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Lynch Mob Mentality

Remember the Christian witch-hunt over Harry Potter?
| Jul 8, 2014 | 5 comments |

Harry Potter7Speaking of discernment, remember the Christian witch-hunt over Harry Potter? If ever Christian’s gave themselves a black-eye of an embarrassing nature, that was it.

Embarrassing because reports began to surface about the rise in new members for Satanic groups and Wiccan covens due to kids reading Harry Potter, only to discover the “facts” and quotes being used as proof were lifted straight from a satirical story by The Onion. You can read the details of it at Snopes. At the end of the Snopes article is a quote that sums up the whole mess:

If The Onion’s parody has demonstrated anything, it’s that we should be worrying about adults not being able to distinguish between fiction and reality. The kids themselves seem to have a pretty good grasp of it.

A scathing indictment on many ministers and Christian leaders, who failing to use discernment and do any fact checking, swallowed whole-hog information dished out to them as factual, but in reality based on a fictional, satirical article. Let’s hope they subjected their theology to more academic rigors than just accepting as fact what their professors said.

Is this type of Three Stooges behavior endemic of the Christian culture?

Not really. You don’t have to look any further than politics to answer that question. Talking points with a group’s own spin on them are used in lockstep by most news organizations, usually without any fact checking. Opinion quotes are used as self-evident truths.

Even I fell to this temptation. I wrote an article on my blog titled, “Stop Online Piracy Act” and Indie-Publishing. I based my info on a New York Times article. It wasn’t until a few days after that article went live that I actually read the act itself. I realized it wouldn’t do what I’d been led to believe it would. YouTube and the like wouldn’t be doing anything different.

Lynch Mob Mentality

We are all subject to it at times. It is easier to take someone’s word for it than to check it out yourself. Especially if you tend to trust them. The problem is, no one is infallible, no matter how wonderful you might think they are.

Trust But Verify

Not too many months ago, Goodreads had to step in because readers lynched an author. She committed a faux pas that certain readers latched onto, and it snowballed into various tactics like putting her book into derogatory categories and posting a lot of one star reviews.

I’ve come to the point when anyone yells the sky is falling, I want to see their sources and decide for myself before jumping on any band wagons.

All too frequently those band wagons aren’t running to worthy goals, but away from unworthy fears.

Perhaps if we practiced a little more discernment in all our lives, we’d use it without thinking when it comes to Christian fiction. Then we can base our reviews on actual analysis rather than an Onion article.

As a young teen, R. L. Copple played in his own make-believe world, writing the stories and drawing the art for his own comics while experiencing the worlds of other authors like Tolkien, Lewis, Asimov, and Lester Del Ray. As an adult, after years of writing devotionally, he returned to the passion of his youth in order to combine his fantasy worlds and faith into the reality of the printed page. Since then, his imagination has given birth to The Reality Chronicles trilogy from Splashdown Books, and The Virtual Chronicles series, Ethereal Worlds Anthology, and How to Make an Ebook: Using Free Software from Ethereal Press, along with numerous short stories in various magazines.Learn more about R. L and his work at any of the following:Author Website, Author Blog, or Author Store.

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Leah Burchfiel

[insert cynical response]


I edit a daily devotional – and a significant part of my job is to remove urban myth and spurious feel-good stories from the mix. I don’t even trust Snopes.

However, in defence of some Christian ministers, I should point out that it is vastly harder to research any topic on the internet than ever before. Google tailors searches according to a past history, so that’s going to skew any results that appear.

To be genuinely discerning all too often requires us to read outside our comfort zone.

It’s all to easy to fall into the trap of having ‘trusted sources’ and relying on them, simply due to time pressures. Ultimately it depends on who is the most ‘trusted source’. That’s what too often passes for ‘discernment’ – agreeing with the most ‘trusted source’.

After all, it probably wouldn’t matter how much I pointed upwards and declared to the contrary, if Pastor Chicken Little, with his immensely formidable reputation, announced the sky is falling.

E. Stephen Burnett

In the Harry Potter case there was no excuse for a religious leader to promote falsehood in the name of Christ.


After my wife and I married, I began introducing her to the Potterverse that I had only recently discovered. (First we had to enjoy reading The Lord of the Rings together.) Slowly we both became shocked by the flagrant lies and deception and myth-spreading to which we had both been exposed in evangelical culture. This was far more dishonoring to the Name of Christ and helpful to the father of lies (the Devil) than any actual occult content in Harry Potter books could have ever been.

Some years ago, my wife attended a Christian speaker’s event at a library. This speaker, in response to a highly popular secular fantasy book series, promised to share with Christians why they should avoid those books and their recently released popular movie adaptations.

In his program, the speaker showed clips from the movies. One film’s story was about a girl who is possessed by an evil spirit-creature. The speaker said this story had clearly meant to endorse possession. Why are we letting our kids watch this? he asked. Whoever wrote the book or made the movie intended that we should all want to be possessed like that, he said.

There was only one problem. When my wife read that story for herself, and saw the movie version, she was stunned: The story gave the exact-opposite message. Not only did the villain of the story possess the girl, but this was shown to be evil. The hero had to fight the villain, destroy him, and free the girl from the possession. Later in the book, the girl’s parents even specifically say they had warned her about opening her vulnerable mind to evil influences!

So why did the Christian speaker pass along a lie about this story? I see two possibilities:

  1. Many Christians simply don’t know how to read and understand stories.
  2. Some Christians do understand stories. But they feel a “small” sin — lying about a story whose author is secular and successful anyway — is justifiable to prevent a greater sin, such as impressionable children reading books that they oughtn’t read.

Thus, Christians who make these claims are either ignorant or intentionally sinning. There is no middle ground.

from Ten Wrong Ways to Discern A Story


Kat Vinson

Very true. People love to jump in the bandwagon for anything and everything. They take what they hear at face value and run with it, the more outrageous the better. Especially if it’s something they want to believe.

I remember the Harry Potter hoopla. It was the main reason I dawdled before finally picking up the first book to find out what all the fuss was about. And what I discovered pretty much from the very first page was everyone berating the series had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. I was flabbergasted. And I learned from that day forward to always, always research the facts and never take one person/article/post’s word for it. And if someone can’t respectfully present both sides of an issue, I’ve very likely not going to listen to a word they say due to the bias. I like to be well-informed and make up my own mind, not be told what to think.