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© Copyright 2001, Jim Loy
I've heard that there are some people and churches who are upset about The Harry Potter Series - by J. K. Rowling, because of magic, wizards, witches, ghosts, etc. Of course, these people do believe in magic, and are trying to protect us from real wizards and witches. I suppose these people think that such stories lead to Devil worship and such things. I'm not very concerned, myself. Certainly our children's stories have always had a strong magic component: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Casper the Friendly Ghost. We still tell our children about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Halloween. Most people are not very concerned about all of this. Does Casper the Friendly Ghost lead to Devil worship? It sounds stupid to me.
The Harry Potter books are bringing many children to reading. Children who would only read comic books in the past are taking a deep breath and reading the huge latest volume of Harry Potter, and loving it. And they are learning about heavy stuff like death in the family, bullyism, honesty, good and evil. It is good literature.
I've got a book called Playing With Fire, which I bought at a Christian book store, about the evils of the game Dungeons and Dragons. In case you are unfamiliar with the game, one player is the Dungeon Master, who directs the game. The other players pretend to be fantasy characters such as thieves, heros, wizards, priests, and the like. They are on a quest, and make decisions. And the Dungeon Master describes to them how these decisions turn out, with the help of rolls of dice. There is a strong component of magic, with many evil creatures appearing and attacking. It is fiction, it is a game, it is fun, and I doubt if it leads to worshipping of the Devil.
I received this email warning me of Dungeons and Dragons (I have rearranged the text slightly):
I was, in many ways, a typical American kid. I was raised Methodist, went to Church sometimes, graduated high school and went off to college, where I earned a BS in Mathmatics. Now I'm a software developer working on his MS in Computer Science. I am not a nut, a loon, or a crazy.
The thing is, Dungeons and Dragons is a fantasy game where the players enter a fantasy realm that exists only in the mind. They take over roles as Wizards, Warriors, elves & etc. The only thing is: You get experience is three different ways: You Kill, Steal, or Destroy (That phrase is used to describe the Devil's work in the Bible).
That's okay though, most modern video games are like that, right? And _most_ of the time, players only slay monsters ...
Most of the time.
Then, when you get older, you start playing "Advanced" Dungeons and Dragons. The incantations get more specific, the spells more detailed, the demons and devils named and described. (Basic D&D is like Tolkien; advanced D&D is wierd.) From there, players can move on to games like Vampire where the players take the part of the "evil" monsters.
Somewhere in high school, I started to notice that a lot of my fellow D&D players had interesting outlooks on life. Most of us were geeks, some of them pagans. The Bible-Believing Christian was indeed a rarity, and we had to go to some lengths to reconcile things. (I threw out all my AD&D books and/or went back to basic D&D at least 2 or 3 times over a period of years. I used to try hard to get friends to play basic instead of advanced.)
In College, I made a real comittment to Christ (not gonna get too detailed, but I finally did the Romans 10:9 thing and meant it) and began to realize two things:
(1) When I was playing D&D, I wasn't getting any real heat benefit,
(2) If I introduced someone to D&D, 1 out of 10 would get all wierd and obsessive about it, and that could hurt them spiritually.
So, I decided it wasn't for me. Your milage may vary; I can make similar arguments about some strategy computer games that I play from time to time. But I wouldn't dismiss D&D as harmless with a wave of the hand ...
He caught me waving my hand. Here is my reply:
Which is the cause, and which is the effect? Games seem to attract weird people. And some people enjoy the chance to act weird. Chess (which is highly respected as a game) has more than its share of truly weird people. In Dungeons and Dragons, I still don't think any (maybe a few idiots) of the players worship the Devil or come to believe in their fantasy universe. Obsessed (to an unhealthy degree)? I'll believe that. It happens in every game and sport.
Too much violence? At least it is only implied. I'm afraid that the average person seems to demand violence in almost every form of entertainment. Even we non-violent people are unconvinced by the bloodless westerns and action movies of just a few decades ago.
See Pennsylvania Church Members Burn Harry Potter.
The Bible tells us (Exodus 22:18) "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (King James version). And I see on the WWW that a few people are taking that instruction very seriously. Of course, in the not so distant past, that instruction was an excuse to kill old ladies who had lost their teeth, when an early frost killed the crops, or when someone got sick. I'm not suggesting that people disobey the Bible. By all means, tell your children what you think about witches. But, we don't go around killing witches, do we? Maybe you would, if you found one. How do you tell if a person is a witch?
Also tell your children what is fiction and what is fact. Harry Potter is a fairy tale. Harry Potter is about good wizards and witches, who are people much like us, and they occasionally have to fight the bad wizards and witches. It's fantasy, like Sleeping Beauty, and it's fun, and it's good. Hermione Granger wants to be a witch. Should we string her up? Doesn't that sound stupid to you? Stupid or not, doesn't it sound stupid?
Professor Dumbledore says this in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: "It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices." That's pretty good writing.
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