Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
by J. K. Rowling
(fantasy, YA, magic)
I picked up Harry Potter this time around because it was Banned Book Week and I wanted to read a book that had been banned – yet was in the mood for something fun and happy, and not one of the books that was banned because it Made You Think Uncomfortable Thoughts. (Those have their time and place too, but said time was not now.) This was the perfect choice.
Not too long ago, Mr. Wyrm and I were talking about Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone, and why it made such an impact on him. (It had an impact on me, too, but it wasn’t until the 3rd book – Prisoner of Azkaban – that I was completely hooked, so that’s the book that I usually think of as the Ultimate Potter Book.) The first book (and later, the first movie) had such an impact because it wasn’t like anything else at the time. It was so much sheer fun of discovery, so imaginative, so – well – magical.
I think I have reviewed this book before. And by now, between the popularity of the book and the movie, I think everyone knows the plot so I’m not going to go into that.
What I do want to talk about is why the Potter books have been banned or challenged.
It seems they have been banned because they “promoted occultism and paganism” and therefore are guilty of “undermining Christian values”. (from a HuffPost article in 2012) Having read all of the Potter books (many, many times), I personally think this is ridiculous. At their heart, the Potter books are about the struggle between good and evil. And if you want, you can even draw Christian parallels here: Harry is on the side of good, while the evil side is represented by a dark wizard who has an eerie connection with a snake. (Garden of Eden reference, anyone?)
Granted, some Christians have claimed that these are evil books because there are witches in them, and “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” They say that none of the characters ever go to church, so the book is obviously not a good book for Christians. Well, here’s something else to characters don’t do: exercise (with the sole exception of Quiddich). And it’s a commonly held belief that physical activity is important for all people. So is this a book that we shouldn’t read because we might get the idea that we don’t need to do anything except study (for students, or work for those out of school), eat, and sleep? Oh – there is also very little mention of bathrooms, so does that mean we don’t need to use the toilet or bathe except when we also need to brew up potions or figure out the mysteries of magical golden eggs?
No. Of course not. And the same goes for religion. Though no religion is expressly pointed out, the characters that are shown to be the best, and usually the most powerful, are good people at heart. They do what is right, even when it is uncomfortable or dangerous. They support their friends and family. They help fellows in need. They love.
And isn’t that, truly, what “Christian values” are supposed to be?