I skimmed through the syllabus on the first day of my Children’s Literature class this semester, and I soon as I saw Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on the reading list my heart filled with dread. I sat perfectly still in my seat, but my mind had taken me back to my childhood, over ten years ago, when my mom expressly forbade my siblings and I to read, or even think about reading, Harry Potter. My mom had sermons and bible verses to back her up, so we listened to her, and our conservative Christian home remained a Harry Potter-free zone up until a few days ago.
The day finally came when I had to read the first Harry Potter book for class. I borrowed the book from my fiance (who was a huge Potter nerd back in the series’ heyday), and smuggled it into the house late at night in the safety of my purse. I started reading the first few chapters under my covers in the glow from the light of my iPhone, and then hid the book under my bed before falling asleep (which I guess was kind of pointless because my parents read my blog, and now they’ll know everything). Yes, I am 21 years old and read Harry Potter in secret.
I finished the book the next day while my parents were at work and now I’m hooked. I haven’t finished a book that fast since Mockingjay. Every time I was about to put Potter down for the day, something would come up that wouldn’t allow me to stop. “TROLL IN THE DUNGEON!” “No, Harry! Stop believing in Quirrell!” I had seen all of the Harry Potter movies (in secret at my fiance’s house), but they cannot even compare to the books. I very much enjoyed the movies, but I always felt a little bit of confusion, like I didn’t fully understand what was going on and I was missing some information and background. After reading the first book, I feel like I understand the movies so much better. Not surprisingly, the book turned out to be better than the movies, and now I want to read all of them.
At first I felt like I had been deprived during my childhood by not being allowed to read these books, but in a way, I’m glad that I waited. Now that I’m older I can think for myself and realize that I can read the Harry Potter series without compromising my Christianity. The anti-Harry Potter Christians argue that it is the devil’s book, that Rowling writes “real” spells, and that the series glorifies the devil. Frankly, I think the notion that book has major non-fiction elements is ridiculous. It is a story meant to entertain children and young adults– it is not the work of Satan.
In fact, I believe that Harry Potter can teach us a lot about the core values of what it means to be a Christian. Love. Sacrifice. Boldness. Jesus calls us to love one another, to love one another so much that we would lay down our life for our friends, and to live fearless lives. Harry’s mentors, like Hagrid and Dumbledore, love him dearly, and in the end of the series, love will eventually triumph over evil. Love, in fact, turns out to be the reason why Quirrell cannot kill Harry. Sacrifice is a common thread through Harry Potter. Our first glimpse of sacrifical love comes when Harry’s mother sacrifices herself to save Harry. Near the end of the book, Ron sacrifices himself in the game of chess so that Harry and Hermoine can continue on and get the Stone. Throughout the book, Harry is learning to be bold and to believe in himself and in the wonderful capabilities that dwell inside of him.
I believe that there is more to be gained from reading Harry Potter than there is to be gained from strongly hating something that you’ve never read. If nothing else, staunch critics could at least gain the ability to form their own educated opinion of the books if they were to actually read them. As for me? My plan is to read the next book in the series, and then watch the movie for that book, and then read the next book and watch its movie, and so on.☺