"My Formal Response To Laura Mallory"
By Angela McGillis
| Webmaster's comments in blue.
[Response to "Harry Potter Case – Myth vs. Truth" by Laura Mallory in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 01/28/07]
Recently, many of us read the article on the internet from Laura Mallory. She is the woman who has spent the last few years attempting to ban the Harry Potter phenomenon from reaching the shelves of school libraries where children can read them. Laura's most recent words are that of her Myth Vs. Truth angle. I'd like to take this opportunity to state my rebuttle against some of Mallory's recent claims about what she is attempting to do and her shaky reasoning behind the actions.
The first point I would like to make is a simple one. Mrs. Mallory starts her article by stating that "Today's generation faces evil like no other in history, with it's bombardment by violent, sexual and occult images through our modern mass media." These words suggest that Mrs. Mallory does indeed believe that violence, sex and the occult represent just a few of the "evils" she believes are spreading in our society. However, if you read further down in the article, towards the end, you also learn that Mrs. Mallory is a mother of four children. Every child is the result of a man and woman engaging in intercourse, aka Sex. Does Mrs. Mallory consider the act that brought her children, whom she is so avidly attempting to "protect", into the world to be evil? If not, then how is it fair to attack media portrayals of sex by calling them evil? Would that not be considering sex evil only in specific contexts, therefore making her personal beliefs and publically proclaimed beliefs two different things, and therefore, contradictory?
|I'm actually going to have to agree with Mallory on this one. We are under a constant assault of sexual imagery, violence runs rampant in the media, and the occult now enjoys a certain amount of legal protection. It's a little scary sometimes to see how complacent we've gotten about these things.
Sex is not evil in it's proper place (i.e.marriage), but the Bible does warn us against fornication and adultery. You could even make a case that violence has it's place, though it's never ideal. I don't believe Mallory is denouncing the existence of these things or that they are portrayed, but the amount to which and manner in which they are portrayed. And frankly, I'm with her, we are seriously over-sexed as a nation.
However, this is one of the things I truly adore about the Harry Potter books. It's very conservative in a sexual sense. Everyone's parents, even Voldemort's (the bad guy) were married. There's no indication that anything beyond kissing goes on between unmarried couples. Even the kissing is very low key. In the sixth book, Harry's friend Ron does do a fair amount of snogging (British slang for kissing) with his girlfriend, but it's not described in detail or in a complementory way. The outcome of that storyline is to teach Ron that getting into a relationship for purely physical reasons is a bad idea.
Yes, some fans let their imaginations run wild, but the books themselves, particularly the earlier ones, are pretty clean. We think Mallory might approve if she took time to read them.
Now, there is some violence and scary moments in Harry Potter. The films are PG not G for a reason (and the latest one is PG-13). But the books are not intended for very young children. That's why this site recommends them for 11 and up. (See FAQ for grade level breakdown). My opinion as a Bachelor in Mass Communications who's spent several years studying storytelling is that the violence is not excessive nor is it lauded as desirable. What violence there is mostly occurs as part of that fight between good and evil.
The occult bit is a little more complicated. Occult images are probably tolerated now better than they were a few decades ago. However, I think bombardment is a bit of an overstatement. Not everything that is dark or confusing or alien is occult. This site will be dealing more indepth with that particular issue because it is confusing.
Considering she has four children, I have a hard time believing that not ONE of them is involved in some sort of athletic activity. Football, for instance? Football is a rather violent sport. Wresting, soccer among other sports, can become very violent. If her children took a passion to one of these, would she consider it evil and dangerous?
Now, I'd like to respond specifically to each of Laura's responses to "Myths" and her "truth" about each matter.
Mrs. Mallory says that it is mere myth that she is attempting to "Ban Harry Potter" and that they can be sold in bookstores and checked out in public libraries. I believe she says this simply because she does not have the power TO ban the books from public libraries and book stores.
Next, I also notice a pattern in the way Mrs. Mallory represents her "facts" which is vaguely and without proof. She makes comments such as "There are hundreds and even thousands of other parents who have stood up against the Harry Potter series and its paganization of this generation." There are a couple of things in this statement that are insanely exaggerated and go without any evidence. I would truly like to know where and who these hundreds and thousands of parents are that are supportive of her fight. Another example of her lack of evidence to back up her argument is this: "They're not educationally suitable and have been shown to be harmful to some kids." What kids have they harmed? Does she have even a single example of any children who were horrifically harmed as a direct result of reading the Harry Potter series?
|Now, Harry Potter did make it's way onto all the most banned book lists for a reason. However there was a remarkable down turn in the protests after the films came out. People unwilling to invest time in a three hundred page book were willing to watch a two hour movie to see what the fuss was about. (I admit to being one of these people, though I have heard the story over and over.) After having seen the film or read the book, many people were baffled as to what all the fuss was about in the first place.
I want to specifically address the latter part of Mallory's statement "the Harry Potter series and its paganization of this generation." Paganism/Wicca is on the rise, true. But to blame the entire trend on Harry Potter is a bit unfair. If you want to blame a media series, how about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, extremely well written but far more morally ambiguous than the Harry Potter books? Buffy's version of witchcraft mirrors Wiccan practices far more closely than Harry Potter does (It also exaggerated them to a fantastic amount.) Or what about the film "The Craft" which again exaggerated Wiccan power but mirrored many of it's practices and beliefs more closely? There's probably dozens of other examples I didn't bother to see.
(P.S. Lot of Wiccans find Buffy and "The Craft" pretty laughably inaccurate too. I'm just giving examples of other popular series/films dealing with witchcraft.)
Or...and you won't like me for this...maybe we should blame the Church. Many of the Wiccans I've spoken to turned to Wicca because of bad experiences in the Christian Church. I've never had one tell me they turned to Wicca because of Harry Potter.
"They're not educationally suitable and have been shown to be harmful to some kids." -Mallory
On her website Mallory has one anonymous testimony from a supposed sixteen year old, and one set of "case histories" from an M. McWhorter, a Marriage & Family Therapist/Counselor in Lawrenceville, GA. You can read them here: http://www.hisvoicetoday.org/hptestimonies.htm
My reply got a lot longer than I had originally intended, so I'm breaking this into two sections.
I. The Anonymous Testimony
Now, even if we give the anonymous writer the benefit of the doubt, I would like you to note that there are more factors than Harry Potter at work. One of their friends brought in Tarot cards (which never come into play in Harry Potter), they did unsupervised web surfing (evidently before seventh grade at school). "We also did a séance during P.E." My question here is where was the teacher and what were they doing? Apparently giving kids free time, instead of engaging them in physical activity or teaching a class for P.E.
It's a little harder to figure out what the parents were doing or not doing. So, let's not waste time laying blame, but speculate on what could or should be done in the same situation. Many pre-teens/teens will become more detatched as they go through puberty. They will test their boundries, re-evaluate their beliefs, and often rebel on some level. This is natural and to some degree healthy (all things in moderation). The professional advice I see given to parents over and over is to keep talking to your kids even though they don't seem to be listening. If you're kid is assigned to read the Harry Potter books for school, this is an excellent opportunity to talk to them about the subject of witchcraft and why it is wrong. And it's good to have an answer that a bit more thought out than "God said so"...yes, that is a good reason. But God usually has reasons for things.
Now, if you're like the average Christian you probably don't have a clue as to what is so dangerous about witchcraft. You may not even believe it exists. Maybe you even read your horoscope (shame the Bible forbids that too and on the same level) or own a Ouija board...it's just a game right? (I'm glaring at you now)
This part A séance is when you raise up "spirits" and you speak to them. As a former witch, I can tell you that witchcraft is not fantasy - it's for real. cuts right to the heart of the problem. When you engage in witchcraft, you are seeking spiritual power outside of God's protection. You have some limited power to protect yourself, but it is limited. It is very easy to get overwhelmed and in over your head. By attempting to contact spirits, by opening yourself spiritually, you also open yourself to spiritual attack.
1 Samuel 15:23 "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft..."
Flip this sentence, 'witchcraft is as the sin of rebellion', and you start to get the idea of what witchcraft is. It's spiritual rebellion from God. It's equivalent to saying "Think I'm gonna check out the valley of the shadow of death on my own. Don't need ya, God." Now, very few people would put it into those words, but that's the attitude.
The Wiccan Rede is "As it harm none, do as ye will." Which doesn't sound too bad at first glance. But here's the problem. 1. We as limited human beings do not know how our actions will affect others. We are imperfect beings and it is therefore impossible to completely avoid inflicting any amount of harm when left to our own devices. That's why we need God's guidance, because He does understand how our actions will effect others in the larger scheme. 2. "ye will". The focus of Wicca is on the will of the individual. This is a key difference from Christianity. To be a Christian is to be "a follower of Christ" and to submit to God's will. This does not mean God makes every single decision for you (we still have free will and room to express), but He does guide your overall path and protects you.
(Back to the subject of Harry Potter.) Harry Potter does use some of the trappings of witchcraft (though your average Wiccan would roll their eyes at the idea of that they wear pointy hats and wave wands). But the core of it. The part that's truly dangerous is very different. None of the magic in Harry Potter involves invoking spirits. (Yes, Harry talks to ghosts, but he does not open his spirit to do so just his mouth. It is a very important distinction. The ghosts play no part in the magic performed.)
They do acknowledge the existance of the soul in Harry Potter. And there are two instances of magic that attack or damage the soul, but these are VERY CLEARLY labeled as dark, bad, and undesirable. The good guys recognize the soul as important. It is worse to lose the soul than to die. This is a very Christian concept.
"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" Mark 8:36 (Jesus speaking.) NIV
Okay, so a lot of Christian themes are walking around wearing pointy hats and waving wands. Is there potential for confusion? Honestly...yes. Some.
Most people who read these books simply accept that they are fantasy and don't think much different of real witchcraft...and honestly that's okay. A good chunk of Wicca is a big ball of lies. (You know, from a Christian perspective.)
Under God's protection no demon or spell can hurt you. They might try, but dude, God's got your back. They don't stand a chance. You don't have to understand witchcraft to fight it's influence. All you really need to do is trust God, and do all those things in the Bible that you're supposed to be doing anyway, the two most important being to love God with all your soul and mind and your neighbor like yourself. (Matthew 22:38-39)
But if your kid asks you "Why witchcraft bad?", maybe you'll have more of an answer now.
[For more on understanding Wicca from a Christian perspective and ideas on how to talk to your kids about it, from someone who has done far more research than I have, I suggest Catherine Edward Sanders' book "Wicca's Charm". ]
II. The testimony of M. McWhorter, RN, CMFT, BSN, MA
Found right under the Anonymous Testimony.
....Honestly, I may devote another article to all the things that were wrong or showed poor reasoning in this person's opinions. But I do want to point out a few things.
You'll notice with each of the children mentioned had a lot more problems and influences going on than just Harry Potter in their lives.
There are plenty of children who have eczema flare ups without Harry Potter. The seven year old boy was in physical pain, but physical pain does not always mean a spiritual attack. Continued discomfort like that would make a 7 year old more vulnerable to nightmares.
Many (if not most) children manage to watch and read Harry Potter without showing any signs of damage.
While the Harry Potter films do have scary moments, they are not by any means fright films. To try to put them in the same category as Stephen King or Hannibal (R-rated stuff) is grossly unfair.
I laud parents who censor what their children watch. If you don't think Harry Potter is appropriate for your child, it's your call. You know your child far better than I do. Waiting a few years won't hurt them. McWhorter is right on at least one point "a grade school child is more prone to fear than older children." This is true. If Mallory was attacking her case solely based on age appropriateness, she might get a little more support.
Peter is a slightly different animal. His site was around before Mallory's. I'm trying to get in contact with him. More on him and his stance in another article.
Mrs. Mallory also suggests that people do their own research by reading on into the Harry Potter books to comprehend the way they teach children to be pagans. This statement is the worst thing she could have said in effort to rally people to her cause. Any person whom has ever read the books knows that the characters JKR created celebrate Christian holidays and in NO WAY teach or even suggest following any religion at all. Christmas and Easter are both mentioned in the series. As anyone knows, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, and Easter, the celebration of his resurrection. How is this teaching pagan rituals again?
|We (being I and every other Harry Potter fan I've discussed this case with) suggest Mrs. Mallory take her own advice and read the books she is trying to have removed. Her argument of being too busy to read them no longer holds up if she has time to build a court case against them and launch a website.
The irony is that Mallory's attempt to ban Harry Potter is probably increasing book sales.
"Oh, Harry, don't you see?" Hermione breathed. "If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!" (Order of the Phoenix Ch. 26)
By stating that she "cannot count the times I have been told that these books are "just fantasy." But if you would like to know the truth, please keep reading and do your own research." simply proves that she herself, has not done any kind of true "research" at all. If she wishes for anyone to take her "fight" seriously, it would help if she did the proper background work to support her arguments.
|"But if you would like to know the truth, please keep reading and do your own research." You know what? This is actually pretty good advice....not just for Harry Potter.
One of my favorite claims of Mrs. Laura reads; "The children, she said, try to imitate Harry Potter and cast spells on classmates." This makes me wonder if Mrs. Mallory is concerned that if children use their imaginations and shout out pretend words from a fictional book series with emphatic screeches, if they will indeed begin causing the spells to become real and hurt one another. The thought itself is laughable. My response is simply that such imaginative actions from children has not been driven into their mind from the Harry Potter series. My cousins and I used to play such games long before the first Harry Potter book ever hit shelves. We chose to use our imaginations to create games of our own to entertain ourselves with. Using your imagination was always a positive thing, because it helped children establish their creative minds and not rely on mass produced plastic toys to entertain themselves.
|J.K. Rowling was careful to use made up spells, mostly based on bad Latin. She does base one off "Abracadbra"...which does have roots as an old Middle Eastern spell. But even this favorite of stage magicians was changed significantly before finding a place in her books. (Check out http://www.hp-lexicon.org for this and other word origins.)
But even if you're using "real" occult spells. The words are pretty meaningless. It's the attitude of the heart and intent of the spirit that is important.
I think one of the best responses to Mrs. Laura Mallory was a statement from Victoria Sweeny, an attorney representing the Gwinnett County Board of Education in Atlanta's eastern suburbs. She made the comment that,"if schools were to remove all books containing reference to witches, they would have to ban mainstays like "Macbeth" and "Cinderella," and pointed out as well that the books don't support any particular religion but present instead universal themes of friendship and overcoming adversity. Other points Sweeny touched on can be read here.
|A bit more of Sweeny's quote from the article:
"There's a mountain of evidence for keeping Harry Potter," she said, adding that the books don't support any particular religion but present instead universal themes of friendship and overcoming adversity.
Sweeny said parents, teachers and scholars have found them a good tool to stimulate children's imagination and encourage them to read.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk 'Ban Harry Potter or face more school shootings'
I know I've skipped around points here, so let me attempt to recap into more organized points.
Without actually reading the books as a part of her "research," Laura Mallory cannot hope to rally support in her argument to get the books blocked out of schools. Without knowing the content, she cannot ever hope to convince the majority of people whom have read the books, that they should be pulled from schools for any reason. She does not know the content of the series, therefore, her claims about what the books contain and preach are her own assumptions. In this matter, it makes the situation look as if Mrs. Mallory is simply attempt to project her own beliefs and opinions on the situation.
|I believe in legal terminology Mallory is basing her case on "hearsay".
Insisting that the Fictional series is promoting evil, and teaching children to become wiccans or pagans is a far reach, especially considering that Mrs. Mallory has not read the series. No where in the series does the content ever attempt to teach any religion at all. Mentions of Christian holidays are made at least one in every book. They are the only religion-related sentences in all of the series. This, once again, emmensely contradicts Laura Mallory's claims about what the book series is teaching children.
It is unfair to come out and claim that such things as sex and violence are evil, when in different contexts, they can be considered perfectly normal and acceptable behavior. Mrs. Mallory has four children, therefore would HAVE to have had sex at least four times. I am sure she never thought of these acts as evil. Her children would also be studying history in school and most likely participating in physical activities during recess or lunch hours. History is riddled with war, which is violent, but I doubt Mrs Mallory is going to start petitioning for schools to pull their social studies programs or footballs teams.
|I am gonna give Laura a little credit and assume she was referring to an excess of these images.
Laura Mallory tends to be vague with her alleged facts and figures when arguing her case. She suggests that hundreds and thousands of parents have rallied behind her fight against the series, yet has no proof that any amount even close to that exaggeration has followed her. She claims that the series has been the direct result of harm to kids, but shares no evidence of any event in which such a thing has truly happened.
|I strongly suggest checking out the Blog of hisvoicetoday.org. It's very heavily moderated, but they've still let enough opinions through to show some interesting debate.
I have to admit I found it a little amusing that their reasons for not getting comments through more quickly included limited staff.
My final point is something Mrs. Mallory has not directly spoken on. I do not believe that Mrs. Mallory has a right to claim she is a Christian woman, who is on a mission from God. She mentions that he has answered specific dreams of hers and that she knows that she is doing exactly what God wants.
|On this point, I'd like to urge caution to both Laura Mallory and to Angela.
The fact of the matter is that we don't know God's entire plan. We can only know our part. Maybe God is urging Laura to fight her case and build her website. That's doesn't necessarily mean He wants her to suceed at banning or removing Harry Potter.
That may seem odd. But sometimes God starts us down one path, not to lead us to the predictable end, but to lead us to something unexpected and more wonderful.
Do you remember Abraham? God told him to take his beloved son Isaac to the mountain to offer him as a burnt offering. But when Abraham got to the place where Isaac was to be sacraficed, God stopped him and provided a ram instead. (Genesis 22)
Do I understand the logic behind it? Nope. But I trust God.
And I do love the discussion this has generated. If nothing else, Laura Mallory and those like her force us to re-examine our own stance. I believe that's a good thing. So thank you, Mrs. Mallory. Continue to pray for guidance and may God bless you.
I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires. - Susan B. Anthony
I am a Christian woman. I spent two years studying Wicca as I attempted to find myself and understand where my beliefs were going to take me. After that time, I found that Christianity was still a large part of my soul and always would be. As a Christian, my parents raised me not to judge, to be open-minded and understand that while others may believe things I don't, that does not give me the right to ridicule them or attempt to persuade them to change their stances to what I personally believe. Every person has the right to believe whatever they want too. I believe if Mrs. Mallory wishes to behave as a true Christian, she will learn to accept others for their differences, learn to embrace and love those who's ideals differ from her own and understand that each of God's children are different. Different does not mean wrong. I don't feel that Laura Mallory has any right to speak ill of Wiccans and Pagans because they have just as much right to worship and believe what they please as she has to worship the God she believes in.
|Some qualifiers. Christianity is not a tolerant religion when it comes to sin or rebellion from God. But you can and should love the sinner and hate the sin. Because we ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Even the most devoted Christian is a flawed being. Even the most confirmed Satanist or hardened witch is God's creature and someone we should show love to.
Also keep in mind, when some one points out the passage of "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." (Exodus 22:18 KJV) The Hebrew that verse stem from can also be translated "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live amoung you." The government that was given to was a Theocracy (God/Religious rule). It was not a hidden law. The basic message was God's way or the highway, and there were places to retreat to.
Americans don't live in a Theocracy but a Democracy, ruled by the people (okay, technically a Republic but you get the point). We have a seperation of church and state, as much to protect the church from the state than the other way around. (Would you really want any of our last few presidents to be head of the church too?) In the interest of giving unto ceasor what is ceasor's, we ought to as Christians respect the Wiccan right to practice even if we don't like it or wouldn't allow it in our own households.
However, Harry Potter is not a religious book. Putting it on par with the Bible is absurd. Maybe Little House on the Prairie (they were Christian people right?) or Anne of Green Gables. If you managed to ban Harry Potter on the legal stance that it represents a religion, the Wiccans would have just as much legal right to ban the Little House and Anne series. Absurd? Yeah, I think so too.
A last note about studying Wicca, the occult, or anything else related to spiritual warfare...even from a firmly rooted Christian perspective.
I'm not getting onto Angela. I've obviously done a little study into Wicca as well, and it has been insightful. But a word of caution. Study these things ONLY as God leads you to. With knowledge comes responsiblity. I've had to back off on my own studies from time to time, because God made it clear that I was to go no further at the present.
"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7