On the Eve of the Release of Rowling’s Next Book

I’ve been thinking for a while about what J. K. Rowling teaches us in the Harry Potter stories through her depiction of Remus Lupin, the werewolf who is a good guy. I finally got around to writing up my reflections, and they’re now posted over at Christianity.com. Here’s the opening:

I love the Harry Potter stories. My first trip through them was an audio excursion guided by the talented Jim Dale. Enthusiasm for the books swept me right into reading them aloud to my children, and we’re almost finished with the series. I am thrilled that J. K. Rowling’s next book, The Casual Vacancy, is appearing any moment now. I can’t wait to read it. Sorry for my effusive delight over these books—what I’m trying to do is tell you about one of the characters in the Harry Potter stories, Remus Lupin.

There’s a play on his name, as lupus is the Latin word for “wolf,” and Lupin is a werewolf. Werewolves are not exactly pleasant, and the surprising thing is that Lupin is one of the good guys. This is one of the ways that Rowling has given us stories that are true to life.

In the Potter stories, if you get bitten by a werewolf, the bite infects you and can make you a werewolf. Remus Lupin’s father had offended an awful villain of a werewolf, and that werewolf sought revenge by biting Remus when he was a child.

Remus did not want to be a werewolf. Abused by an adult, he became a danger to himself and others. He was cut off from society. He suffered terribly, and he had no control over his affliction. At the full moon, whether he wanted to be transformed into a werewolf or not, he lost control of himself and became something dangerous.

Have you ever met anyone who has experienced something like this? Or has this been your own experience? Something tragic, awful, happened during childhood, and its painful repercussions seem all but inescapable?

Read the whole thing here.

Get the Potter books here.

Get The Casual Vacancy, which releases Thursday, September 27, 2012, here.

13 Responses to On the Eve of the Release of Rowling’s Next Book

  1. James Kime September 26, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Jim, Rowling is not a christian and did not write the Harry Potter series as a christian series. At what point do we stop trying to find christian themes in things? The same could be said of Star Wars or other books as well.

  2. Jay Dharan September 26, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    Source : http://www.challies.com/interviews/summer-interview-series-richard-abanes-part-1

    Tim Challies : What are your thoughts on Harry Potter and whether Christian children and adults should read it?

    Richard Abanes : Regarding the Harry Potter books, I have tried very hard to avoid telling people to either read them or not read them. My newest book Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings is primarily about fantasy literature in general, which I happen to support. In fact, I am a major fan of fantasy, so what I have tried to do is simply show that fantasy, like so many things, can be “good” as well as “not so good.” To illustrate the differences between such types of fantasy I take an in-depth look at the Harry Potter series, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings. I also examine/discuss Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (which is excessively anti-Christian) and R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series (as well as Goosebumps). Additionally, I cover marketing to children through TV and movies, consumerism, child development, and culture’s influence on kids.

    My concern about the Harry Potter books is two-fold: 1) by J.K. Rowling’s own admission, the books contain references to real-world occult symbolism, lore, subjects, practices, and beliefs that she has gleaned from her hobby-like study of things like occultism, witchcraft, and magick (this is verified and documented); 2) the ethics and morality in the series exalt relativism—i.e., there seems to be no objective standard of right and wrong. If the good characters in the book feel like something is just fine (or fun), then they simply do it, even though it may be bad/wrong (e.g., the good characters habitually lie, steal, cheat, use foul language, break laws, deceive each other, behave hypocritically, and have no problem pursuing revenge). The books do not strive to show kids a better way, they instead, appeal to their most basic/naturalistic instincts: e.g., crass/gross humor, the desire for revenge, the want for power over adults.

    Some people say, “So what?” But my worry is that children—who we all know tend to copy what they think is cool, or fun, or exciting—will begin emulating some of the poor ethical/moral behaviors exalted in Harry Potter as well as some of the occult aspects of the books. This is not a far-fetched concern. Kids are already copying various aspects of the series: e.g., registrations for boarding schools in England have sky-rocketed; a surge in buying owls for pets has taken place; and one group of kids had to be rushed to the hospital after mixing a poisonous “potion” and drinking—all in direct response to Harry Potter. We also have a 2002 Barna survey that found 12% of kids who saw the Harry Potter movies were more interested in witchcraft. And, most alarming, is how REAL wiccans/occultists/neopagans are writing their own pro-occult and pro-witchcraft books (both fiction and non-fiction) and using the popularity of Harry Potter books to lure young readers to their materials. Clearly, concerns about Harry Potter are not misplaced.

    My book also debunks the absurd view of Harry Potter offered by the likes of John Granger, Connie Neal, and Francis Bridger, and John Killinger—i.e., the claim that Harry Potter is actually a Christian series in the tradition of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. In a nutshell, their assertions are plagued by a myriad of flaws that can be distilled down to two main issues: 1. The plainest reading of Harry Potter reveals that it is not a depiction of anything Christian, but instead, is a depiction of the magick worldview. (This has been confirmed by Witches, occultists, and neopagans.) 2. Rowling herself has explained both her work and her faith in ways that clearly contradict the assertions being made by the “Harry-Potter-is-really-Christian” group of supporters.

    Should Christian children and/or adults read them? Well, what adults do is between them and God. I could no more tell an adult Christian to not read the books than tell them to not go see an R-rated movie, or not have a glass of wine with spaghetti. Reading Harry Potter as an adult, I think, would fall into the category of a freedom not explicitly discussed in scripture. Children, on the other hand, need guidance. But guiding someone else’s child is not my job. My job is to get good, solid, documented information about Harry Potter to parents, then, it is their decision. Personally, however, I do think it is a very poor idea to have some kids, particularly younger ones (e.g., ages 6-10), reading the books—especially the latter volumes (4, 5, 6, 7), which become progressively darker and more violent.

    • JMH September 26, 2012 at 9:19 am #

      I disagree with your assessment, and I think there is strong evidence in the books themselves and in what Rowling has said against your claims.

      Blessings!

      Jim

    • Sean T. September 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

      Richard Abanes clearly has not read the books. This guys thought world must be very tiny.

  3. Saul Sarabia September 27, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

    What’s your thinking of this post???

    http://carm.org/more-stuff/features/harry-potter-and-sorcerers-stone

  4. Matt Dickie September 29, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    It is very difficult to say that there is no influence or thematic material in HP which can be traced to Christianity. Great writers know their Bibles (in the basic thematic sense). Rowling need not be a Christian to include biblical themes in her book. I believe that Rowling said that in her mind Dumbledore was gay. But I couldn’t conclude that from reading the books. Similarly, whatever Rowling may say about her use of occult imagery, the world she has crafted clearly distinguishes between a right use of magic and a wrong one. I love the books. If only C. S. Lewis could read them. I wonder what he would say? Dr. Hamilton, if ever you read Rowling’s new book, a comment on it would be great.

    • JMH September 29, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

      Thanks Matt, I’m hoping to read it next week!

  5. Luke Tebb October 8, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    Totally agree with Jay’s Assesment. Jim I’m surprise that you’re so emphatic about Harry Potter, when the whole story is laden with witchcraft. Unlike other fantasies, where witchcraft, the occult and sorcery etc are mere aspects that are incorporated into the storyline, Harry Potter is imbued with it. The devil can disguise himself as an angel of light and what strikes me about Harry Potter is the subtle and deceptive way in which it portrays witchcraft in a positive light. It gives the impression that there is such thing as good witches and bad witches, a distinction which the Bible does not make. It is also masked by the fact that it is child friendly and so many people don’t believe there’s anything wrong with it. After all it’s not r-rated. But would Jesus commend it to us. Would the Apostle Paul, after encountering the reality of darkness and sorcery in Ephesus recommend that we promote books/films that patently advocate these things. I highly doubt it.
    I also find it interesting that practically every Christian I know who prior to their conversion have either dabbled in or practiced the occult, would never watch or read Harry Potter, not because they’re afraid of it but because they’ve tasted of the powers of darkness. They’ve experienced the reality of it. It’s not an intangible thing to them.
    I’d also add that since the release of Harry Potter, it’s been reported that more children have signed up to witchcraft lessons, schools, and practices etc. I cannot Imagine Jesus endorsing a book/film that has this kind of effect on kids and no doubt adults also.
    Anyway, that’s just my opinion.

    God bless
    Luke

    • JMH October 8, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      Have you read the books?

      • Lance Black October 15, 2012 at 11:27 am #

        My vote is for a Dad who reads Harry Potter to his children. Thanks for your valuable insight into a great series. By God’s grace we will bring two little ones home from Haiti soon. Looking forward to reading to them, like you do with your children. Peace brother!

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