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Insight from a Children's Pastor & Awana Commander

Is the Harry Moon Book Series Christian?

 

HarryMoonBookRecently there was a new book promoted to children’s ministry leaders. Anyone could get the book for free if they paid a nominal shipping fee. The book was plugged as “finally a Christian book series that targets the Harry Potter crowd”. Knowing the controversies that surround Harry Potter and wanting to stay up on what is promoted to children, I paid the nominal shipping fee and received my copy of “The Amazing Adventures of Harry Moon, Wand – Paper – Scissors”.

I am not an avid reader, but I was able to read this book in couple days and I was quickly confused as to why this was being promoted as a Christian book series.

I need to emphasize that I do not know the author. the information I have to base this on is the two Harry Moon books I read (one completely, one partially) and what I see from their website about the author and publisher.

What concerns me about the promotion of the book as a Christian book series is that there is little to no reference to the One True God. The family does go to church and the mother seems to be “in tune” with god (lower case intentional), but there is no Biblical lesson shared, that I see, in the book. Let me explain….

From the book itself…

On page 54, the owner of the magic store asks Harry, What is the greatest gift? Harry answers life, but he is then asked what the greatest gift is beyond that, then Harry answers the ability to choose. There is no mention that the greatest gift is eternal life through Jesus Christ. I would expect some reference to salvation, or God’s love, from a “Christian” book as the greatest gift.

There is then discussion about the type of magic wand to purchase. One made of yew wood (dark magic) or almond wood (good magic). You see, Moses used an almond staff as he parted the Red Sea and other things God directed Moses to do. They say that “good magic” comes from the Great Magician (p. 52). Many will see the Great Magician as the One True God, but if that is the case in the book, then the author is not attributing Omnipotence (all powerful) to God, but rather God is an illusionist, a magician, one who deceives others through slight of hand. That is not the God I serve.

Near the end of the book, during the annual magic show, Harry has an amazing performance but is disqualified because Harry did not perform the magic (the illusion), the rabbit was controlling everything. The only “good” Harry does is to save an “enemy” from sure demise, rescuing him from a fire and harm that others were doing to him. There is nothing that talks about Harry doing that because of God’s Love in Him, he’s “just a guy with some magic”.

I see no “Christian” aspect to the story.

From the author page it reads,

Years ago, Mark came up with the idea of a story about young man with a special connection to a world of deep magic, all revealed through a remarkable rabbit friend.

In 2014, Mark began a twenty-one book series project intended to launch The Amazing Adventures of Harry Moon into the youth marketplace as a hero defined by a love for a deep magic where love and ‘DO NO EVIL’ lives.

I see nothing on the author page about his desire to teach children Biblical principles, nothing about a life surrendered to God. If I were writing a book series with a Christian perspective, I may not have a statement of faith, but I would share my desire to teach children about Jesus, a hero defined by their love for God, not a love for magic.

The idea of his story is “a young man with a special connection to the world of “deep magic”, not a special connection to God, or Jesus.

From the publisher….

At Rabbit Publishers, our aim is to help the young reader dwell in the world of possibility.  In a culture filled with so many disparate voices, Rabbit Publishers is committed to the ideal of the wholesome child. This is a child who is present and active in all aspects of his or her self: mind, heart, body and spirit. These are imaginative, responsible kids. Good kids. Smart kids. Kids who will grow into good citizens.

An atheist can grow into a good citizen, and many do. Reading the book, it could be written from an atheist perspective, or even from another belief system’s perspective

I asked a friend who reviews many Christian fiction books for teens if they had heard of the series and what their thoughts were to get another person’s perspective. They had not heard of the book series until I mentioned it. They visited the website and Facebook page and sent me the following response,

I just looked it up and read the website and a bunch of reviews on amazon and am intrigued. It doesn’t claim to be Christian. In fact, it almost reminds me of the claims of Wicca with the whole “Do No Evil” and “Be Spiritual” and “Have Affection For The Natural World” stuff.

I found their response interesting. Not having anything to go off of except for the information from the book’s own website and reviews on Amazon, they came to a conclusion that it probably was not a Christian series, rather something else. The same sense that I received from reading the book, without looking at their website.

Even the many reviews from parents and children on the Harry Moon website have no mention of the book having a Christian emphasis. Most of the comments are about how enchanted it is, the Halloween theme, and magic.

What I see is another book series that has as its theme, good evil and bad evil, with good evil being good (not necessarily Christian). After I read the book, and a portion of the e-book offered on the site, I began to think that if this was a “Christian series”, then it would be like the church recorded in Corinth where Paul rebuked them for straying from the Truth. Just because a book has a family going to “church” and there is a reference to Moses, it does not make it a “Christian series”.

My concern is that many respected children’s ministry leaders are promoting the book as a Christian series. I do not see it that way, maybe I am missing something. If so, I am open to discussion as to what I missed, but with the information, as I have noted, and the words that the author and publisher use to describe the series, I see it as something that will mislead children and lead them away from the One True God, not a Christian series.

Have you read the book? Do you see it as a Christian series? Why or why not?

 

The Author

9 Comments

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  1. Bill, thanks for doing the legwork in reading and reviewing the claims that is being touted in those promotional emails. Unfortunately, there seems to be a glut of promotional email being marketed to #kidmin leaders nowadays. It appears that our email addresses and contact info are for sale. #sad #profitb4ministry

  2. I am about half way through the book and had some of the same questions and concerns. So far, it has encouraged magic and makes the mom to be judgment and fearful but with no Christian substance to her argument. It doesn’t say it, but I pictured Harry rolling his eyes at her.

  3. Thanks for sharing this info Bill! It’s amazing how many things are easily referenced as “Christian”, when it’s not.

    We have to be aware and have discernment.
    Thanks!

  4. Many of the same “observations” you have made about the Harry Moon story line were made about C.S. Lewis’ and J.R.R. Tolkien. In my Christian Liberal Arts education, I learned that All Truth is God’s Truth.

    How many of the readers of this website have allowed their children to watch the Wizard of Oz? Magic, good vs. evil and not even the slightest reference to the Bible. We allow our children to watch and read “non-Christian” stories without requiring a “faith test”. A Christian book does not have to have the plan of salvation or heavy doctrine to still be congruous with our Christian faith.

    Commander Bill, I admire your ministry and commitment to sharing the the love of God and truths of the gospel with kids. I went to your gift shop and noticed it is completely stocked with “Commander Bill” swag. There is NOTHING associated with this swag that shares the gospel or the plan of salvation. One could assume that this is just about your own self aggrandizement and profit or they may understand that this is only one aspect of Commander Bill. Just because your logo and image don’t have a cross or Bible verse on the most visible part of your ministry, does not mean you don’t have a firm commitment to the Gospel.

    The Harry Moon series is going to roll out 21 books. The goal is to come into the space occupied by Whimpy Kid and Goosebumps, all heavily patronized by Christians, I know, I ran a chain of book stores for 25 years. Harry Moon did not target a contemporary Christian series for a comparison, because there is a great lack in this area. It is not what kids are reading and more importantly, what Christian parents are buying. The kids of leaders and parents, that patronize your great site, are overwhelmingly reading Harry Potter, Twilight and Divergent. Harry Moon seeks reach kids with a culturally relevant faith friendly series that cause them to engage with the world, a world with evil and good,that they find themselves in. As you know from reading 1 and a 1/4 of the books the Moon family gathers for meals underneath the words stenciled over their heads on the ceiling “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” God’s Word does not return void. Harry Moon is not for everybody, but it quite possibly a small part in the reconciliation of the world to Christ. Thank you Bill for the work you do toward this end.

    1. Shawn,

      Thank you for commenting.

      Comparing an analysis of my website to my analysis of the book is not the same thing. People do not come to my website for the “swag”, but for the content within. If the “swag” kept people from visiting my site, or more importantly, kept people from growing closer to God, I would remove it. When people review my website, it is clear as to my desire to assist others in reaching children with the Gospel. It is not hidden anywhere. If a product, or website, is being promoted as Christian, I would hope for a small statement somewhere to that affect.

      I realize that the author may not be promoting the book series as Christian and if that is the case, then I would not expect the things I noted in the post on the website and the book would simply have the same discussion as to whether it was good or bad to read as Harry Potter or Twilight garner. I probably would not have written the post if it was not promoted as it was in children’s ministry channels.

      The post was because it was being marketed to children’s ministry leaders as a Christian book series. I do not see it as such. Thus the points I made above.

      I was optimistic that this book would be a bridge to get those who read Harry Potter to focus more on God, but then people who profess Christ read Harry Potter and see nothing wrong with it and can find Christian themes, lessons, and applications within its pages. I can take just about anything and relate it to God, but it does not make it Christian. I know parents who use books like Harry Potter to initiate conversations with their children about God. It depends on how knowledgeable the parents are with the book. But then Harry Potter was never marketed to children’s ministry leaders as Christian like Harry Moon is being marketed by a prominent children’s ministry leader and therein lies my concern. And as I noted, if it is promoted that way, I expect to see greater evidence.

      Must we “hide” Jesus to tell others about Him? If we hide Jesus, then how will they find Him if they don’t know Him? These are my concerns. Teaching morals and good behavior is not necessarily Christian and can lead to a false gospel as Phil Vischer noted as recorded in Brian Dollar’s blog post from the 2015 Awana Vantage Conference (http://www.briandollar.com/2015/05/01/are-you-teaching-your-kids-a-false-gospel/).

      I do appreciate your thoughts, as I asked for other perspectives, and I enjoy the dialogue. I am glad that you see the One True God in the series. I truly hope that as the rest of the series is released that it provides a clearer emphasis of following Jesus as the reason for the way Harry behaves, not because of magic.

  5. Thank you. I needed to know this before I passed the book on as a gift. I read that it involved magic on the back cover and had to take a closer look.

  6. Commander Bill,
    I have looked at this posting of yours, since November and have prayed a lot about this. Yes I read the book, as did my wife, and we decided to promote it on our sites…
    The struggle you seem to be having is one of whether or not this is a Christian series correct?

    I am a big fan of CS Lewis and his fiction was threaded heavily with Christian ideals and was never blatant in the message. I look at the Harry Moon series the same way, with the same perspective as his books and the books by Christian author and Christy Award winner, Ted Dekker.

    The Harry Moon books are such that they will generate conversations between parents and children or between ministry leaders and children, and sometimes a book that asks more questions, than it gives answers, and generates deep conversations, is a wonderful way to connect with our kids about Christ.

    One point you made:
    “On page 54, the owner of the magic store asks Harry, What is the greatest gift? Harry answers life, but he is then asked what the greatest gift is beyond that, then Harry answers the ability to choose. There is no mention that the greatest gift is eternal life through Jesus Christ. I would expect some reference to salvation, or God’s love, from a “Christian” book as the greatest gift.”

    The ability to choose… Freedom, given in Grace. Of course I agee, salvation is the ultimate gift, but if we do not choose to receive it… we are lost. I believe that my Father wants me to choose Him and salvation through Christ and to be given the freedom to make that choice, even when all is going wrong, even when it makes no sense… That is a gift that comes through Grace/ Faith and is kept, gift to gift… day to day. To choose to live in service and in sacrifice, out of gratitude for the gift.

    Anyway, this is a conversation I had with someone about this very book.

    How can someone who does not know God, and does not have the Holy Spirit begin to understand what the “greatest gift” really is? This is all foolishness to the lost right? It used to be for me…

    Look, I want to have tools to reach the young and that kind of sneak up on the truth, in such a way, as to create opportunities to discuss it. That is what these books are. I promote books for many authors that are blatant Christian books, and they are read by other Christians.

    I also promote books for authors who are Christian but their books are just fiction, mystery, historical or romance… some kind of book, that doesn’t even mention Christ or salvation, but are wonderful stories that make me laugh or cry, or both. One thing that these books have in common? I am assured that the underlying truth is one based on Christian principles and if I read between the lines, I can find it there. AND I know the stories will be family friendly… and maybe start a conversation or two.

    You asked: “Must we “hide” Jesus to tell others about Him? If we hide Jesus, then how will they find Him if they don’t know Him?”

    In Matthew 7 Jesus tells to Ask, Seek and Knock… AND there are many mysteries in the Gospels. I am not saying that we should hide Jesus, but I am saying that the truth of the gospel is hidden from many who are blind and sometimes, using allegory and other tools in story telling help to get the truth out there to be discussed.

    Jesus was a Master Story Teller! He told stories about brides and lamps, and prodigal sons, empty houses and rams and sheep… so many more, all to make a point.

    I just think that this series that is written by Christians and being promoted by Christians should be considered a good resource for conversations with our children. I also think that it is way too early to pass judgement on the entire series, based on the first book or two.

    If the people behind this, are saying it is a Christian series, I have to give them the benefit of the doubt, that this is where the series is headed… You influence many people Commander… it will be interesting to hear what you have to say about all of this as the series progresses.

    1. Phred,

      Thank you for your thoughtful response.

      The connection always seems to go to C.S. Lewis. I do not know how C.S. Lewis promoted his works as they were beginning to be produced so I am not able to compare the two in that way.

      I’m glad that you are able to bring discussions about God from the book and that doesn’t surprise me. I believe that you initiate discussions about God from anything. I have a friend who has no problem with the Harry Potter series and he uses it to initiate spiritual discussions about God from it. That does not make Harry Potter a Christian Series. Many years ago when Pokemon was starting. Many in children’s ministry banned it, alienating children. Though I understood their concerns and did not promote it, I was able to have a discussion about God, using Pokemon, with a child as his dad was present.

      I also agree that if someone professes Christ as Savior that everything they produce does not have to be a theological discourse.

      My real concern is that this series is being heavily promoted by a prominent leader in children’s ministry and people will follow that recommendation blindly, without checking out what they are promoting (and that applies to everything, not just this series). I know children’s ministry leaders who simply passed the promotional e-mail along to parents without checking the resource they were now promoting as well. Being promoted to leaders in children’s ministry, I would hope that they would be some reference to God on the website, or something to help guide the parents in a discussion about God. Something that clearly separates it from the genre that the children are reading now.

      As to the future. I hope to be able to look at the graphic novel book club VBS material that is being promoted. I am hoping to see something that leads people to God, not just good morals, and as the series progresses, I am willing to take another look at it.

      Again, I truly appreciate your thoughtful comment.

  7. Thanks for putting this review out there…you just saved me a bunch of time and regret!

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