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When the Harry Potter books really started making a lot of commotion at around the turn of the century, I was fairly quick to condemn the series, along with many other Christians. I dismissed the series as a bad idea, a negative influence, a promotion of ideas and beliefs I didn't feel should be promoted to Christian children. I found some good friends who shared this "assessment", and I was comfortable with it. IF I was asked for my opinion, I gave it, but I basically kept it to myself.

After a while, I started paying attention to the people who outspokenly enjoyed the series. It started to occur to me that I had passed judgment on a series I had never read or picked up. What's more, I was basing this opinion on the judgment of others, most of whom had not read the series either, but were themselves passing judgment. Basically, I decided, this "Harry Potter is evil" business was a rumor mill, and you had to trace the rumors a pretty long way to find someone who had actually read the books. I decided, at that point, that I didn't know if Harry Potter was an evil series or not. I still didn't bother to read it, but at least I had suspended judgment.

I then started to try reading it. As a blind book reader, I wanted audio narration, and this proved to be a problem. I didn't like the audio narrations available in North America commercially. I also wasn't a fan of the narration from CNIB, the library for the blind here in Canada. Nothing against the narrators, the books just weren't hooking me.

So one day I happened upon a copy of the British audio edition, read by Stephen Frye. Suddenly the series came alive for me, and I couldn't put it down. This was well after the seventh book had been written, so I was able to read the whole series over a very short period of time.

So, now that I have actually read it and have the right to an opinion, what exactly is that opinion? What do I consider the Harry Potter series to be?

Let me start by saying what I don't consider it to be. I don't consider it to be a manual promoting witchcraft, black magic, the occult, and the countless other things detractors say the series promotes. The series is fantasy, pure fantasy, and this fact should be obvious to anyone who reads and pays attention.

On the flip side, the series is not, in my opinion, some great treatise on Christian principles and values, as some have tried to suggest. The book is not, by my interpretation, either pro- or anti-religion. It's a story, clearly fantasy, and should be taken as such. It has some themes: the triumph of love, friendship, loyalty, the need to steadfastly stick to the side of good, which I do enjoy, but it's not some great Christian epic, nor is it oppositional to Christianity or any other religion.

The one area where, in my personal opinion, the detractors do have a point, is when they point out that Harry lies rather a lot. It's true. I noticed this especially in my third reading of the series. I wish Rowling could have cut back on that aspect of things, or at least have had Harry get into trouble for lying and learna lesson or two from it. But no book or series written solely by human hands is perfect. My favorite series of all time, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is itself far from perfect, as was the series of papers I wrote as I went through school.

So, if I had kids, would I have a problem with them reading and enjoying the Harry Potter series? Absolutely not. As with anything, I'd simply want the kids to talk to me about what they're reading, let me answer back, and we could all learn. This is good advice for any kind of children's reading. I, personally, really like the series, and am very glad I allowed myself to overlook my initial prejudices.
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Bruce Toews

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