The name Harry Potter raises a lot of eyebrows in the circles of people I visit. For many Christians the HP books teach the evils of witchcraft, or at the very least, condone a practice that the Bible forbids. These charges have some merit, and parents are right to be concerned about these issues, but, as a father of seven, witchcraft (although I do object to it) isn't my biggest complaint about Mr. Potter and his young friends.
I write fantasy for a living, so I understand how an author can use fantasy elements with no intention of promoting them or their real world counterparts. I have no idea if Ms. Rowling intended to encourage young people to explore real world witchcraft, so this is not my main complaint, although I have heard stories of children dabbling in the occult because of the series.
There is another very real evil shadow lurking in the Harry Potter stories. The concept is simple. The characters constantly break the rules in order to succeed. Not only that, the author takes great pains to promote rule breaking as a virtue. In the beginning of the first book, Hermione is portrayed as a rule-keeper, but she is an irritating brat. Once she joins the boys in their rule-breaking, she becomes "cool." In fact, one sentence reads something like this: "After that, Hermione was less concerned about keeping the rules, and she was much nicer for it." It's hard to get more blatant than that.
As a writer, I understand the need to allow young protagonists to succeed on their own in a story, but they don't have to rebel against authority to do so. There is no doubt that J.K. Rowling purposefully crafted her story to promote a "kids rule" mentality that makes kids the ultimate authority. Her story rewards every instance of ignoring the rules and belittles those who try to keep them. Frankly, I find this digusting.
So many people say that the Harry Potter books are harmless, even beneficial. They say the witchcraft is fantasy that doesn't promote real witchcraft. I think it very well could promote witchcraft, but I think the deeper evil, the spirit of rebellion, lurks as a more sinister reality. It teaches young readers to reject authority, to believe they know better than those older and more experienced, to expect to be rewarded and thought "cool" when they reject the option of trusting anyone other than their peers.
Rowling's work is not merely fantasy; it is a perversion of reality that contributes to an improper view of juvenile independence. Parents are well advised to reject these books or at least closely monitor their children who read them and discuss a proper view of authority, that, yes, some adults are stupid and can't be trusted, but many more are trustworthy, and rule-breaking will ultimately fail to bring about the successes that Harry Potter and his friends always seem to achieve.