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Narnia vs. Hogwarts

How should you react to the magic in these two influential blockbusters?

During this holiday season, two huge movies are vying for the attention and hearts of the kids in your care. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the fourth movie in the enormously successful Harry Potter franchise. So successful, in fact, that this summer when the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was released, it sold 7 million copies in the United States in the first 24 hours. And the first movie in The Chronicles of Narnia-The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe -- releases with numerous Christian product tie-ins poised to grab kids' attention.

Which movie should Christian kids see? While controversy rages around the Harry Potter movies and books, there seems to be little question for Christians when it comes to the Narnia series. Much has been made of the magic that's such a part of the Potter story, while the Narnia series, which features magic as well, is given a free pass. Why is that? Mainly, people point to the rich Christian allegory inherent in Narnia because of series author C.S. Lewis' Christian worldview.

But what about the magic? Is the magic the same in both series? At cmmag.com, we asked readers to weigh in on whether they think the magic in the two series is the same or different. Out of 1,895 responses, 67% of children's ministers feel that the magic in the two series is different, while 33% feel that the magic is the same. Let's explore both sides of this passionate debate.

The Intent's the Thing

The majority of Children's Ministry Magazine readers feel that the magic used in the two series is different, and many point to the fact that Lewis was writing a book that attempted to teach Christian values in a way that would reach kids at their level. The specific items for debate follow.

Allegorical Magic-It's not really magic, some say. "The magic is different -- Narnia is admittedly a Christian allegory, so the magic represents spiritual powers," writes one reader. Yet, the Harry Potter series has its own elements of allegory that readers could point to as being Christlike: Harry's mother gave up her life -- the ultimate sacrifice -- for the love of her son. And he bears a scar that is a constant reminder of that love.

Yet for many people, the strong allegorical aspect of Narnia makes the magic okay. "The magic in The Chronicles of Narnia reflects the reality of the miraculous power of God and isn't magic at all," writes one person. "Magic is a trick, a deception. Miracles are the result of the true nature and power of our heavenly father who never deceives us."

Magic is no big deal, many people write. Yet is it? To some, magic is just a term that represents a mechanistic tool used in fantasy literature. Such a view implies that in Narnia and Hogwarts, magic is simply a literary tool with no moral overtones.

Is the magic in both series benign child's play, as some say? Not according to the person who writes passionately, "Leviticus 20:6 says, 'I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to sell themselves by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.' Ezekiel 13:20-21 says, 'Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against your magic charms with which you ensnare people like birds and I will tear them from your arms; I will set free the people that you ensnare like birds. I will tear off your veils and save my people from your hands, and they will no longer fall prey to your power. Then you will know that I am the Lord.' "

Author's Credentials-Consider the source, most readers think. One reader writes: "C.S. Lewis was a Christian and therefore based his magical world on elements of faith. The Narnians received their powers only from the Power, Aslan, who typifies Christ in the Christian life."

On the other hand, one reader points out that "you can't allow your child to read Narnia and forbid Harry Potter simply because the author is a Christian. For all we know, J.K. Rowling could be as well. And if you're going to ban Harry Potter for dark magic, [you'd] better clean out all of the Disney movies from your cabinet as well."

And yet, who among us really knows what J.K. Rowling believes? One reader states that she studied witchcraft before writing the books, while another claims that she's a Christian. And wisely, for book sales, Rowling doesn't divulge much about her personal belief system. Is considering the source really enough when comparing the two series' use of magic?

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