Richard Abanes, author of The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code and One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church, has written a new book focusing on popular fascination with fantasy in books and movies, Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings(Harvest House, 2005). Part 1 was posted last week.
What do you think about Christians who say Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling is writing in the same vein as C.S. Lewis [Narnia] and J.R.R. Tolkien [Lord of the Rings]?
That’s absolutely false. Absolutely false. For example, [these reviewers] are real big on symbolism. And they say, “This symbol is really a reference to Jesus or is really a reference to the Father or is really a reference to maybe the atonement.” Well, who would know better whether that’s so? J. K. Rowling. So I hunted down, out of dozens and dozens of interviews, what she said about this symbolism, about that theme. What did she say about this character? When you read what she says, they have nothing to do with Christianity. Nothing at all. These other people who are trying to make them Christian are ignoring what she’s saying. And I don’t think that’s fair to her. I don’t think it’s fair to the books. I don’t think it’s fair to Lewis and Tolkien, who really did write from a Christian perspective.
So are the Christians simply engaging in wishful thinking?
I think it’s wishful thinking and selective choosing of facts. For example, you can have someone pick a symbol. These people pick a symbol in Harry Potter and say, “See, this was a symbol for Christ in the Middle Ages.” Is that true? Yes. But it was also a symbol for 10 other things throughout history. And it was a symbol used in pagan lore and witchcraft. So in the context of the story of Harry Potter, you need to allow those symbols to fit into what the backdrop is.
What is going on culturally if people persist in taking that approach? Is it just a desire to be hip?
It is a deep desire to not be viewed as some backward, Bible-thumping fundamentalist wacko. They’re trying to blend in with society, blend in with culture so intensely that they are allowing themselves to not really look at the facts as they stand. And it’s unfortunate because, again, you can’t just make things up as you’re going along.
Whether they are Hindus, astrologers, or even advancers of homosexuality in the church, . . . everyone wants to raise his banner and say, “Harry Potter is really talking about us.” That’s the danger with symbology. It can be made to read anything. That’s why we have to go back to J. K. Rowling, to what has she said, to find the context, and judge it that way.
What about a mature Christian adult picking up Harry Potter and reading it either for entertainment or just to figure out what it’s all about? Do you have any problem with that?
No, have a good time. That’s part of our Christian freedom. My primary concern is not to tell people what they can and cannot read or to ban books or to burn books. I’m just trying to say, “When it comes to your kids—parents, child care workers, church youth pastors—be careful, know what’s in the books, know what’s not in the books, and then make a good decision about specific children.” Studies show young kids are very, very much affected by what they see and hear. Make sure you know what you’re introducing them to before you do so.