It's surprising, but the Harry Potter craze is much more than a marketing
phenomenon. It's more than just a popular page-turner. The fervor surrounding
the Potter books is evidence of the human yearning for something beyond
the mundane world of our daily experience.
In fact, you could say that Harry Potter is proof of the existence
Kids were so anxious to get their hands on the recently released Harry
Potter and the Goblet of Fire that millions of the books were pre-ordered
over the Internet. Thousands of parents suspended bedtimes to take their
kids to the bookstores that opened at 12:01 A.M. last Saturday to buy
Not only did the book smash sales records, it sent the publisher "back
to the printing press" immediately for 2 million more copies. That's
in addition to the 3.8 million already distributed in this country.
Gallup has found that almost a third of all parents with kids under
18 have children who've read a Harry Potter novel. And there are already
plans for a Steven Spielberg film version.
What is it about Harry Potter that has kids turning off the TV and
devouring books? The latest novel, while easy to read, is not an easy
read: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire weighs in at over 700
pages. So much for marketing experts who tell us kids lack the attention
span to read big books!
What the fascination with Harry Potter really illustrates is what C.
S. Lewis meant by Sehnsucht -- the longing for the mysterious, the wonderful,
the other-worldly that our daily experience does not satisfy.
Classical Christian thinking understood that every desire has a corresponding
real object. Hunger, for example, indicates that there is such a thing
as food. But in our hearts there is a desire for something we will never
find in the world. Blaise Pascal called it the "God-shaped" void in
the human soul. Similarly, Augustine spoke of the restlessness of our
hearts that could only be satisfied by God.
The appeal of other-worldly stories like Harry Potter is that they
tap into our hunger for God's wonder. The banal world of video games,
television, the pursuit of wealth, and other diversions can never satisfy
this longing. The Potter craze reflects the longing in our kids' souls
But Harry Potter is not the real thing. Which is why many Christian
parents are concerned about it. Nor is it the best way to satisfy our
kids' desire. But you can use the Potter craze to get kids and grandkids
into something that leads them to the real thing.
Take this occasion to introduce to them to C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles
of Narnia, J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and
George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin. These books not
only recognize this yearning for wonder and magic, they also reflect
a well-developed understanding of the majesty and mystery of God.
If you do this -- and put your kids on to stories that recognize the
real thing we all yearn for -- the Harry Potter phenomenon may
turn out to be a pretty good thing indeed.
From BreakPoint, Copyright 2005 Prison Fellowship
with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry
of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission of
Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, DC, 20041-0500."
Heard on more than 1000 radio stations nationwide. For more
information on the ministry of Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship
visit their web site at http://www.breakpoint.org.
Dr. Terry Lindvall
College of Communication
Surprisingly, Colson sees the value of Potter as a signpost to genuine
faith. While some may use the books for occultic purposes, others may
see them as a means for awakening a parched imagination in the public
schools to a reality beyond the natural world. In one sense they are
more innocuous than the Tim Lahaye books, not pretending to offer orthodox
theology. While a truth lies behind the Left Behind series (that
our Lord Jesus Christ will return), so does a lot of pop dispensational
pseudo-theology. I fear these solemn angels of light more than fictional
comic tales of moral battles against dementors and real demonic villains.
And unlike the realistic teenage angst novels of Hinton, Rowling puts
our petty problems in context of larger, supernatural struggles.
Harry Potter is a kid who doesn't fit in, a latch-key kid without parents,
who is kindly adopted by a wonderful full-house family (are they Irish
Roman Catholic with all those kids?). As such, in a world of dysfunctional
and divorced familites, is it really surprising that young boys gravitate
towards a skinny, inadequate little twerp who is misunderstood and bullied,
but with his friends and some help from outside/Outside is able to triumph
over his situation.
What is especially curious to me is the presence of the two
key holidays, Christmas and Easter, in the book. What are they
doing there? What significance do they have? Their mere presence
suggests a reality beyond the magical antics of the students.
Another reality is breaking in. And one learns, poignantly and
profoundly, about death, sacrifice, nobility, valour, and not
judging by mere appearances. All solid lessons, that can direct
one's path to higher, and truer, things. As Lewis wrote, Sir
Launcelot can only take us so far in knowing our true calling;
Sir Gallahad can take us farther toward the true chalice. So,
too, we can ride with Harry just so far, but our understanding
of him will take us a lot farther in understanding other boys
(and girls) and their needs, and finding how we all are looking
for our final rescue, our salvation.
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.