Saturday, September 29, 2007

Harry Potter, Is it bad for good Catholics?

Image:Harry potter stamps.jpg

Admittedly far behind in my blog reading, I have had some moments to read Catholic Restorationists and came across a post about Harry Potter. The author of the post contends that Potter should be considered carefully by parents because of the fact that evil surrounds the books and their marketing and product tie ins. Despite Rowlings intentions, he maintains that the result of her books is an increased interest in the occult. There were many comments he received on this topic, running the usual gamut of agreements and disagreements. Then there was this comment:

2) If your kids read Harry Potter and decide to become Wiccans? They have got way more serious issues going on than their latest bedtime stories.

I have struggled with many aspects of parenting over the last 15years of practice at it. One of the more difficult for me has been discerning things like literature and movies, toys, etc. Many young parents are heavily influenced by media, mainstream PC thinking etc. I know I was. When my older children were small, I wouldn’t allow guns in their play because I bought into the PC thinking of guns are not toys, they are very dangerous and lead to criminal acts; and because of television and movies, and the playtime with toy guns, most children can load and fire a weapon by the age of five. Well, I’ve come round to realizing that whether or not I allow the gun play, my children will play it anyway. They took everything they could to make guns, from sticks to food. I’ve also come to realize that it is better that I form their perspective on guns (and other weaponry) in a healthy way, not in a criminal way. I have changed my opinion on weapon play after research, thought, and most importantly, guidance from God through the graces afforded the Sacrament of Marriage.

The reason I allowed myself to be influenced by the political-correctness as a young mother is because I feared for the souls of my children. In my attempts to do the right thing, I was swayed into following the mainstream thinking of the time, despite its nagging at me that I was being a bit over the top. The intent was good, there was no harm in the decision to forbid guns, but it didn’t work and I had to re-evaluate my reasons. Political correctness versus Catholicism, or political correctness versus common sense in parenting are constant sources of reflection and evaluation by diligent parents. We want to do what is right, teach our children rightly and safeguard their souls.

I have come to the point in my parenting where I do agree with the above comment. Many authors use the supernatural to entertain. Tolkein, Lewis, Rowling, Patterson, Croggon, and more have all done it. There are underlying good versus evil classic themes in all of these books. Parents have a responsibility to explain and interpret these books if their children are going to read them. But, if all aspects of their formation are in line, then it will be easy for the children to see, with parental guidance, what the hype is about and actually understand it.

I have always held that the Potter books are not appropriate for the very young. Before the age of reason, at the age of reason, even a bit older...I wouldn't endorse, encourage or allow the exposure. Teens, with parental guidance can, in my opinion, read from a different perspective and see the books for what they are, entertainment. A parent should guide them through their questions about the good vs. evil and the magical powers exhibited. I think it is just guidance on reality vs. fantasy. In fact the only books from the aforementioned list that are appropriate for the elementary age, in my opinion and in my household, are the Lewis books, The Chronicles of Narnia. These are read aloud books in the Thorns household.

I do think Potter is okay for reading, even by Catholics, under the conditions of parental guidance and discussion. Appropriateness is also determined by maturity of the child, and by the parent knowing their child and understanding what their child can handle. What is acceptable for one at the age of 14 isn’t necessarily acceptable for the other, even at 16, it is all parental judgment based on a relationship with their children.

There is also a potential to lead one astray (into the occult) but those so easily led have other issues, bigger issues than literature to deal with. There is a learning curve with parenting, and there is a learning curve each child has. If either the parents or the children aren’t ready to deal with Potter and its issues, or do not desire to deal with it, that is fine; although the child will have some level of exposure to Potter, and it will be dealt with on some level anyway. This is much like issues of modesty. You teach your children proper behavior, but being in the world, they will have a certain level of exposure to other than what you’ve set forth as the ideal.

I look at things like Potter as teaching opportunities. “What is wrong with what they just did?” “Where is the flaw in the reasoning here?” Those teaching moments are golden, and they equip your child to form and defend a position on many things in life, not just Harry Potter. Without grabbing at those moments, and sometimes cultural literacy provides the best opportunities, our children will end up like the rest, easily influenced and unable to defend a position. Of course there are great masterpieces in literature that do not have the influence of magical characters, but if a book does, it shouldn’t be immediately discounted because of the magic. Teaching your children using the examples of Harry and his cohorts gives your children the cultural literacy they need to be current in the world, and also the ability to analyze the book and see it for what it is. These are important life skills that will go far to safeguard the souls of your children from the dangers of an unformed and easily led mind.

A product of the public school system and liberal thinking almost led me the wrong way numerous times. It took much hard work to learn to analyze and not be led by the mainstream media, politically correct thinking, liberalism (and more), and become a self-assured, confident woman who thinks for herself. This is what I hope to teach my children. Literature, including Potter, is an opportunity to teach logic and analysis. After much consideration on my part I've concluded, if my children wish to read Harry Potter they will be permitted.


Anna S said...

Lily, I have struggled with the Harry Potter issue myself. I adore the books, but do see the problem in them (there's much more 'instructive magic' than, say, in Narnia). So, as an adult, I do read them, but if/when my children will want to read something similar - I guess it will have to be carefully evaluated.

Lily said...

Yes, that is my point, careful evaluation. I guess I should have also more clearly stated that my older children would be permitted. I have two children under ten who wish to read, hear, see the books and movies and I keep saying no! I was referring to the older Thorn children, if they wish to read it, I would permit it under the conditions I mentioned.

I have one child that I'm not sure will ever be permitted as that child is very impressionable. We will see if it is still true as this child gets older.

Thanks for reading, Anna!

Heather said...

Excellent post, Lily. And I agree with you 100%. My older children have been permitted to read the books as well (after my careful reading first), and not one of them exhibit signs of dealing with the occult. While I do have some problems with the last book, the rest were really fine theologically, and I would tend to think along the same lines as Tolkien and Lewis (at least in terms of content...not literarily since I hold their works at a much higher level than I do Rowling's). In the end they didn't go to far beyond a good vs. evil scenario. I've long thought they are fine to read, if a parent decides to allow their child under guidance.

Thank you for this post. It's nice to know that I'm not the only parent out there that thinks like this :-)

Lily said...

Thanks for your comment, it is also nice for me to know that I'm not alone on this one. Most of the Catholics I know who have an opinion on the Harry Potter books do not have the same opinion as me, or at least they do not admit to it. I don't think I'm way out there on this one, but I know I'm in the minority, at least amongst our friends.

Heather said...

Yes, but now you can at least have the knowledge that you are in the minority with me. ;-)

Lily said...

Mighty fine company!

Kinsey said...

*sigh* Finally, someone who has the same view as I do. I guess you can add me to the minority list.
Thank you for putting down your thoughts on this - they reinforced what I had thought all along. It reminds me of this quotation by G.K. Chesterton:
"Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are least dangerous is the man of ideas. He is acquainted with ideas, and moves among them like a lion-tamer. Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are most dangerous is the man of no ideas."

Also: Bloghopping! I'm really enjoying your blog - keep it up!

Lily said...

Thank you, Kinsey, for your kind words! Glad you stopped by, I'm going to hop on over to you later:), when I'm done with my work shift!!