Summary: This is, I believe, a balanced look at the Harry Potter phenomenon, acknowledging that Christians have supported and opposed it. But beyond that, this message looks at what Jesus might have to say to Harry, if Harry were a real person.
[Preached in November 2002. Stats can probably be updated at Wikipedia.com]
Harry Potter. Since the release of the first book about him by J. K. Rowling in 1997, Harry Potter has captivated the minds and imaginations of children around the world. But not just children. Parents, college students, teenagers, young adults and fans of fantasy have all been charmed by the fictitious young student of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Over the past five years, over 175 million copies of the Harry Potter series of books have been printed in 59 different languages. The most recent book was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire released on July 8, 2000. And it was released to a huge fanfare and waiting crowds at bookstores. It quickly sold out the largest first-printing in US history… 3.8 million copies. Federal Express devoted 100 flights and 9000 employees in a single weekend just to deliver Amazon.com’s advance orders. Two weeks later, the New York Times added a new list for bestselling children’s fiction so it could get the book off the top of their other lists. I checked the list this week and it’s still at number 1 after 118 weeks on the list. In fact, all four books that have been released are still in the top 8, even though the first one was released 174 weeks ago. And there are three more to come in the seven volume set.
The first movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was released in November last year and grossed over $967 million worldwide, making it the second highest grossing film of all time. The second movie in the series was release this weekend, bringing in about $29 million the first day and is projected to bring in a total of $81 million in this first weekend, close to the $90 million that the first one brought in.
As the story goes, Harry Potter was born as the son of a wizard, but his parents were killed while he was still an infant. So he ended up being raised by his uncle and aunt who wanted nothing to do with wizardry and hid Harry’s heritage from him. But eventually Harry finds out and is enrolled in the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he learns about himself and his powers and where he experiences adventures with his friends Ron and Hermione.
I think one of the reasons that the book series has become so popular is because people can identify with Harry. He’s a young boy, innocent in many ways, wants to do the right thing, is unsure of himself and his abilities, and is really on a quest to discover who he really is. People identify with that.
The Harry Potter series has not been unanimously embraced, though. The American Library Association reports that the Harry Potter books collectively rank number seven on the list of books challenged as inappropriate for schools and public libraries (“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” ranks fifth). Many parents worry that the Harry Potter books encourage children to rebel, since Harry always tries to do what he thinks is best regardless of what he’s been told. Others, including many Christians, are concerned that their emphasis on magic and witchcraft creates an unhealthy interest in the occult.