I went to see Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince this Friday, and enjoyed the film very much. While reflecting on its lessons, I thought I would write up a short piece to respond to well-meaning religious conservatives who believe that the Harry Potter franchise promotes witchcraft or lures Christian children into the occult.
Not only do I believe their concern is misplaced, but in fact, I have to say that the Harry Potter books and films are one of the greatest and most crucial cultural developments of our generation.
Consider first, the clear and unambiguous battle between good and evil. In a post-modern world turned upside-down by the philosophical wreckage of the previous four centuries, where "enlightened" students at our top universities will maintain with a straight face that all morals are relative and that there is no objective right and wrong, it is a breath of fresh air to see our entire society captivated by a story that so clearly portrays good and evil exactly for what they are.
Good people are full of love, hope, benevolence, kindness, meekness, humility, and an unflinching dedication to, pursuit of, and reverence for the truth. Evil people are full of malice, fear, envy, cruelty, arrogance, and deceit. The good strive to live in community with one another. The evil try to hurt others. The good are peaceful. The evil are violent. The good love light and life. The evil love darkness and death. The distinction is clear and unequivocal in Harry Potter as it is in real life. Conservative Christians could not ask for a better advocate of their views in the popular culture.
Then there's the magical. This is the part that seems to put off Evangelicals and Pentecostals the most, but it is in fact one of the Harry Potter series' greatest virtues. In our post-Enlightenment world, where philosophic naturalism and pretentious scientism have triumphed in our leading cultural institutions, how wonderful it is to see people and children in love with magic! That's the charm of Harry Potter. That's the draw. 20th Century America and England are starved for the supernatural, and the Harry Potter books and films make a fine entree in that regard!
Part of the cultural/political program of the eugenicists (the heirs in spirit of Darwin and Malthus) and the socialists (the heirs in spirit of Marx and Hegel), is to cut off society from its roots, including its spiritual beliefs and religious traditions. The advance of atheism today is not the philosophical or scientific triumph of truth over invented dogma, but one aspect of the systematic imperialism and conquest of violent, modern political agendas. I can think of few things that have done more than the Harry Potter series to halt their advance by subtly but deeply confronting the premise that our universe is merely a closed system of physical cause and effect.
Furthermore, the Potter books make their case and unfold their captivating plots by making use of motif after borrowed motif from all of the Western world's classical mythologies and religious traditions. In a culture so cut off from its own past (a thing conservatives of all people should lament), Harry Potter is introducing many of us for the first time to something beautiful- the ancient world. It subtly, and not-so-subtly weaves together a vibrant tapestry from all the threads of the ancient way of thinking and looking at the world, which is and will be our greatest weapon in fighting the march of statism and the other scourges of modern and post-modern thinking.
Harry Potter doesn't make me want to consort with the Devil. Instead, it reminds me of how beautiful, and wonderful, and true my Christianity is. It makes me want to be a better person, it motivates me to make our world a better place, and it gives me hope that I can and will triumph in that regard.