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For some time now the entertainment media of the Western world have been obsessed with the immensely profitable adventures of the sorcerer's apprentice and schoolboy wizard Harry Potter.

Some Evangelical Protestants, with their usual lack of subtlety and culture, have condemned the whole phenomenon out of hand as 'Satanic'. Self-righteously they have snatched the books from the hands of innocent children who just wanted a 'good read'. This spiritual blindness has, as usual, done the cause of the Church no good, since secular people actually identify Evangelical Protestantism with the Church. Naturally, it is not of the Church, being a collection of Protestant sects. But even if it does not reflect the viewpoint of the Church, could it have a point?

Firstly, it has to be said that the author of these children's stories, J.K. Rowling, cannot be blamed. If you do not like the stories, then do not buy the books and do not watch the film. Do not shoot the messenger because you do not like the message. Blaming her for all evil is rather like Puritan moralisers who blame television programmes for all evil: the solutions are simple: a) we are not (yet) obliged to have a television in our homes, and, b) even if we do have one, they have 'off' buttons on them. Equally, if society had not taken to the Harry Potter books and nobody had bought them, they would have been pulped, and the film, with its tens of millions of dollars of profit, would not have existed. In other words, Rowling has simply filled a spiritual vacuum in society, meeting a social need.

And what a spiritual vacuum there is in contemporary Western society! Where can you go for spiritual food? To 'churches', full of happy-clappy modernists with their self-centred, man-pleasing, self-worship? Let us be frank, since the fall of the Catholic/Protestant world in the 1960's, it is now almost impossible to find spiritual food within those denominations. No wonder so many young people become 'New Agers', or shoe-bombing Sufi Muslims or join other Non-Christian sects or religions which actually believe in something (though often, not so much 'something' as 'anything'). We live in a spiritually gutless society. 'Magic', 'wizardry', what attractive words in the hollow heart of the spiritual void of present-day Western society!

Theologically, however, we should be careful. There are only two sorts of spirits, good or evil. There is no neutral.

Sooner or later Harry Potter could become a force for the good 'magic' of the Holy Spirit, through Christ, His Mother, the saints and the angels. But this is difficult because the 'magic' of the Holy Spirit is not involuntary, it requires our participation, our effort to improve ourselves. It is one thing for Potter apparently to fight evil, but what is the weapon he uses - magic spells? Where is the Name of Christ, so obviously underpinning the works of C.S. Lewis, or Tolkien?

Or else, indeed, Harry Potter will become a force for the evil 'magic' of the demons. And this is easy, because evil 'magic' does not require any effort on our part to better ourselves, it merely requires our passiveness before the face of evil, our placid acceptance of the work of demons. Spells in the name of the demon can work.

I am worried by the Harry Potter phenomenon, because it contains within it no specifically Christian symbols or message. It is the spirituality of the vacuum and, as such, it perfectly reflects and expresses the whole amorality and emptiness of contemporary Western life, degutted of all Orthodox, or even orthodox, Christian content. In conclusion: Beware; discern the spirits; by their fruits ye shall know them.

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