Is Harry Potter okay? (Adventures in missed opportunities.)

In 1997, the Harry Potter series (HP) landed and sparked the hopes of wary educators that a generation of kids might start reading.  It also ignited a firestorm of Christian commentary on the perceived evils of a book dealing with things the Bible forbids, namely witchcraft.

This ChristianAnswers.net article gives a good summary of why believers should not let kids read the books (or, by extension, watch the movies).  I've got to admit it: it summed up my beliefs about HP (here we go) until recently.

I agree with that article to the overarching question: HP is not "safe," but I disagree as to the meaning of that word and to some of the article's individual points.  HP is not safe in that nothing is safe without Christian, parental guidance (including your view as to what an appropriate level of violence might be); it will not unsafe, however, in that it is a beacon that will lead my kids into Satan worship.  I've read the entire Chronicles of Narnia series to our kids without them forming an Aslan cult, and Rowling's HP universe is even further removed from the real universe than Lewis wrote his to be.

Kids, being kids, may need reminding of what is real and what is fantasy, but mine are fairly perceptive when it comes to that:
So, do you guys think that Spongebob is having fun today? 
Uh, dad, you know that's a cartoon, right?
My central disagreement comes down to what we mean by fantasy.  It is not just that Rowling's stories are fiction.  They are fantastic, unreal, and other-worldly.  There are similarities between her universe and ours, but the magic of HP is not consistent with real-world pagan practices, past or present.  As Dan Phillips wrote, "You can learn to do magic from the HP books like you can learn to do surgery from Dr. Seuss." And despite the consistent warnings on Christian radio, the cat population continues to thrive, not dwindled through mass sacrifices.

Rowling is not a Christian author to the caliber of C. S. Lewis, and even Lewis himself was far from perfect.  Yet, the refusal of the Christian community as a whole to at least familiarize ourselves with the stories constitute a failure to capitalize on some excellent discussions with our non-Christian co-workers on the subtle themes Rowling put in there.  As a result, Christians have had two very different conversations (the first one a little tongue-in-cheek):
Conversation #1
Did you watch the new HP film yet? 
No, I'm a Christian, so I don't like watching movies that glorify the devil. 
Oh!  Well... um, good for you, I guess. 
Conversation #2 
Did you watch the new HP film yet? 
Yeah, I'm glad the movie captured Rowling's allegory of the Christian Gospel at the end. 
What do you mean? 
Well, let me tell you...

While I didn't say anything like in the first conversation (hopefully, anyway), looking backward, I feel like I missed some opportunities.

There are a couple of good articles I recommend that address a few more issues:
Now, try not to be too violent in your disagreements.

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