for fun, I wanted to leave a link for others who have a Potter addiction. You can find your house at http://sorting-hat.com. They also have OWLS and NEWTS to test your knowledge of the books. I’m curious to know what house you are in Megan.

    Like

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