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?