Mixed Feelings about Rowling’s Newest

Lori and I went to see the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them over Christmas break, a fun movie introducing great characters… but it left a bitter taste in our mouths.

As you know, Fantastic Beasts is yet another fantasy adventure story written by JK Rowling, and a prequel of the Harry Potter Series. Like the Harry Potter films, it’s well written with creative dialogue and likable characters… and also plenty of magic, wands, spells, and incantations.

On the positive side, it was a really fun film with a noticeable battle between good and evil. But at times I really struggled to enjoy it, because I was struggling with… there’s no better way to say it… the beguiling comfort with witchcraft.

Don’t worry… I’m not turning into someone crying “Satan” with the rationality of Chicken Little. We’ve all seen examples of people who glean more reading between the lines than was ever in the text. I don’t think JK Rowling is the antichrist. I don’t think Christians who read “Harry Potter” books will lose their salvation, and I confess I have even chuckled at some sarcastic pokes at that reaction.

And honestly, I love The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings… and The Wizard of Oz… all films/stories with good and bad witches, wizards or sorcery. And I have no problem with any of those stories, so it would be a little hypocritical of me to misquote a Deuteronomy verse and say, “JK Rowling is of the Devil because she writes about witchcraft.”

So why did the hairs on the back of my neck raise a little with Fantastic Beasts?

Here’s my concern. I saw the film, the entire film, not just the preview. And I noticed a few concerning elements:

First, it’s hard to ignore the subtle tone that witchcraft is this normal fun practice and (here’s the kicker) anyone who is against witchcraft is an intolerant, evil, prejudicial person. In fact, the film depicts a group known as the New Salem Philanthropic Society, with a child-beating leader and mindless followers who sing nursery rhymes about witches burning and dying.

The message was clear. You either are cool with witchcraft, or you’re Westboro Baptist.

Now I’m an educated adult, and I noticed some of these nuances. But will our kids?

The befuddling interpretation of good and evil wasn’t the only element that bothered me. The film also introduced an organization of the “good” witches known as the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA) who are keeping their eyes out for bad elements that threaten witchcraft in America. Their gathering place or “court” has a large pentagram in the middle of the floor. Yes, I know the pentagram has meant many things throughout history. During the Renaissance, a man by the name of Agrippa popularized the belief that it was a symbol of magic. But ever since the early 1900s (1897 to be exact), the inverted pentagram has been the copyrighted logo of the Church of Satan. That, of course, is when the two points are pointing up. Some could argue that in this MACUSA courtroom, the one point is aimed at the leader. I’ll let you decide.

Again, I’m not Dana Carvey’s “church lady” screaming “Satan!” or circling subtle Illuminati images in every Beyonce video. But I always tend to notice a bunch of witches standing around a pentagram.

Funny, when I’m reading the Narnia series, or watching The Lord of the Rings, I never get the feeling that magic is being propagated as something to pursue. I can’t say I haven’t felt that with Rowling’s writings.

No, I’m not calling you out to ban this film; I’m not even saying its evil. I’m just voicing the fact that our world is not only very comfortable messing with the occult, it also conveniently produces art frequently confusing good and evil. I’m more than a little concerned we’re raising a generation saturated in these subtleties every day.

Have you seen the movie?

What was your take?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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2 Responses to Mixed Feelings about Rowling’s Newest

  1. John says:

    The Pentagram on the floor stuck out to me as well. I remember enjoying the good fun of the movie and all of a sudden my face contorted and I looked at my wife thinking, “Ew, I wish they hadn’t done THAT.” I read the Harry Potter books as an adult, and even own the recently published copy of the screenplay–I’m curious to see if Rowling wrote the pentagram in or if it was a movie set designer’s take.

    Either way, I thought the movie was a treat, but that part did leave a sour aftertaste.

  2. Leanne says:

    It’s no mistake God speaks so strongly against witchcraft in His word. And no mistake Satan uses the subtlety and entertainment of a novel series directed at children to woo us into accepting it as “no big deal” – and then, after we are lulled into complacency about it as entertainment – THEN he goes in for the big hit. The battle is always spiritual – but we are too afraid of being uncool or overreacting or seeming judgmental that we don’t follow what God’s word says about it. Think of porn. Or drugs. Or any other sin that can start out with a subtle introduction but then grow bigger. Witchcraft is no different – but for some reason we’ve decided it is. Isn’t it funny how we feel the need to apologize and overjustify a negative response to witchcraft? That should be a red flag to us right there. There is no need to apologize. I had a great talk with a Christian leader about the difference of the magic in the Potter movies vs. Narnia and Lord of the Rings. He had some wisdom I thought was helpful (I hope I word this clearly): Look at who the “magic” or supernatural power belongs to and how it is used. In Narnia, Aslan has the power and those besides him who use it are portrayed as evil or they suffer consequences from misusing it – unless it is ordained by him to use that supernatural power. In Potter books/movies, the magic “belongs” to the characters and is not the type of supernatural force our God uses for His purposes. We’ve become the frog in the pot when it comes to witchcraft. The water seemed “fine” at first, but now the heat’s getting turned up and we’re saying, “Hey! Something’s wrong here!” Thank you for your honest review of the movie.

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