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Harry Potter and the Bible
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Getting Harry: A Review of 'Harry Potter and the Bible'

By Laura J. Bagby
Contributing Writer - Just saying the name J.K. Rowling aloud today will bring a myriad of passionate responses -- some pleasantly favorable, and some quite heated. Interestingly, the Potter series, which made Rowling famous, has sparked controversy not just between the secular and Christian communities, but also within the Christian community itself.

In light of the books' popularity, Christians are wrestling with the moral content of the series, debating whether or not to support the books on moral grounds. Are the Harry Potter books harmless fantasy, or are the tales a step toward a deadly fascination in the occult for today's children and teens? How does the series line up with Scripture?

Enter Richard Abanes, author of Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace Behind the Magick, a thoroughly researched volume to help concerned parents, educators, and pastors decipher the deeper message behind the Potter series.

As a nationally recognized cult researcher, and member of the Evangelical Press Association and the Society of Professional Journalists, Abanes lends credibility to the Potter debate. By assimilating information from various resources, both pagan and Christian, Abanes draws from his vast storehouse of knowledge to back his main premise: that despite Rowling's claims that she doesn't believe in serious witchcraft and has no desire to promote its use, she offers much knowledge about the occult that could potentially lead the curious down the path to the dark side.

"…It is neither absurd, nor laughable, to suppose that the Harry Potter books might lead some children into the world of occultism since the series contains actual beliefs and practices associated with witchcraft and paganism, including: divination, astrology, numerology, familiars, pagan gods/goddesses, spellcasting, potions, necromancy (i.e., communicating with the dead/ghosts), mediumship/channeling, crystal gazing, palmistry, charms, arithmancy and magick…" (p. 173).

Sound a bit daunting? That is largely the point.

Written in the same arduous and well-supported manner as a college thesis, the author picks through the Potter craze with a fine-toothed comb, mentioning every problematic detail and defining every occultic allusion in each Potter book, and tearing down straw man arguments that the liberal media and even well-meaning, but perhaps uninformed, Christians have put forth.

Sectioned into two equally important halves, "Part One: The World of Harry Potter" covers all of Rowling's books to date, summarizing each plot, and then delving into ethical and age-related issues that would concern adults, particularly parents and educators; and "Part Two: Out of the Darkness" seeks to define terms, explain in shocking personal testimony the effects of the occult on young persons, and differentiate between the Potter fantasies and the works of Christian fantasy writers like J.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

After reading the book, I initially questioned whether the book's title should have been changed to Harry Potter and the Occult, since the author spends more time discussing the occult than discussing the Bible. However, knowing that the intent of Abanes is to point others to Christ by exposing falsehood, and also knowing that a title like the one I proposed might confuse Christians, I think ultimately the publishers made the right choice.

Be forewarned, however: This meaty book is not for the timid. You will learn about occultic practices that might make you squirm. There will be things in this book that might horrify. But if you are willing to withhold your initial judgment, I think you will agree that it is well worth mulling over Abanes' arguments.

In particular, for those who, like me, have wondered how the Harry Potter books stack up with Christian fantasy novels, Abanes provides a clear and insightful perspective in his chapter "Beyond Fantasy: Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling."

Deftly avoiding a hellfire-and-brimstone approach and sidestepping a Bible-thumping perspective, Abanes is careful not to misjudge Rowling's intentions for penning her novels. He is likewise careful not to condemn those who might read Potter books in the future. He simply leaves the reader with a well-reasoned argument with the hope that Christian parents, educators, and church leaders would combine their new understanding with their own discretion to make a godly decision.

As Abanes explains so well: "…Know that the enemy is not J.K. Rowling, the American public school system, Harry Potter fans, pro-Potter journalists or the publishers of the Harry Potter series. The true enemies are spiritual forces of darkness seeking to overshadow Christian values and virtues with occult myths, practices and morals" (p. 273).

Whether you come away agreeing with Abanes or not, this book is an eye-opener that will help you better define your position on the Potter phenomenon.

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