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Charles Colson

Harry Potter and the Existence of God - Charles Colson of Prison Fellowship Ministries and Dr. Terry Lindvall of Regent University share differing perspectives on the Harry Potter craze.

Charles Colson
BreakPoint Online

So what's the buzz among kids these days? A new video game? A spectacular movie? A hip new music CD? Not even close.

The hottest selling phenomenon of the summer is a BOOK. As all of us know, it's the latest Harry Potter novel by J. K. Rowling.

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 of God.

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 the book.

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 for God.

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 Ministries. "BreakPoint 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

Another perspective:

Dr. Terry Lindvall
College of Communication
Regent University

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.

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