on convictions (and harry potter).

Let me tell you a story.

This story centers around a young girl who didn’t know what she believed. She went with the flow but she always tried to do the right thing. When certain friends decided not to do certain things, she was right there alongside them, blindly following because it seemed like the right thing. If they were opposed to something, she was, too. It didn’t matter what their reasons were or the truths behind those reasons – she believed them and accepted them as her own.

This girl didn’t understand convictions because she didn’t have any. She only accepted others’ and called them her own. On the outside, this looked great. On the outside, she was a good girl. Of course, she was a good girl on the inside, too (with the usual disclaimers).  But she was confused about some things – things she didn’t want to ask questions about because she thought that, if she asked questions, she’d look like she was going against her convictions.

(In case you’re still wondering, yes, this girl was me.)

Now, this girl grew up seeing everything black and white. Everything was either good or bad. PG movies were good. PG-13 movies were bad. “Christian” music was good. “Secular” music was bad.Narnia and Lord of the Rings were good. Harry Potter was bad.

The girl never understood why these things were good or bad, though. She didn’t want to ask questions and she certainly didn’t want to look into it on her own. She just accepted the fact that they had a big red “THIS IS GOOD” or “THIS IS EVIL” label on them and didn’t look any further.

As this girl (painstakingly slowly) grew in maturity, she learned that not everything is black and white. She was introduced to the color gray when her parents allowed her to watch The Lord of the Rings – after reading the books first, of course. Some of her more conservative friends, however, were vehemently against all things Tolkien. Much to her shock, she soon found out that they were against the Narnia series, too. (This is when she started understanding what personal convictions were.) What am I supposed to do now? she would ask herself. My parents are saying one thing and my friends are saying another and I know I’m supposed to listen to my parents but shouldn’t my friends have a say in what I do, too?

However, this girl was blessed with good friends who still loved her, regardless of what she did or didn’t do. They didn’t condemn her for her differing convictions. They agreed to disagree, and they didn’t argue with her about what she believed. In conversation, they acknowledged the fact that they had opposing views, but skirted the issues for the sake of peace and friendship despite differing convictions.

Soon, she really found out what personal convictions were. She moved two states away from all of her friends, into a great unknown.

Now, as this girl started making friends, she learned that a lot of them held the same convictions, which was fantastic. However, some of them didn’t. Some watched movies she’d never dream of watching, and some were against music that she adored. Instead of panicking (which is what she wanted to do), this girl decided to take what she’d learned about “agreeing to disagree” from her awesome friends back home and apply it to her new friendships.

This worked… until she came in contact with people who grew her in ways she never thought possible – people who didn’t want to agree to disagree, people who wanted to argue with her, people who wanted to stomp all over certain things that she loved and shoot at it with Bible verses and theological statements that she was unprepared to counter.

And, slowly… this girl realized that she was judging others and thinking less of them for not having her same convictions.

The story stops here because… this is where I am. I’m learning about personal convictions, how to hold firm in the face of opposition, and how to gracefully counter those who don’t believe the same as I do.

I’m grateful for all of my friendships – even the hard ones. I’m grateful for every single person I’ve come in contact with whom God has placed in my life to grow me. Because that’s exactly what they’ve done – grown me in ways that nothing else could.

Because of people who’ve disagreed with me, I’ve had to sit and think and talk with my family for hours, whittling away at what I’ve been taught to discover my own convictions. I’ve looked up Bible verses, read books, listened to sermons, and prayed over things that I never questioned when I was twelve. So I’m incredibly grateful for the opposition I’ve faced because it’s helped me form my own opinions…

…one of which is the Harry Potter books. (And here we come to the controversial part.)

I know that a lot of you are very conservative Christians who are homeschooled (or are homeschooled graduates). I know that some of you don’t “do” Narnia or Lord of the Rings, and to even think about reading the Harry Potter books is appalling.

How do I know? Because I was there.

The Harry Potter books are one of those Christian no-nos, the unmentionable of Christian circles. Up until a few months ago, I basically thought they were evil. (I thought the same about the Hunger Games trilogy until a little over a year ago.) Because of the opinions of others around me, I assumed that Harry Potter was bad, and that reading the books and watching the movies would be like giving your soul to Satan and basically becoming a member of the occult. (Extreme, but basically…) Everyone who read Harry Potter was blind to the fact that it was bad, simply because it had magic in it and magic equals bad. Therefore, it was bad. (But I still had a question about the magic because… I was allowed to read Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. So what was the difference? Once again, I didn’t ask questions though.)

However, one of my favorite people ever, Dr. George Grant, once said that “there no Christian books and there are no secular books. There are only good books and bad books.” (CAN I GET AN AMEN.) Since I heard him say that once in a history lecture, I’ve been learning how to hold stories up to the ultimate story of the Gospel. Obviously, nothing is as good as the Good News, but is _________ (fill in the blank) good enough? Do the good parts outweigh the bad, or is it mindless junk that I shouldn’t read? I did this with several series, but I didn’t think about even attempting to do this with the Harry Potter books and simply held to my assumption that they were bad.

And then, a few months ago, a godly friend who I really look up to asked if I’d read them. Of course, I said no (inwardly going, What kind of heathen do you think I am???) She encouraged me to read them, but didn’t pressure me. I asked my parents, and we decided that, as an almost-twenty-one-year-old (gahhhhhh), I can make my own decisions, listening to godly counsel, regarding what I read and watch. I’ve been doing it for the past year or so and this instance wasn’t really any different, other than the fact that this series I was interested had been OFF-LIMITS for the majority of my life.

I told my parents that I wanted to watch the movies with them so we could talk about it as a family. I went to the library, got the first three books, and devoured them in basically a weekend on a family vacation. My siblings and I watched the first three movies during vacation, too. (And we all kept saying, “I can’t believe we’re watching this. I can’t believe we’re watching this. Never in a million years could I see us watching this. I CAN’T BELIEVE WE’RE WATCHING THIS.”)

So. Why am I telling you all of this?

Because I don’t want to hide it.

I don’t want to “accidentally” let it slip out that I’ve read these oh-so-controversial books in passing conversation or “accidentally” post a picture on a Pinterest board and catch anyone off-guard. I know how controversial it is in Christian circles – I’ve already gotten looks and many disappointed utterances of “Oh” from people who I’ve told that I’m reading them.

I also don’t want you to think that I’m not open to conversation about it. Because I know several of you very well, I know that you’re against the series. And you are completely entitled to your own opinion – and that absolutely includes sharing it with people – especially me. If you read this and decide to spam my phone, email, comment box, Instagram, whatever – do it! I’d rather you caps-lock argue with me about what I believe than shut me out because I’m doing something you don’t agree with.

My mantra over the past few years has been “Don’t bash it ’til you try it.” That sounds like a reference to drugs or something, but it’s not – it’s a suggestion to not assume things about what you oppose, and to not oppose something until you’ve learned more about it. Some things are beneficial, and some are harmful. And, based on your convictions, you need to decide for yourself where your personal boundaries are.

But I think I grossly assumed wrong things on the Harry Potter front.

For some people, the magic is black or white.  For others (like me), it’s a gray area. I’m not ignoring that. I’m also not condoning the magic by reading these books. But let me ask you this question: Is the magic a big enough issue to you to throw out the entire series? Yes, the series seems “all about magic” – but only at first glance. It’s also about loyalty and friendship and courage and redemption and perseverance and blatant John 15:13 love. I’ve learned so much from the first three books, and I can’t wait to read the rest.

However, what’s right for some may not be right for others. Because I’m reading them doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. I know that if I’d read these books when I was younger, my opinion on the magic would be different. I’m glad my parents thought it was best for me wait to read these books because, when they first started coming out, I know I wasn’t mature enough to handle or understand some of the themes.

But… convictions change as people change. Convictions should either be thrown out or deepened as you learn more about the world and about God. Your walk with the Lord should not look the same when you’re twelve as it does when you’re twenty-two. You should be growing and learning, and you should let others do the same. It’s not right to condemn someone for not having the same convictions as you. For me, growing was realizing that not all PG-13 movies are entirely bad and that not all Christians are entirely good.

I’ll finish this post (and tell you what I think about the Harry Potter books) when I’m done with the series, but until then… bear with me. I’m really – really – enjoying this series, but I’m not sure what my stance is on certain things, mainly the magic.

Going forward, I’m not going to parade the fact that I’m reading something so controversial, but I’m definitely not going to try to hide it, either, because I think hiding something is admitting that you feel guilty about it.

So… stay tuned.

All that said, what is my motive for writing this post? (I know it’s long, but I’m coming to a close, so hang on for just one more moment.)

It’s to share with you something I’ve been learning: To not condemn people for their convictions.

I’ve had to back off of stances I’ve taken because I’ve realized that I’m basically shunning someone for something they read or watch. This isn’t healthy – for you or for the person whose opinions you disagree with. I’m not saying you can’t have your own opinions, you can, but you should always ask yourself if it’s really worth arguing with someone about.

The way I see it, there are three different ways you can handle a situation where someone’s views differ from yours. You can (1) Disagree with them inwardly, yet choose not to say anything, (2) Tell them your opinion, yet let them have their own, or (3) Point-blank argue with them, giving a list of Bible verses and reasons why their opinion is wrong.

So which one will you choose?

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29 thoughts on “on convictions (and harry potter).

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  4. I know I’m super late to the party but my sister (Jane who commented on here up above) sent me the link to this post today and I LOVED it. Growing up, the words Harry Potter were synonymous with evil, Satan and worldliness for me. Worldly children read HP, not Christian children! I remember once asking my mum why I was allowed to read Enid Blyton books (books for kids which included witches and wizards) and I think she said something along the lines of it not containing actual witchcraft whereas HP did. I think she was just going off what she had heard as she’s never read them so I continued along in my aversion of HP. Until about last year. When my brother told me he’d read them and watched the movies. I was shocked at him (although not as much as I would have been 5 years ago as I was slowly realising how legalistic and judgemental I was in many things and was coming out of that) and shocked when Jane started reading them too. In fact, she stood up for them really strongly which amazed me! A week ago, I finally watched the first movie at my bro’s house and have now bought the first four, watched the first three and read the first three books and love it so so much. I feel like I’m very much at the same stage as you are here, I love it, I definitely don’t feel like I’m being lured to the occult but I’m not 100% sure about all the magic stuff… like what do I SAY if I have kids and let them read it and they come to me and say, hey when I grow up I want to be a witch like Hermione! I think it’s about focussing on the themes though – friendship, loyalty, good overcoming bad. I do have friends who would read HP but I also know people who would think I’ve really strayed off the narrow path for that! Sorry for the super long comment but this post really resonated with me! Thank you so much!

    – The Elf –

    • Never apologize for long comments – I LIVE FOR THEM. : D

      Your story sounds so much like mine – complete with the unintentional legalism. : P I’m so glad you’re giving them a chance now, and focusing on the good morals! (Also, you should totes let me know what you think of the last few – they just get better and better!) I wrote another blog post about what I thought of the entire series (mild spoilers so if you’re staying away, don’t read it ’til you’re done): https://inklingspress.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/yer-a-wizard-harry/

      • Haha yep I will let you know but I can’t read that post until I’ve finished the whole series. I’ve already picked up too many spoilers during my HP hating days so I’m trying not to find out more until I’ve read the books for myself 😀

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  8. Way late to this party, I know, but I was going to wait until you’d written a post about the whole series *hint hint* :p
    This was so awesome to read because I was in the same boat for years. I read the books this summer because I really wanted to find out for myself what the real difference was between HP and Narnia and LOTR.
    I’m so glad I did! I really had misjudged them. Fantastic writing and characters and themes. Part of me really wishes that I had Hermione as a role model when I was in that geeky/loner period of middle school. At the same time, I’d still be really hesitant to recommend them to kids – ESPECIALLY if it were the first “magicky” books they’d read. Also, the books have morally complex characters, which can be hard for kids to sort out – these characters are good but they’re doing bad things – what should I think? If I’d been “allowed” to read them at the time my peers were (elementary school) I think I would have been really confused by the witchcraft (because there IS a lot of it), the moral complexity, and the language and relationship stuff that go on in the later ones. I can totally understand that it’s good to protect a 3rd grader from it all. (Because there’s no way I would have been able to read only a book per year like somebody else suggested :p). But I’m very glad I read it now that I’m a little older. And I really would love a post on what your thoughts are now that you finished the series.

    • Welcome to the party!!! I’m allllmost done with the last book (it’s taken me so long because I read a few books in between each book because I wanted the series to last). I’ll do a blog post about it if people still want it.

      I am SO glad we’re in the same boat. I feel like a lot of people I’ve talked to have experienced the same thing – misjudging them, then finally reading them and realizing that they’re FANTASTIC. I totally agree with you on everything you said – I wish I had Hermione when I was younger, too, but I couldn’t have handled the moral complexities either. I’m glad I waited. (And I wouldn’t be able to read a book a year either! I think I’d probably have read all of them at 14 or 15 if I could.) But I’m glad I have it now. : )

      Thank you! I’m going to do like a pre-post just to ask if people still want it and tell them that it’s going to be totally my own opinion and that I’m not trying to challenge their convictions. THEN I’ll rave about how awesome it is. XD

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  10. Thank you for writing this! I really appreciate that you’ve included your family in Harry Potter, even though you’re technically “old enough” to do it by yourself. I also really liked that you said those books aren’t for everyone, because that applies to everything- books, movies, how you dress, what you do for a living. Thank you for admitting that you’re still in the middle- that you don’t have it all figured out yet, because seriously- do we ever figure it all out?
    -Katie

    • My family has always been important to me, and, even though we don’t agree on everything, we talk about everything together. And you’re totally right – it does apply to everything! Oh my gosh – nope. Nope, we never figure it out. (And people who think they have life figured out are lying to themselves.) Thanks for your comment!!!

  11. This is so similar to me, that I have to comment! Just like you, I grew up thinking Narnia & LOTR = Good & Harry Potter = Bad.
    And now, that I’m older (20’s) I’ve started reading the HP books and wow! am I gripped! For myself, I find that they’re so similar to all the fairy tales, Enid Blyton books, Narnian chronicles & LOTR, that I really have no issue with them & would totally let any kids of mine read them.
    But I liked your thoughts on finding convictions for ourselves – so important to measure things up by the Bible & not just go by what people say.

    • Same! I love them so much! And, yes, I’ve been comparing them to Narnia and LOTR, too. (I think, because of the themes and the maturity of the last few books, I’d make my kids wait ’til they’re about 14 or 15. And then I’d shove them in their face and say “READ THIS AND THEN WE’LL TALK AND CRY TOGETHER.”)

      It’s so important, which makes it even more sad that I’m just now starting to figure that out. Hopefully others will learn from my mistakes. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

  12. Your journey sounds a lot like mine! It is not always easy, but I really try not to judge people because they have different convictions. I’ve tried to understand why someone would believe differently. That helps – sometimes.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Harry Potter. I’ve been doing some research both for and against Christians reading the series. I’ve decided to give it a try, but I won’t have time until next summer! :/

  13. So being Ashley’s (Eowyn) brother, I agree with most if not all of what she has said in this post. That being said, everyone has their own opinion. I am reading the Harry Potter books along with her and don’t want to read them as fast as she is for two reasons. 1 It gets stuck in your head and you can’t stop thinking about it. 2 All the books meld into one big story and you can’t remember which book is which.

    I think that when I have kids, I would let them read these at the same age as Harry is in the first book (11) and only let them read the next one, the year after.

    ( The Harry Potter books, if you didn’t know, happen over 7 years of his life. Starting at age 11, Each book spanning 1 year )

    Oh! by the way, If you are a fan of movie scores go listen to the soundtrack for the movies, especially Hedwig’s Theme. Some of the best music composed by John Williams. In fact, music fan or not, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GTXBLyp7_Dw

    • Wow, James – you’d only let your kids read one a year??? WOWZA. I pity your children.

      (And James does have a point about books consuming your mind if you read too many of a series at once. This happened to me when I read another series.)

      • I mean like, for the first two books. You know what I mean 😛

        And yes, I read all four of the “Giver” books in one weekend. That messed with my mind for a while.

      • Aye, I too know of the “mind-consuming rapture of reading”… Tolkien’s works besieged my brain for well over half a year at one point. ;]
        John Williams’ compositions are astounding. We had the pleasure of attending a performance of several of his scores last December, Hedwig’s Theme being among the selections – it was a phenomenal experience, to say the least. :]

  14. You and are pretty similar (although you already know my story.) XD I’m so glad you’re learning to have your own convictions and that it’s ok for others to have their own too. I wish more Christians understood this better. 😦

  15. Eowyn – THANK YOU.
    Not quite sure why I feel impelled to thank you after every Deep Thoughts post… ;] Your perspectives on real life somehow resonate deeply with me. Your writings are incredibly thought-provoking or encouraging – often both! So – thank you so very much! :]

    “Of course, I said no (inwardly going, What kind of heathen do you think I am???)” ;D It’s hilarious when you state it like that, but – well, yes, that IS very much my mental response if I were asked that question. Hrrm… interesting.
    I’m looking forward to hearing your perspective on the Harry Potter books once you’ve finished the series!

  16. Well *clearly* the only thing to do here is to yell ‘sacrilege!’ and bolt in the opposite direction. Truthfully though? Your walk with God is your own. It’s between you and Him what you watch and what you do.

    And now I’m off to make a cup of tea – do you want a virtual one while I’m at it? : )

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