What's At Stake for Harry Potter?
With the release of the latest film, news agencies should prepare for a newly ignited passion for book burnings and the banning of movies that depict any sort of witchcraft. While burning has become synonymous with witchcraft, it seems now that the practice of burning books about witches has become the modern equivalent. On 30 December 2001, The Alamogordo Christ Community Church scheduled a “Holy Bonfire” led by Pastor Jack Brock where 400 members of his congregation burned copies of Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling as well as other well known novels and works by such authors as Mark Twain, J.R.R. Tolkien and Shakespeare that they found offensive. The act of book burning shows a serious lack of respect for one of the principal rights on which our nation was founded - Freedom of the Press. Many lives have been sacrificed so that parishioners of Fundamentalist Christian Churches and other groups can tell the public what should or should not be read in their homes, schools, or libraries. And while these groups have the right to assemble, the right to their religious beliefs, and their right to say so in public, these freedoms do not give them the right to press their ideas upon others who are not interested or willing to listen. These inalienable rights based on our Constitution do not give any group the right to press their ideas upon others who do not follow the same beliefs or ideals. Burning or banning of books or movies is wrong for the simple fact it destroys the knowledge base enclosed in the writings or makes that knowledge unavailable to those who need or want it, and is based on unfounded and unwarranted views of other religions.
Books in and of themselves are harmless. They cannot wield a knife, they can not pull the trigger on a gun. The true danger is in the interpretation of the written word. The best-selling author Judy Blume explains this concept in an opinion editorial for the New York Times in October of 1999, when she says, “In my books, it's reality that’s seen as corrupting. With Harry Potter, the perceived danger is fantasy… the real danger is not in the books, but in laughing off those who ban them.” (par. 4-5) Blume is familiar with banning of books. She has written dozens of stories popular among children and teenagers. Several of those books have been banned from classrooms and libraries over the last 20 years at the request of parents who find her writing at odds with how they want to educate their children.
Extreme Fundamentalist Christian groups believe that if their children read these fantasy tales, such as the Harry Potter books, the kids will be led into witchcraft or Satanism. They hold the belief that the only acceptable reading materials are the stories in the Holy Bible. Seemingly magical acts, widely known and willing accepted in the Christian belief as miracles, are prevalent throughout the Holy Bible. Examples including changing water into wine, the raising of the dead, and the parting of the Red Sea. All these are similar to element in J.K. Rowling’s novels whose main character must continually fight evil and is learning to cast spells that seem miraculous to his friends. Similarly, both books show the snake as a representation of evil. They both show right over might with the slaying of a giant by someone who should be too small to accomplish the task – the defeat of the giant Goliath by a young boy named David, and Harry defeating the Dark Lord Voldemort. If Harry Potter is promoting magic, he is promoting the magic of the written word. A report by Yankelovich, a leading researcher in consumer trends, and Scholastic, the global children’s publisher, showed that the Harry Potter novels had a significant impact on reading levels in children. Something has finally drawn the kids away from the television and video games, and encouraged them to use their own imaginations. While reports of Extreme Christian groups burning Harry Potter books or requesting to have them banned from libraries and bookstores have become commonplace in the news, stories are not seen about Witches burning or banning Bibles or any other religious tome in protest to that in which they do not believe. Two Michigan pastors, T.D. Turner Sr. and his son T.D. Turner Jr., took offense to the Harry Potter books, and burned them outside their Jesus Non-Denominational church in August, 2003, as reported by David Serchuk of Forbes.com in December 2006. The Pastor Turner is quoted as saying, “Parents [have to] realize this is more than a fictional book…it’s attached to the occult.” Where are similar reports about Wiccans burning Bibles, or expressing their fear if their kids get their hands on The Book of Mormon?
Many of the reports of groups involved in the book burnings include an interesting tidbit – most of those burning the books admit they have not actually read any of the novels. They have based their opinions on the cover, or word of mouth about the general idea of the books. If these same groups actually read the novels, they would see a vast number of similarities, and fewer objectionable concepts than they might expect. Neither have they done their research to learn the true nature of Witchcraft and Satanism. These two ideologies have nothing to do with one another. Witches do not worship Satan – he is a Christian concept. The beliefs of witchcraft, otherwise known as Wicca, are centered on Nature and the Earth’s energy. The idea that Satanism and Witchcraft are the same is an insult to Wiccans.
The Harry Potter series books and films has come under fire (pun intended) in a handful of states where parents feel the books will encourage their children to show an interest in the occult, and have called for the series to be removed from classrooms and school libraries. A US District Court overturned a ruling the by School Board of Cedarville, Arkansas, that students were required to present written parental permission to check the Harry Potter books out of the school library. Billy Ray and Mary Counts sued the School Board and requested the ruling be overturned. Parents, religious leaders and educators are afraid of the violence they see surrounding children these days. They are doing all they can to protect the next generation. This fear for the safety of their children can become excessive, leading the parents or other well-meaning adults to take extreme measures such as removing the offensive literature from the reach of all kids, not just who share their religious or moral ethics. To quote a Jedi Master, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate” (Yoda) and this hate is being taken out on the books when they are burned or banned.
Writing this articale is not to press ideas or beliefs on the reader, unlike the Christian Fundamentalists who press their beliefs that reading the Harry Potter novels leads to occult activity. Rather, it is written to give the reader another way of looking at the novels and movies - through the eyes of a child, rather than the eyes of an adult. Religion is based on the belief in a higher being, not on the adventures of a 12-year-old boy as written by a once unemployed schoolteacher. While no good parent wants harm to come to his or her child, the crime of ignorance can be just as harmful. The parents are unintentionally causing harm to the next generation when they ban or burn books or films that they may disagree with, when those same books could lead to knowledge and a better understanding of the world.