Harry Potter – Educational Genius or Corrupting the Spirit?

With the hype surrounding the latest release in the Harry Potter books, once again the debate regarding the ethical values and spiritual indications of the book have been raised. Indeed the book did not need the extra publicity to allow it to become an instant best-seller and break records for copies sold on an opening, yet with the added voice and opinions of Pope Benedict being added to the hype, the book has come even more into the public attention than ever before.

Questions have been raised by a number of Christians and in particular many Roman Catholic leaders regarding the Harry Potter series of books. In some letters written by Pope Benedict two years ago, while he was still known as Cardinal Ratzinger, he was quoted as thanking a German author for, "enlighten[ing] us on the Harry Potter matter, for these are subtle, barely perceptible seductions, and precisely because of that they have a profound effect and can corrupt the Christian faith in souls even before it [faith] is able to properly grow."

In addition to this a number of other critics have condemned the books by British writer J.K. Rowling as promoting sorcery and making witchcraft appealing.

So does Harry Potter, now in the sixth instalment of its series, really instigate evil and dark spiritual urges in young children? Are the books simply a work of fiction, getting the minds and imaginations of young children moving, or are they corrupting the Christian faith in souls while they are still vulnerable?

Others have commended the books greatly, by testifying how it has helped educate children, and given them something that they want to read.

Millions have been bought almost immediately upon the latest book’s release; are so many people really being misled in such a drastic way?

Fundamentally the books pit good against evil – a theme used in just about every action or fantasy piece of work. Yet even more deeply, the book shows a great representation of love between Harry and his closest companions. More than this some Christians have even promoted the book as holding Biblical values in the very core of its story-lines; Harry forming one unit with his friends, risking their lives for one another and for what is right; Harry so often having to take all the burdens on his own, fighting a deep spiritual battle within himself.

Sure enough there are debates and arguments everywhere concerning the Harry Potter series and their moral and spiritual values.

Even in one school in England, it was planned to hold a Harry Potter-themed social event; yet after a local Catholic church leader condemned the books, and a handful of parents questioned the values being taught in the book, the day was cancelled.

Obviously enough there is controversy surrounding the books whenever they are brought up, yet what remains is that the book continues to sell by the millions. It continues to be a best-seller in the literature market, and is also set to be a blockbuster as the series continues to be transferred into the Cinematic format. If nothing else the controversy seems to have brought more publicity to the book.

The effect of the book on any particular individual must obviously be directly related to how each individual takes from the book. If a child has his heart set on finding the themes of love in the book then will they not find this?

If the child is engrossed in extremity by the witchcraft in the book, could it not stir something in them to follow their idols in any way they could? What has been very much missed out in the debate though, is how much God has been set as the centre of the debate? If a child, or even an adult, sets their hearts in line with God and realises the unconditional love of God that has been poured into them, and has this as their centre-focus, then will the Holy Spirit not guide their interpretation of whatever they are reading? But what about those who have not yet seen the grace of God in their lives yet? Could they misinterpret the themes in the books? Could the book mislead them? Or is the book even so extreme as to even do the damage that some are saying? In fact, could not all secular books be misinterpreted and damage the spiritual growth of children?

As the debate goes on and as it is sure to continue until the next instalment of the Harry Potter books comes out, will millions of parents around the world be hurriedly catching up on what exactly is in the books their children have been so engrossed in?