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Banned Books Week: Conservative Christianity and Harry Potter

There is no better known book or series of books that get social conservatives stateside hot under the collar as the Harry Potter series.

This article, though not a comprehensive list, is fairly representative of the challenges facing Harry when not fighting dragons, undead adversaries or rescuing his schoolmates from certain death.

Even current Pope Josef Ratzinger has criticised the books stating that they “erode Christianity in the soul of young people”. What is most amusing is that it often seems that a lot of these people raising the most vociferous complaints have not read them. The complaints are generally pretty superficial: magic, witchcraft, demons, magic etc. All of these things make the books unChristian across the conservative Christian spectrum. Wikipedia has an impressive and comprehensive discussion on the religious controversies here.

Yet these scaremongering issues ignore the wider picture of the Harry Potter series. Themes of loyalty, of staying true to yourself, of doing the right thing no matter how much the odds seem stacked against you.

Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.

Goblet of Fire (Film)

And Harry is nothing if not noble, loyal and honourable to his friends. He is also brave (witness him challenging Professor Snape – a far more powerful wizard – at the end of Half Blood Prince). He is fearless – he never fears Voldemort and is even the only person not to fear speaking his name. And he is forgiving, despite everything that Draco Malfoy puts Harry through in the books, Harry does not want to see his nemesis harmed at the end of Deathly Hallows, so sickened his he by the possible future he sees earlier in the book of Draco being Voldemort’s puppet.

So we have to ask the question once again, what of the above do these Christian conservatives find so objectionable about loyalty, honour, a sense of duty, standing up against injustice, bravery or forgiveness?


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