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Harry Potter spells magic on bete noire church

world Updated: Sep 13, 2009 23:39 IST

Religious critics were not particularly enthusiastic about the arrival of Harry Potter saying it would “corrupt” Christian faith besides misleading children but gradually they have warmed up to the young wizard after seeing a “deeper meaning” in his tales.

Evangelical magazine Christianity Today and Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano have now praised J K Rowling's latest offering.

The Christian Broadcasting Network now features on its website a special section on "The Harry Potter Controversy", with the acknowledgement "Leading Christian thinkers have disparate views on the Harry Potter products and how Christians should respond to them", says the Boston Globe.

At the same time, scholars have begun developing a more nuanced take on the Potter phenomenon, with some arguing that the wildly popular series of books and films contains positive ethical messages and a narrative arc that is worthy of serious scholarly examination and even theological reflection, the report says.

For several years evangelical Protestants were sceptical: would the positive depiction of wizardry mislead children? And some Catholics were worried too, ranging from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), who warned that "subtle seductions" in the text could "corrupt the Christian faith", to the Rev Ronald A Barker, a Wakefield priest who yanked the books from his parish school library.

Scholarly interest in the Harry Potter books began long before the series was finished.

"There is a whole burgeoning field of religion and popular culture, not just looking at what exact parallels there are, does it jibe with religious beliefs or is it counter to religious beliefs, but looking at these stories as a reflection of the spiritual or religious sensibilities of the culture," says Russell W Dalton, an assistant professor of Christian education at Brite Divinity School in Texas.