Harry Potter: What's a Concerned
Parent to Do?
By Connie Neal
God knows there's enough we need to protect our kids from without pondering
invisible forces of evil! But we dare not neglect such protection because
the Bible tells us that spiritual forces of darkness pose a real threat
to our children's well-being. Lately I've been challenged to rethink
the pervasiveness of the occult in popular culture and how to protect
my kids from it because of the Harry Potter books. My conclusions surprised
These books about the fictional character Harry Potter are enormously
popular. Harry is introduced in the first book as an unsuspecting boy
who discovers he's a wizard and heads off to Hogwarts School for Witchcraft
and Wizardry. Well, what's a Christian parent supposed to do with that?
When my kids' friends started raving about these great books while my
Christian friends started denouncing them, I was forced to take a position.
The thoughtful consideration forced on me has paid off in spiritual
dividends for my family. I hope you and the kids you want to protect
will benefit too.
When my husband and I took on this subject for consideration, we invited
our children to join in the discussion by reporting where they saw occultic
influences in their everyday lives. In less than ten minutes, they came
up with a list of over thirty TV shows and movies that featured some
use of occultic powers. They listed myriad ways they were confronted
with all manner of occult practices with friends, at school, at the
mall, and even on the radio. We were quickly convinced that we can't
get away from occultic influences unless we completely separate ourselves
from our culture. For our family, that isn't an option because we are
committed to fulfill Jesus' command to "Go into all the world..." to
share the good news of God's love.
I found it notable that our kids listed Prince of Egypt, the animated
Bible story of the Exodus, as featuring the occult. It's true, Pharaoh's
magicians challenged Moses and his God. Both sides called on supernatural
powers to turn their rods into snakes. (Of course, Moses called on the
true God, so it wasn't occult, and God's snake ate up Pharaoh's snakes).
However, it became clear that if we were to opt for banning all stories
in which the good side used magical powers that could be associated
with the occult, we'd have to throw out some of the greatest stories
in Children's literature and some of the Bible! That certainly didn't
seem to be the way to go. So we had to find guidelines for limiting
the influence of the occult on our children, and making sure they did
not disobey God for the sake of entertainment or fitting in with popular
My first stop when examining the issue was to use my computer program
to search for every reference to magicians, sorcerers, witchcraft, and
wizardry in the Bible. I found a startling entry that challenged my
initial line of reasoning on this issue. In the book of Daniel, the
prophet Daniel is given the title "Chief of the Magicians" by King Nebuchadnezzar
(Daniel 4:9). Later the mother of King Belshazzar says to her son, "There
is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him.
In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence
and wisdom like that of the gods. King Nebuchadnezzar your father--your
father the king, I say--appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters,
astrologers and diviners. This man Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar..."
(Daniel 5: 11-12a) Daniel, chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers,
and diviners? How could this be? Surely he never practiced these forbidden
We Christians would never dare describe the prophet Daniel as a such.
He was the holy prophet who dared to face a den full of ravenous lions
rather than cease praying to the only true God. He was the one whose
close friends were thrown into the fiery furnace rather than bow to
an idol. How could this be? As a teen, Daniel was taken captive when
the Babylonians conquered Judah. Daniel and his God-fearing friends
were taken by force into a foreign culture and chosen to learn the language
and literature of the Babylonians. Daniel and his God-worshiping friends
were trained alongside the "magicians" and "seers" who worked for the
King. There is no indication that they refused to hear or read the literature.
In fact, when tested on what they learned they surpassed their peers.
However they drew the line when it came to violating God's laws or disrupting
their personal devotion to the one true God. Daniel and his friends
risked the king's wrath rather than eat foods that violated the dietary
laws of the Jews. However, they apparently lived with the occult practitioners
of Babylon and learned the literature of their culture.
I found Daniel to be a worthy role model for my children to follow.
He lived in a pagan world, steeped in the occult. He saw and learned
about their occultic practices, but never joined in and always maintained
his belief in the Holy One of Israel. Daniel and his friends were not
afraid to read literature that resounded in the hearts of the people
to whom they sought to minister. The cultural appetite for the supernatural
showed the people's deep need for and desire for true supernatural power
that can only be satisfied in God. Daniel used his familiarity with
this pagan culture to prepare him to reveal the true living God to his
Build a Wall or Fit Them with Armor?
So, how do we -- as concerned adults, parents and grandparents -- protect
our kids from the dangers of the occult that permeates our culture?
I do not believe it is biblically viable for parents to ignore the cultural
influences on their children or abdicate our responsibility to train
our kids to deal with culture in a godly way. So, metaphorically, there
are two basic approaches to protecting children from dangerous influences:
1. We can either try to build a barrier to keep the outside world from
coming too close, or
2. We can fit them with armor so they can go into all the world without
The Down Side of Building a Wall to Keep the World Out
Building a barrier is the attempt to restrict dangerous influences
by setting up external limits to keep out anything potentially dangerous
-- sort of like the great wall of China. There are many problems with
- Just restricting freedom can incite curiosity and rebellion leading
the one you're trying to protect to try to get beyond the protective
barrier to see what they are missing.
- Outside threats are so numerous it is impossible to keep out everything
that's potentially harmful. Even if you could keep children separated
from all potentially dangerous influences, you would also be keeping
them from situations in which they could develop the maturity to ward
off such dangers for themselves. This is illustrated by the movie
the Little Mermaid. Ariel's father, King Triton forbid her from having
any association with the human world. He also kept her from knowing
about the dangerous Sea-Witch Ursula who had been banished from his
court. She knew nothing of the personal vendetta Ursula had against
her father, or her deceptive nature, or how she enticed unsuspecting
merfolk to fall under her spell so she could hold their shriveled
souls captive. Ariel's ignorance and desire to explore beyond the
limited world allowed by her concerned father left her vulnerable
to deception. Her father had opted for a policy of avoidance by trying
to keep her safely protected from all that was dark and dangerous.
Instead, he left her vulnerable and unprepared to resist evil wisely.
- This approach disregards the fact that evil not only comes from
without, but also when "each one is tempted when, by his own evil
desire, he is dragged away and enticed" (James 1:14).
Advantages to Putting on Spiritual Armor
When the Bible gets right down to telling us how to fend off "the devil's
schemes" and stand firm against "spiritual forces of darkness in the
heavenly realms" it says to put on spiritual armor. This is described
in Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6, verses 11-18. This idea
of fitting children with spiritual armor represents helping them develop
a personal protection system with which they guard their own heart and
mind. It doesn't keep them from participating in their culture -- even
though there are many dangers. It equips them to go out into the world
protected at the point of contact with their culture.
Proverbs 4 gives advice to keep young people safe in a dangerous world.
Verse 23 says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring
of life." If we can motivate our kids to do this, they will develop
their own spiritual protection system, and will work with you to fend
off the forces of evil instead of against you. Along the way, they will
not only be protected, they will also be developing the maturity that
will give you assurance that they will be able to face life successfully,
without your continual monitoring when as they become adults.
We're supposed to help our children mature so they can successfully
manage all that life brings and fend off what ever forces of darkness
they are bound to encounter in this dark world. The Bible defines those
who are mature as those "who because of practice have their senses trained
to discern good and evil." So an important part of raising kids is finding
ways they can "practice training their senses to discern good and evil."
Some of the best practice for developing such discernment comes by way
of using fictional stories and characters, while teaching kids to measure
them by God's Word.
You can opt to use stories from popular culture, fiction, and fantasy
as a means to teach the lessons you aim to get across while teaching
them how to discern and guard their own hearts against evil. This approach
is a biblical option because the restrictions God puts on us with regard
to occultic involvement are clear cut (see Deuteronomy 18:9-16), Daniel's
example shows that it is possible for some believers to be educated
in the stories of popular culture without violating God's commands,
and because 1 Corinthians chapter 8 lays out how Christians can differ
on questionable cultural involvement as long as they don't violate their
If you read or view stories from popular culture with your kids, you
have the chance to put them in a Christian context. You can
do as we did with the Harry Potter stories and explain forbidden
occult practices using the stories as illustrations. You can
point out the peril and folly involved in such real occult practices.
You can also note good moral lessons, mistakes the characters
make. All the while you are helping your children practice discernment
skills in a culturally relevant way. In this way you help your
kids stay in touch with the culture of their peers without partaking
of it. They can even use the things their friends are into that
may include references to the occult as a way of turning the
conversation from a popular story to something supernatural
in the Bible. We have been able to present the gospel of Jesus
Christ in an understandable way to our kids' friends and their
parents using part of the first Harry Potter book as a parable.
The parent with whom we did this, came to a saving knowledge
of Jesus Christ shortly thereafter.
Copyright 2000 Connie Neal. All Rights Reserved. Used by
Connie Neal is an inspirational speaker and
author. She has written numerous books and magazine articles.
If you would like to read other books by Connie Neal --including
"Dancing in the Arms of God", the "Kids' devotion Bible,"
and more -- go to Zondervan.com or Amazon.com for more information.
To read more from Connie Neal check out her website
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to do with Harry Potter?
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