Sunday, July 22, 2007

Why the Christian Right hates Harry Potter

It has been said, in our comments section that this film clip of a fundamentalist minister preaching to children that Harry Potter should be put to death is not an accurate portrait of the Religious Right. What exactly does that mean?

First, I don’t think anyone who reads this site assumes that when I say that the Religious Right is Harryphobic, this means that every member of the Religious Right feels that way. After all, with millions of individuals involved, there is bound to be diversity.

But it seems that when someone is campaigning against the book or the films, the leader of the campaign is invariably a fundamentalist Christian. For instance, fundamentalist Laura Mallory, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, tried to ban the Potter books from the public school library. She says the books have “evil themes” because they speak of witchcraft and spells. And the Bible clearly teaches such things are immoral. One child who opposed her efforts saw things more clearly. He said, “never at any time did I think the books are true.” But fundamentalists do think that there is truth in these books. Unlike most rational people, they do believe that witches and spells exist. They have no choice since the Bible condemns such things. To say they don’t exist questions the infallibility of Scripture. Most people are not offended by the theme of the Potter series because they don’t believe the “dark forces” actually exist.

It should be noted that Mallory was not alone. Numerous fundamentalists joined her campaign in an attempt to ban the book from the library.

In Cedarville, Arkansas, the school board restricted access to the Harry Potter books unless a student could produce a signed permission slip from their parents. The board passed the rule because fundamentalist parents complained after “hearing a series of anti-Potter sermons in 2001 by Mark Hodges, pastor of the Uniontown Assembly of God Church and a member of the Cedarville School Board.”

And Christianity Today, certainly a main journal on the Religious Right, reported on a parent who wanted the book banned from school and reported that “She is among Christian parents nationwide arguing that classrooms are no place for Harry Potter...”

Even in relatively secular England a Pentecostal Christian was up in arms about Harry Potter. Teaching assistant Sariya Allan is a “committed Pentecostal Christian” who told a seven-year-old girl she would be “cursed” for reading the Harry Potter books. The school found that action unacceptable and told Allan who then resigned her position and tried suing for £50,000 ($100,000) in compensation saying that she is being discriminated against for her religious beliefs. She says: “It’s a book of witchcraft, and witchcraft is an abomination to God.”

Jeremiah Films is a standard bearer for the views of the Religious Right. They produce numerous films all from a fundamentalist world view. They have films attacking gays, Mormons, evolution, and Harry Potter. They sell Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged. They argue the Potter books and film openly promote Satanism. says Harry Potter is against God because the Bible says “any practice of magic is an ‘abomination’ to him.” The fundamentalist Christiam film reviewer Phil Boatwright agrees. He insinuates that the films and books are part of a Satanic plot. He suggested people consider some other questions about the film:
Is it merely entertainment? Or is there a dark spiritual source feeding and supporting it? I realize that may sound like a stretch, but often Satan is most deceiving with a glossed-over package. Wouldn’t it be a shame if kids got pulled into witchcraft, while their folks thought of the books and films as merely children’s fantasy?
Baptist youth ministries leader Jennifer Zebel said in Baptist Press, “I cannot believe that any secular book, character or movie advocating witchcraft of any kind could be this wildly successful without Satan having an agenda for it. The bottom line is that we know the right choice is to steer clear of these books and movies, but we don’t want to make the sacrifice. Satan is a wonderful writer and movie producer.” To be clear, Baptist Press is an arm of the largest fundamentalist sect in the United States-- the Southern Baptist Convention.

Another fundamentalist movie site,, has rated the latest Potter as “abhorrent”, and the reviewer says seeing children who come out of the cinema after watching the film reminds him of “the malignant corruption of our culture.” He says the film “subjects children to the evils of witchcraft and a spirit of rebellion.” He argued that the popularity of the film means “even more children will be lured away from God and his infallible word, which says witchcraft is evil and abhorrent.”

And the God’s World Book Club had originally planned to sell the Potter books on the belief that they were “wholesome, good-versus-evil fantasy”, but they determined that Potter is “not Christ-centered”, and is “not written from a perspective compatible with Christianity”, so they have refused the books.

Charisma magazine author Cindy Jacobs wrote that: “The Potter series is clearly demonic in nature. It presents occult practices as being normative and good.” And certainly the largest political front of the Religious Right is Focus on the Family. Leader James Dobson says: “We have spoken out strongly against all the Harry Potter products.”

The Traditional Values Coalition of Rev. Louis Sheldon is another well-known Religious Right institution and they too have condemned the Potter books. Sheldon argues that the films promote Wicca, which includes “worshipping the earth and advocating homosexuality”, and “believes in abortion as a sacred act.” He recommended that churches warn their congregations about the evils of Harry Potter, and that if a church does not attack the Potter films, “attendees may want to prayerfully consider finding a church that is more serious about spiritual warfare.” The fundamentalist tract publishers, Chic Publications, have a tract out based on the Jeremiah films attack . It says, “the Potter books open a doorway that will put untold millions of kids into hell.”

Some fundamentalists have gone further than condemning the books. They have also burned them. The Christ Community Church in Alamogordo, New Mexico heard a sermon from Pastor Jack Brock saying that: “Harry Potter is the devil and he is destroying people.” They gathered together and burned copies of the book. The Harvest Assembly of God Church, under the leadership of Rev. George Bender, also held a book burning of the Potter books. The Rev. T.D. Turner Sr., of the Jesus Non-denominational Church lead his congregation in burning Harry Potter books as well. He said they “burn Harry Potter books and other witchcraft items to let the world know that there are true followers of Jesus Christ who will not call evil good.”

The woman in the Jesus Camp documentary may not speak for every fundamentalist in America. No one does. But she does speak for a lot of them. The evidence is strong that there is widespread dislike and hatred for the Harry Potter books and films among fundamentalists. Most Americans are either supportive of the books and films or neutral on them. Some may not like them for literary reasons, but that isn’t quite the same thing as denouncing them as Satanic. I would be rather surprised to hear of any documented effort to ban, burn or restrict the book that didn’t involve fundamentalists or their allies on the Religious Right.

URGENT: Readers, thousands of you have come to read this article. But something far more disturbing and urgent deserves your attention. The lives of two children are at stake here. Please read this article before you go on with your daily life.

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