The Church of England is publishing a guide advising youth workers how to use Harry Potter to spread the Christian message.
Days before the release of the seventh and final novel in the series, youth leaders are being told they could use the popularity of the Potter books and films as a “launch pad” for exploring Christian themes.
The guide – published by Church House Publishing – comes as fans gear up for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on Saturday, marking the final chapter in an extraordinary publishing phenomenon.
The Harry Potter books and films have been attacked in the past by evangelicals for allegedly glamorising the occult.
Canterbury Cathedral even rejected a request to become a location for the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, for fear of upsetting Christians unhappy with the books.
But in recent years, the Harry Potter phenomenon has received backing from church figures including the former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey, who described the film as “great fun” and a serious examination of good and evil.
The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, today described Harry Potter author JK Rowling as a “great storyteller.”
He said: “Although the fictional world of Harry Potter is very different from our own, Harry and his friends face struggles and dilemmas that are familiar to us all.
“Jesus used storytelling to engage and challenge his listeners.
“There’s nothing better than a good story to make people think, and there’s plenty in the Harry Potter books to make young people think about the choices they make in their everyday lives and their place in the world.”
Owen Smith, 24, the author of the guide and a youth worker at St Margaret’s Church in Rainham, Kent, said: “The magic in the books is simply part of the magic that JK Rowling has created, in the same way that magic is part of the world of Christian writers such as CS Lewis.
“To say, as some have, that these books draw younger readers towards the occult seems to me both to malign JK Rowling and to vastly underestimate the ability of children and young people to separate the real from the imaginary.”
Mr Smith has previously written a book on how to use The Simpsons cartoon series as a means of spreading the Christian message.
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