Harry, Sabrina, and the World of Magic

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I have a confession to make: When I was a little girl, my favorite TV show was Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Now, I know some of you are thinking, “What? That’s your confession? Who cares?” But at the same time, I am acutely aware that some of my dear friends are reading this and putting me in the same category as people who read the Harry Potter series. Oh yeah, that reminds me… I just finished the first book in that series. I never read them as a child, but now that I’m older, I’ve decided to take a look. That’s confession number two, I guess.

I realize this post could stir up a lot of trouble. After all, I’m leaving behind my typical topics and entering the realm of magic. But I must address this magic which has caused so much trouble for parents trying to protect their children and children who want to enjoy a good story. From the time Harry Potter became a name children could recognize, there was intense debate on his story. I was a little girl when the first book hit shelves in the US, and by the time I was 8, I was familiar with the name Harry Potter. One of the boys in my 2nd-grade class absolutely loved the books. But for some reason, Mom and Dad never bought them for me. On the one hand, I’m not sure I ever requested them, but on the other hand, I faintly remember hearing somewhere that the books were evil. I don’t know–or even think–that I heard that from my parents. But if the books were evil, I didn’t want anything to do with them. In the end, Harry Potter became a part of the world of children’s literature that I never touched. While the majority of my friends were devouring the books and eagerly awaiting the movies, I was content to read other stories and sit on the floor of my living room, enjoying the life of Sabrina.

From what I understand, there are generally two camps in the Potter debate. The first camp abhors anything magic, not wanting to expose young children to witchcraft. This group would likely not let their children read books about Hogwarts or watch TV shows about young witches–cartoon or otherwise. The second camp, however, views the magic in these realms as the stuff of fairytales or as a teaching tool and talking point for their families. They would likely buy the whole Potter series if their kids liked it and might tune in to shows like Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

I, on the other hand, come from a different camp entirely. You might call my camp the middle ground. I’m sure there are many others like me, but in the war of the Potter debate, our camp is rarely considered and rather confusing. Why let your child watch magic on TV but not read it in books? Why expose your child to magic at all? A few days ago, having just finished the first Harry Potter book, I was talking with my mom about it. Half-joking, I asked why she let me watch Sabrina but did not permit me to read Harry. Her response was half-teasing: because the magic in Sabrina’s life was so clearly fake. I’m sure other mothers are answering their children–who are now young adults–in the same manner. One didn’t seem so dangerous, the other was being condemned all around. One was clearly fake, the other seemed mysteriously plausible.

I suppose in the end, it’s more of a spectrum than a two-camp war. After all, many of those who wouldn’t let Harry or Sabrina in the door were more than happy to introduce their children to Frodo and Aslan. The magic there seems different, they would argue. Maybe so. Maybe not. But I have to wonder if we’re just sliding on a spectrum, coming to our place, and viewing others in different places as foolish or overprotective or dangerous. Of course, there will be danger. And certainly there is a point where children must be allowed to explore the world. Surely there are foolish opinions. However, I don’t think that there is only one right way to teach children about magic, about the fairytale innocence and the occult dangers.

I grew up watching Sabrina cast spells and reading of Aslan’s mystical powers. I didn’t read about Harry Potter or go to his movies. Frodo was rather foreign to me until I reached college (though this was for entirely different reasons). But somewhere along the way, I learned about magic. I learned that fairytale magic wasn’t really true–it was for stories–and that the demonic is not to be played with. I discovered that magic wasn’t something I should pursue because God doesn’t give us that access. That magic is a way of trying to take control of our own lives, that there isn’t a innocent storybook magic in reality. I learned that Saul sinned against God by seeking out the witch of Endor. I learned that innocent magic is a fictional tool. It tells a good story, but we can’t control magic. To grasp magic is to reject faith. To cling to spells is to deny God’s plan. But God works. His plan will prevail. I learned not to fear magic because I belong to the Almighty God. I learned not to try magic for the same reason.

And in the end, Sabrina and Aslan were parts of this learning. When I got to college, Frodo and Harry Potter joined the mix. Whether or not a 2nd grader should be reading any of these stories or viewing any of these shows or movies is not for me to definitively judge. But may we always be discerning, considering what God’s will is and moving within His plan.

Dios te bendgia.

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3 responses »

  1. I’ve struggled over the years with the Christian tendency to disalow one thing but not another. For awhile, my friends weren’t allowed to read Harry Potter either — but their parents were fine with them watching The Black Cauldron, or Merlin, or any number of fantasy-driven Disney movies. That seemed hypocritical to me — and still does.

    I grew up in a traditional household; I wasn’t allowed to read or watch anything with magic or “witchcraft” in it, until my dad started reading C.S. Lewis and discovering the alligorical aspect of fantasy. That slowly inched the door open to me. I now love fantasy; I even write fantasy. I’m a huge fan of the Harry Potter series (and yes, it’s own alligorical aspects). I love The Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia.

    Being careful about exposing your children to magic is one thing; being inconsistent is another. In my opinion, you should either permit most of it, or allow none of it. Don’t confuse kids with hovering in-between. “Oh, this is bad, but this is fine… you can’t have that, but you can have this.” Make up your mind, and stick with it. Listen to the Lord. For some, He may indeed say “stay away,” but for others, He may say, “Look for Me in this,” and they will find Him.

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