For the Last Time, Harry Potter != Satanic: A Response to Doug Phillips [Updated]

Subject: Re: Harry Potter and the Lavender Brigade
On Jul 23, 2005, at 11:28 AM, Mom wrote:
Noel, would you please read this treatise and let me know what
thoughts you have after reading it. I would really like to hear your
opinions on what Doug Phillips has to say. Thanks. Love, Mom

…And poof, there went my Saturday morning. My Mom forwarded me an email-only essay by Doug Phillips of the Vision Forum organization titled “Harry Potter and the Lavender Brigade”. From appearances, they’re not posting the essay on their site because, one would surmise, of its rather poorly argued nature, I mean, its rather inflammatory nature. What with all the false analogies and such. Anyways, I won’t reproduce it here out of respect for their copyright, but if you want to read it, just leave a comment below and I’ll forward it on to you a poster at has put up an unformatted copy. Below is my heated response to the argument that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series should not be read by Christians because it is an imagined world that is rooted in magic as practiced by humans, which for Phillips equates to, well, I’m not quite sure, but reading about that world is like worshipping other gods, which we may all agree is bad.

Follow the jump for my savage six-paragraph retort that I wrote for my lovely Mom…

For the Last Time, Harry Potter != Satanic!

In my reading, Jerram Barrs’ treatment of Potter is more consistent logically, as well as more grounded in Biblical criticism. I wrote something along the same lines a couple of years ago. Phillips goes off the deep end here. I counted four circular arguments in a brief skim, and I have no doubt more could follow a deeper read. But really, the first circular argument sinks his entire ship.

The tip of the iceberg might be found in Phillips inconsistent usage of what to call those who practice magic. He repeatedly refers to those, both male and female, as ‘witches’. In fact, he never uses the term ‘wizard’ to refer to a male practitioner of magic. I see this as the first indication of a systematic failure to grasp the place of magic in fantasy and in reality (both of which by definition of our faith are created, upheld, and brought to an fore-ordained end by God alone). The failure, moreover, is not just definitional, but hermeneutical. For a full exploration of exactly what magic in the world of Harry Potter is and means, please read my earlier-mentioned essay. I shall soldier on and explain the hermeneutical failure that Phillips shows.

Don’t be fools and think that we can imagine something outside the law of God, which has been imprinted on every human heart and is reflected in some way in every output of human imagination. The wretched trope of equating magic with homosexuality that Wilson pushes at the beginning lumbers, clumsy and insipid, toward constructing a logical equivalency between a single sinful act (homosexuality) and an entire moral vista as imagined by a profoundly fecund mind (J.K. Rowling’s moral, magical world of Harry Potter). Any small amount of brain matter that tries to reconcile this equivalency will spit it out like so much spoiled milk; they are not. Even the most morally wretched world as imagined by man, like the recent movie Sin City, cannot run far enough away that it gets away from Almighty God. To posit that Rowling has accomplished what Jonah failed elicits my laughter at the small, small god in which Phillips evidently believes.

Let me make clear here what Phillips leaves as an exercise to the reader: in his argument, The Lord of the Rings was a sinful exercise in imagining a godless, abominable world. Don’t agree with that? Yes, I thought you might not. But if we accept that the sympathetic inclusion of humans practicing magic is sinful, then that’s where we’re going to find ourselves. Not that I follow Tolkien rather than Jesus, but I trust him a hell of a lot more than Phillips.

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of the lack of hermeneutical imagination displayed by those of Phillips and ilk, and find refuting their every latent legalistic literalist law tedious. Which leads me to my strongest argument. Does Phillips actually think that Rowling created an entire world based on the worship of Satan and the practice of satanic powers by humans intent on destroying the People of God? I don’t know what Harry Potter series Phillips is reading, by its not the one that is #1 on the New York Times bestseller list (or, for those who like their lists compiled by a Christian source, World’s best selling books list. It’s on both, kids).

For the record, I find the most amusing circular argument in the third point of Phillips’ argument, where he attempts, after repeated denials that the portrayal of magic of any kind by a human is sinful and, by implication, punishable by death as under Deutronomical law, to carve out a small space for magical creatures (and reading between the lines, is trying desperately to allow C. S. Lewis’ Narnia back into his little AV1610 world). It turns out that writing about dragons is okay because the Bible mentions dragons. In the KJV. Based on a mistranslation of the Hebrew in 1610, therefore, dragons are in, but sinful bastard creatures like fauns are out. And heaven help us if we attempt to create an allegorical world that uses magic as a metaphor for society’s use of technology and as a device that examines isolation and anxiety as we grow from children to men and women. As it is said, so may it be.

July 23rd, 2005 | Best, Books, Magic, Philosophy, Review, Rhetoric, Unbelievable