About this time last year I confidently predicted to some that I would burn in hell for daring to go and watch Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but obviously the flames will lick all the higher now I've seen the sequel too. Actually, this year the furore seems to have been somewhat more muted, but I remain quite certain that my old church will have repeated last year's decree that Thou Shalt Not Watch Harry Potter - it would take far too much grace for them to concede that they were, in common with many other churches of their ilk, wrong.
Sorry, but such policy goes in the face of sheer common sense and basic tenets of Christian faith. God made us individuals, all different, and not to be dictated to by ecclesiastical power structures. When the temple veil was torn from top to bottom upon Jesus's death on the cross, we all became priests in his church, all able to approach God directly and seek his will in our lives without intercession by fallen human agents with their inherently misguided agendas. Should we welcome advice from our church leaders? Yes, of course we should, but decrees? The motivation may have been to protect our innocent children from the temptation of perceived evil, but that is for Christian parents to prayerfully decide - and besides, that credits today's children with a lot less intelligence and initiative than the majority of them are blessed with in terms of discernment. Personally, I wouldn't particularly want my children to get involved with Harry Potter at too young an age, but that's for the sake of their emotional security - wishing to avoid nightmares - more than anything else.
Anyway, it is my believe that absolute good and evil in this fallen Creation are represented only by God and Satan, and everything else in between is just a varying and often indeterminate shade of grey, and for all our good intent there is nothing we as mere mortals can do about that. It is a fact of the world - a world that we cannot shield our children from in this age of tumbling skyscrapers and everything else - that evil is sometimes fought with only marginally lesser evil, and presenting these real issues in a fantasy setting is surely far safer than anything that children could easily imitate. Furthermore, when it comes to fantasy settings, how different are the Harry Potter stories than, say, The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings? The latter are widely praised by Christian fundamentalists for their underlying godly themes and their outwardly Christian authors - not that J. K. Rowling is entirely un-Christian in belief - but are we to condemn every piece of fiction that isn't coded Christianity?
It is things like this that do sometimes make me despair of being a Christian in today's world. It seems to be a world where Christianity is plotted on a straight line, with bigoted fundamentalists at one end, and liberal non-believers at the other. One's principles are assumed to be hard coded into one's position on that line, and to be blunt, there doesn't seem to be a lot of room in the middle. It all too often seems it is not possible to strongly believe in basic bible truths - whatever the theologians believe to be the case this week, that is - without the additional baggage of Harry Potter condemnation, raving homophobia and everything else taken as read. One only has to look at the Anglican church - for example - to see that the spectrum of Christian belief exists in many more dimensions than one! For all the claims of the evangelical charismatic movement that they have shaken off the shackles of religion, they've invented a whole new set to replace it - and they're even more damaging.
At the end of the day, though, true bible-believing Christians would recognise that it is our individual and personal relationship with God that matters, and that that relationship will outpour in different ways for each and every one of us. Yes, there are some principles defining one as a Christian that should be taken as read - as outlined in the Creed that all churches would respect in some slight variation or another - but beyond that, further compulsion by churches in decisions of believers is no more nor less than downright meddling.
Sorry if this has been a bit of a long rant, but some things need saying!