ARE HARRY POTTER AND D&D SINFUL?

brown concrete building during night time

QUESTION

Is it really sinful to read or enjoy things that contain “witchcraft”, such as Harry Potter, Dungeons and Dragons or anything with mentions of ancient mythologies and that ilk? Even if you don’t believe that the “magic” they contain is real? I have a relative who is convinced that all of these are satanic and you will go to hell if you so much as casually enjoy any of these.

RESPONSE

These things have been a problem in Christian circles for a while, but I find the controversy to be misguided.  Not because there’s no problem that scripture has with spiritual evil.  It is real and it is really to be avoided. 

WARNINGS AGAINST EVIL

For example: Practicing divination (contact with the dead, Lev 19:26) witchcraft (Deut 18:10) and idolatry (1 Cor 10:14) are strictly forbidden for believers for obvious reasons.  This is consorting with God’s expressed spiritual adversary who has nothing in mind for us but destruction (1 Pet 5:8). God forbids such contact because it hurts us.  God calls us to call on him rather than consult spirits eager to speak to us but who would drag us down:

Some people say, “Ask the mediums and fortune-tellers, who whisper and mutter, what to do.” But I tell you that people should ask their God for help. Why should people who are still alive ask something from the dead? 20You should follow the teachings and the agreement with the Lord. The mediums and fortune-tellers do not speak the word of the Lord, so their words are worth nothing.

Isaiah 8:19-20

MECHANICAL MAGIC

So we have to examine D&D and Harry Potter, through that wisdom.  Not a single person I know read the Potter novels or does D&D to contact the dead. Or to engage in dark spiritual practices.  What they do (in the case of D&D) is live out role play as wizards or archers or goblins or any number of mythic monsters. 

In the case of J.K. Rowling’s work, they read about a mythical world where the magic was perfectly mechanical.  The witches and warlocks had zero association with spirituality at all, let alone spiritual forces of evil.  The witches and warlocks were represented similar to a benign alien race with superhuman powers. And yet with very human drama, hence the popularity of the franchise.

STORY TELLING

If you just evaluate these things on that level, there’s nothing that’s a violation of what God warns about. That is, seek contact with the dead through mediums, mystics, or seek counsel from the dead, or to worship other spirit beings or gods besides the LORD.  Most of what this fantasy world building and role play does seems to be an excuse for community building or to enjoy great story telling.  This cannot be a bad thing, in my view.

Now, Scripture also is clear about the threat of flirting with evil (2 Cor 6:17).   “Touch no unclean thing” – which I take to mean don’t even flirt with evil or play around with it.  For that reason, we set some Halloween guidelines in our home, “no celebration of evil.”  But that never included a ban on the Potter books which my children enjoyed immensely.  But of course, Ouija boards, or séances were a strict no-no for us and our kids, because that is explicitly about contacting the dead for guidance – something God has explicitly condemned.  We believe spiritual forces of evil are real, so we don’t take any notion of contact with them lightly.

WHAT MAGIC MEANS

But the magic in the Potter books is part of a mythical world, not unlike Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series. No Christian objects to these because the magic and mythical creatures were clearly allegory for Christian themes and biblical stories. Magic does not have to be connected to evil. Most often magic in our myths expresses the universal astonishment we have at very natural things which we see all the time and yet which are inexpressibly wonderful:

For example, putting a 1-gram seed into the ground and getting a 50-ton tree in 25 years is an uncanny ability of nature. We express our wonder in myth through a fictional character who makes the same trick happen instantly through a potion or incantation.  So, the worlds of Harry Potter or D&D are simply parallel worlds full of magic, as ours is full of natural and scientific wonders.

Therefore, we allowed our kids to read Rowling’s books and play D&D. It may have helped to retain in them a true sense of wonder in our reductionistic, mechanical world. It certainly made my kids profoundly good at story telling!  Story telling is at root what sets us apart from the animals. It leads to an openness to the fact that there is more to this World than meets the eye, which is a necessary precondition to receive the Gospel.

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