"Excessive Paganism Exalted"
HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE has a lot of hype surrounding it, but the hype is somewhat deserved, because the book and its sequels have sold millions of copies. Even so, however, parents and children need to know the dangers that this cultural phenomenon poses.
The story of HARRY POTTER begins with little Harry Potter’s parents being killed by the evil wizard Voldemort. Voldemort tries to put a powerful curse on the baby Harry but fails because the baby apparently has some powerful natural magic of its own. Voldemort disappears, and Professor Dumbledore (played by Richard Harris), the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, drops the baby at the house of Harry’s non-magical aunt and uncle, Petunia and Vernon Dursley.
Ten years later, after being teased and abused by the Dursley’s and their little obnoxious boy Dudley, Harry receives a special invitation to attend Hogwarts. The nasty Mr. Dursley tries to stop Harry from going, but the big, hairy groundskeeper from Hogwarts, Hagrid (played marvelously by Robbie Coltrane), stops him and takes Harry away. Hagrid introduces Harry to the goblin bank where his parents kept their money. Harry gets some money and some school supplies, then he’s off to the train at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, which will take him to Hogwarts. Before Harry goes, however, Hagrid takes a mysterious small package out of one of the goblin vaults.
At Hogwarts, Harry becomes friends with two other first-year children, Ron and Hermoine. They are all assigned to the same house, Gryffindor, one of four dormitories that will compete for the House Cup based on points. The three children undergo a series of adventures, not the least of which is an encounter with a 12-foot-troll. They disobey orders and find themselves exploring various parts of the labyrinthine Hogwarts. Meanwhile, Harry finds he has an aptitude for quidditch, which is sort of a rugby-style game played on flying broomsticks. During Harry’s first match, it looks as if one of the teachers at the school, the dark, mysterious Professor Snape, tries to knock Harry off his broomstick, a plot that Hermoine foils.
Eventually, Harry, Hermoine and Ron discover where Hagrid and Professor Dumbledore have hidden the mysterious package from the goblin bank. It turns out to be the infamous sorcerer’s stone, whose spell brings immortality and converts items into gold. This turns out to be just what the evil Voldemort needs to bring himself back to life in another body. Harry and his two friends suspect that Professor Snape is trying to steal the stone. When Dumbledore is suspiciously called away to London, Harry and his two friends try to get the stone before Snape does.
The production values in HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE are excellent and state-of-the-art. The movie almost perfectly depicts the fantasy elements from the book. The set designs in this movie are visual treats. The special effects are also terrific, especially a 12-foot-troll that invades the school and the exciting quidditch game.
The three young actors portraying Harry, Ron and Hermoine do a wonderful job. Daniel Radcliffe fits the role of Harry like a glove. Director Chris Columbus creatively uses the boy’s subtle ability to express emotions, which keeps viewers interested. Emma Watson as Hermoine and Rupert Grint as Ron are also delightful. Among the adult actors, Richard Harris, Maggie Smith, John Hurt, and especially Alan Rickman as Dumbledore, Professor McGonagal, Mr. Ollivander, and Professor Snape are particularly noteworthy.
The production problems with the movie are virtually the same problems with the book. Despite the care in which the fantasy elements and the characters are handled, the book and the movie have little sense of plotting. There are several digressions in the middle of the story, which take away from the plot involving Harry, the villain Voldemort and the sorcerer’s stone. The story finally gets back on track toward the end, but by then, it’s almost worn out its welcome. HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE also suffers from the fact that we never really see much of the main villain, Voldemort, though there is a lot of talk regarding him.
Of course, theologically and morally, the occult, pagan worldview of HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE is abhorrent. When the occult magic fails, what does a witch or wizard do? To whom can they turn? Who’s ultimately in charge? Parents should ask their children these and other questions, because occult magic represents an unhealthy, selfish desire to replace God and to reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ in favor of a lifestyle that ultimately will lead to unhappiness and pain.
HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE also offers viewers a works theology, a form of elitism where those who are most successful at doing magic are the best. Witchcraft is a selfish, elitist form of gnosticism, an evil theology of secret, esoteric knowledge. Mitigating this works theology are the movie’s theme about love and sacrifice, its rejection of false immortality, and its warning about not getting lost in false dreams and desires. Regrettably, however, the movie’s occult, pagan worldview also rewards the children for disobeying the school rules at Hogwarts and lying about it. Furthermore, the story gives a wink and a nod at the fact that no one can keep a secret among the witches and wizards because of all the gossip. Are these messages something you want to teach your children? We think not.
The bottom line, however, is that God abhors witchcraft no matter how sweet and subtle it is:
“There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.”
– Deuteronomy 18:10-11 (KJV)
Media-wise questions for children who see HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE. Please note that wisdom involves in part understanding the consequences of your actions. These questions are intended to promote wisdom. Please add questions which you find relevant for your child.
1. Hagrid asks Harry if he ever made anything happen when he was angry or scared, and Harry made his cousin fall into the snake pit when he was angry at him. Should we hurt others or take revenge on others, even if they deserve it, when we are angry or scared? Would we want others to hurt us or take revenge on us in secret using magic?
2. What is the purpose of magic and witchcraft?
3. Should we try to use secret power over others or over our environment? Should someone else try to use secret powers on us?
4. Why is witchcraft selfish?
5. The Adversary asks Adam and Eve if they want to be as God. Would you like to be as God? Do you ever make mistakes? If you were as God, how would your mistakes affect others? Are you smart enoguh and wise enough not to make mistakes?
6. Would you want others to be as God, such as those who could hurt you?
7. What would it be like in a world where everyone had supernatural powers to manipulate other people in secret?
8. Would you really like to live at Hogwarts?
9. Would you like to ride a broomstick? What if you fell off at a great height?
10. Would you like to have everything in your home or schools always shifting round and changing so you never knew your way to your room?
11. Would you like to meet Fluffy, the ghosts or any of the scary creatures in the movie? What would you do if you met them? What if you couldn’t remember the right spell or say the words right or wave the wand properly? Do you ever make mistakes? What if you made a mistake when in the presence of bad creatures or evil people?
12. Magic seems to fail at times. Harry’s parents, as powerful and adept as they were, were killed by another witch. Would you like to know about a power that never fails and never makes mistakes?
13. When the occult magic fails, what does a witch or wizard do? To whom can they turn? Who’s ultimately in charge?
14. Would you like to know about a greater supernatural power that is always good and always loves you?
15. Would you like to live in a world where the better witch wins all the battles, even if that witch was not you?
16. Would you like to live in a world where good may not triumph?
17. Or, would you like to live in a world created by a good God who loves you and would never hurt you and who wants to save you from all the bad people and things in the world?
(PaPaPa, OOO, B, C, L, VV, M) Very strong pagan worldview with very strong occult elements including witchcraft & ghosts, plus some moral, redemptive elements including some family values; 2 profanities ("my God") & 5 obscenities including several uses of the English word “bloody”; scary violence including troll tries to club children to death, large three-headed dog tries to viciously bite children, human size chess pieces smash each other to pieces, chess piece attacks boy, vines try to strangle children, villain drinks animal’s blood after apparently killing it, & rough rugby style game on flying broomsticks includes blocking & checking children & teenagers into posts & knocking them off broomsticks so that they fall to the ground; no sex; no nudity; no alcohol use; no smoking; and, use of magic is based on being angry & scared & children constantly break school rules & suffer little consequence.
HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE tells the story of an orphaned boy who’s invited to attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he finds the home and family he has never had. Harry undergoes a series of adventures with his newfound friends, Ron and Hermoine. Eventually, they must do battle with the mysterious villain who killed Harry’s parents, who wants to get his hands on some powerful magic that can make him immortal.
The production values in HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE are state-of-the-art. The movie almost perfectly depicts the fantasy elements from the book. Director Chris Columbus has done a marvelous job with the child actors, especially Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, and with the veteran adult actors as well. Like the book, however, the story of SORCERER’S STONE drags in the middle. Finally, despite some positive moral elements, the story’s occult, pagan worldview adds an elitist works theology to its occultism, both of which are condemned by God in the Bible, and rewards the children for disobeying the school rules at Hogwarts and lying about it. Witchcraft is a selfish, elitist form of gnosticism, an evil theology of secret, esoteric knowledge.