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Harry Potter Redux

To call the Harry Potter books “an excellent addition to children’s literature” because they contain some generic concepts of goodness and redemption is like calling a Whopper healthy simply because it contains lettuce and tomatoes (“Harry Potter and the Way of Jesus,” January 2008).

The Banner has been urging us to burn our wooden shoes for more than 30 years. Maybe it’s time to burn our copies of The Banner instead.

—Chad Werkhoven
Sunnyside, Wash.

The Banner has sunk to new lows with its Harry Potter feature article. To compare these books in any way to what Jesus has done for us is a slap in the face to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

—Bob SchuttOak Lawn, Ill.

As an elder in a Christian Reformed church, I am an overseer of people’s lives. My goal is to see that they grow in the Lord Jesus Christ. I was abhorred that the editor and staff of The Banner would support the use of Harry Potter literature in children’s lives. As a result, I do not want anyone under my care to read this magazine. I am embarrassed and ashamed.

—Vernon MixIsanti, Minn.

I was disappointed by the conclusions the author drew. I think the real beauty of the Harry Potter series is a universal message of love that taps the ideas of many religions and mythologies. I do think it’s interesting that now, at the end of the series, Christians are trying to claim Harry Potter for themselves.

I’ve observed two distinct reactions to Harry Potter over the years. One was an instant bashing or panning of the books because of the use of witchcraft—a reaction usually perpetuated by people who refused to read the books. The other was a silent, almost clandestine approval that was generally not spoken of because of the imagined condemnation from the first group. Both reactions are very similar to how the Crusades, Dark Ages, and the Inquisition panned out in history. Quite the contrary, I think Christians can learn from Harry Potter in the areas of tolerance, acceptance, and love, as well as thinking outside the box just a little.

—James SchaferGrand Rapids, Mich.

Reading Harry Potter has prompted more discussions about religion for me with adults and children than any other work of fiction has ever done.

Like Keesmaat, I too was skeptical of the series when I first heard about it, but I made no judgment until I read the first book. If you have read the books and do not agree with them or like them, so be it: everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. But please do not take the stories out of context. Harry is not Jesus, and Voldemort is not Satan; Rowling never proclaimed to write another version of the Bible. The series is about good and evil, working through a life that is full of both, and choosing the right way. Isn’t that what we face in our lives every day? The Banner did everyone a service by printing this article. Look at the other books out there that people could be reading where the “right” path is one that leads to drugs, sex, etc. Isn’t it better to read a series that gets kids and adults to think about life and how important it is to choose the right path of love and forgiveness?

—Wendy LambertsJenison, Mich.

I don’t see these books as [promoting] witchcraft, but as fantasy literature. Harry Potter is a fairy tale. There are witches in other children’s stories, like the Wizard of Oz, and I hear no screaming about that.

—Wendy ShawStratford, Ontario

I know of a lady in our church who has the opinion that the Harry Potter series is not good and does not want her children to read the books or watch the movies. When the January issue of The Banner came in the mail and this lady’s son saw the front cover, he said, ‘See, Mom, it’s OK.’” To say the least, this lady was not happy. Do you as The Banner have any idea what you did when you sent this issue out?

—Florence OelmannCindy OelmannAckley, Iowa

I am thoroughly disgusted and quite disturbed that a supposedly Christian publication such as The Banner would support an article of any sort promoting Harry Potter. This shows, once again, the deterioration of our moral fiber in the face of media saturation and popular culture.

Sylvia Keesmaat can draw all the parallels to good and evil she wants—the battle between good and evil, character struggles, and the like, are present in almost every story ever conceived; the fact that in this story the “good” guys use powers the Bible strongly forbids seems to elude her.

—Lloyd VisserLethbridge, Alberta

You cannot imagine our disappointment the morning we received the January Banner. A large body of Christians remains solidly opposed to this literature. Why would the church encourage reading it? We encourage The Banner to highlight articles such as “Spiritual Disciplines 101” (p. 32 in the same issue), calling us to walk closer in relationship with our God. Material that glorifies God is what his people would expect and desire to be featured and promoted.

—Ernie and Marjukka SnipSimcoe, Ontario

Living Together

I’m writing in regards to the first question and answer on p. 34 of the January 2008 Banner, which addresses the issue of young men and women living together before marriage.

The answer provides a mix of general advice, concerns, and consequences. But it leaves out the biggest consequence: these young people are fornicators, and Scripture warns that fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (see 1 Cor. 6:12-20, Gal. 5:19, and more).

The answer seems to imply that the change in cultural values is a valid reason to mess with God’s standards. But does God or do God’s standards really change?

—Ed BrowerVisalia, Calif.

Coffee and Connections in Chicago

As a member of Many Peoples Church, I appreciated your recent article on the ministries of John and Ruth Hoekwater (“Coffee and Connections in a Chicago Suburb,” December 2007). However, I felt there were inaccuracies that pertained to characteristics we consider central to our faith community’s identity, values, and mission.

Thank you for noting in the January issue that Rogers Park is not a suburb but one of the most diverse and densely populated neighborhoods in the city of Chicago. I’d also like readers to know the Hoekwaters did not start MPC and the Common Cup at the same time. MPC began meeting in its current form in January 2006, while the coffee shop opened its doors in May 2007. The Hoekwaters and J.B. and Tracey Brewer hosted the church in the basement of their home for more than a year before the meetings moved next to the Common Cup.

Finally, it is not the case that both the coffee shop and the church were started with grant funding from Christian Reformed Home Missions and Classis Northern Illinois. The Common Cup is a for-profit business owned by the Hoekwaters. It has never been supported by CRC dollars and is not formally affiliated with either MPC or the CRC.

We are grateful for the financial and prayer support that so many in the CRC have provided for Many Peoples Church. We invite all those interested to visit our new website at

—Sara VanderHaagenSecretary, Many Peoples Church Steering Committee


Thank you for keeping us informed of the ongoing beauty of Mariama’s story, even after her death (“Mariama’s Testimony Lives On,” December 2007). She and Jamie and Calvin Hofland inspire and remind me to testify more about God’s grace and blessings in my life.

—Jane DykstraTraverse City, Mich.

Disappointing Play

Regarding “Play About Gay Christians Sells Out” (December 2007), the article really does not tell us much about the content of the play. However, Professor Stephanie Sandberg calls the CRC “a difficult denomination” for gay people and says “a lot of [gay] people have left the CRC” and that those who are staying have chosen celibacy because of the church’s position on homosexuality. I ask Professor Sandberg, “When you were ordained as a prof in the CRC college, were you not aware of the CRC’s stand on the homosexual issue, and should you not conduct your teaching based on that stand?” What’s happened to the leadership of the denominational school? I’m afraid this issue could tear the CRC apart.

—Hans VisserTaber, Alberta

The faithful Christian church, school, and college will guide all sinful behavior, including homosexuality, to the foot of the cross by teaching repentance and faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. The word repent carries a deeper meaning than just confession. It means to turn away from, forsake, and divorce sin. It is necessary for grace. In fact Jesus said, "Unless you repent you will perish" (Luke 13:3, 5). The call to repentance is being used less, if at all, on platforms. This keeps people going on in their sin, only to face the punishing reality of judgment spoken of in Romans 1 2, Revelation 21:8, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

—Kevin HoekmanCaledonia, Mich.

I was sorry and upset to read this news article. It’s a pity that this show was put on at Calvin College by a Calvin professor. What’s more depressing is that 150 pastors attended the show. It’s an unfortunate picture for our young people to see and hear.

—R.H. DykstraSt. John, Ind.

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