Ms. Gish’s article on religious concerns about Harry Potter (May/June 2000) was a revelation to me. I had no idea anyone, other than the delusional, actually believed in witches. Even though she insists that such believers no longer wish to persecute those thought to be witches, the mere existence of such beliefs does beg the question: Who do they consider to be witches? It is a scary thought that anyone in this day and age would be willing to pass judgment on who is, or is not, a witch. By the end of Ms. Gish’s article I was left feeling sorry for her in particular and Christian fundamentalists in general. Reading a simple story about witches poses no problem for my, or my children’s, Christian faith. While I can read Harry Potter and enjoy it as a fun piece of children’s literature, Christian fundamentalists apparently don’t have the same luxury. Instead, for these Christians, a mere children’s story threatens their basic faith. What a weak faith they must have if a simple story is that threatening.
Los Angeles, California
Kimbra Wilder Gish does a good job of explaining why conservative Christians deplore magic and witchcraft.
However, I am very sad for children who get the idea that magic as “on-beyondness” is evil. The child in some of us delights in the thought of transcendence from the earth, of flying up on a broomstick; and of course, to make it “real,” we have to learn to manage the broomstick. Imagining that there’s more to the world than can be seen may open a person to belief in God.
Gish refers to Deuteronomy 18:9–12 in the Bible, which states that divination and witchcraft are abominations. Taken in context, that was in the early times of the Judeo-Christian understanding of mankind’s relationship with God. Primitive times, one could say, when going on to read Leviticus 26:27 . After spelling out how His chosen people should live in relationship to Him, God tells Moses to warn the people, “If you will not hearken to me . . . I will walk contrary to you in fury. You shall eat the flesh of your sons . . . and daughters . . . and my soul will abhor you.”
Jesus came with the Good News of a loving God. He healed and fed people with miracles that seemed magical. He showed the supreme example of loving one’s neighbor and self-sacrifice. May we Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews find for our children books that speak not only of the battle between good and evil but the everyday deeds of characters showing loving kindness and sacrifice for others. We need books that show that all healing, all creativity, all good instincts come from the power of a Being infinitely, mysteriously larger than ourselves.
Thank you so much for publishing the article “Hunting Down Harry Potter” by Kimbra Wilder Gish. As a Christian, librarian, and parent, I have had concerns about these same religious issues in children’s literature. It almost seems as if Ms. Gish has gotten inside my head and organized my thoughts for me. I really appreciated her clear, well-balanced explanation of the biblical point of view.
From the September/October 2000 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.