By Richard Abanes
Harvest House Publishers, 2005 $11.99
Review by Daven
I shouldn’t be disappointed. I knew what I was getting into. I knew this was a book about the evils of witchcraft and Harry Potter from a fundamental Christian perspective. I knew all this, but I still hoped.
I had interacted with Richard Abanes through a weblog. Specifically a discussion that ensued at Wildhunt.org. The exact thread is at “My Falacy is Made of Straw” (and I know it says “No comments”, but trust me, there are comments. Click the link and you will see them.) Yes, I know that I don’t come across in the best of light, but as you can see, there is baiting on both sides.
Well, I talked to his publisher and got a copy of the book. I read it. Man is it disappointing.
It is not that the author is a poor writer. Far from it, Richard is an engaging and convincing author. It’s not that he has his facts wrong, for I’m sure that he did the research required for this book. That information is available, and it is footnoted as well, but I didn’t have the time to go behind him and look up all the citations he states.
What I’m disappointed about is his blatant Wicca-bashing.
Yes, I say “blatant” and I mean it. This is one of those books that takes some coincidences and turns it into one of the biggest conspiracies there is. And not just once, but he does it in multiple different places.
Let me walk you through the book for a few minutes.
First he talks about the history of fantasy and literature. How reading and fantasy affect a child’s psyche. Then the looks at “The Lord of the Rings” and does a credible job of breaking it down along with many biographical and behind the scenes facts that I was peripherally aware of, but upon which I didn’t have researched knowledge (I did a report on TLotR in High School for my 10th Grade Literature class. I got a C+ in it.) He is full of glowing praise for the series. To hear him tell it, TLotR is the book that should be read to bring about the second coming. Then he looks at The Chronicles of Narnia and is filled with the same glowing praise. The same amount of compliments and lavish acceptance. He almost fawns on the books.
Then he looks at Harry Potter.
Now, to be fair, he does raise a lot of points of concern about the series. He mentions many things in the Harry Potter series that cause me to stop and consider for a few moments. He also raises no points that have not been discussed before and dismissed as irrational fears. He talks about how willful and disobedient the children are, how the role models they look to are not any better, and how the only shining example of what a “Christian” would call a righteous person is is one of the worst antagonists in the book, namely Professor Snape. How the good guys are using the same tools the bad guys are using, and he digs back 15 years to show JK Rowling in the worst possible light in quotes and interviews.
Then he talks about Wicca.
When this section started, I said “What the Fuck???” There is absolutely no reason to have this tangent in this book, about what Wicca is, what Wiccan believe and what modern Paganism is. There is NO reason for it to be there. He admits that what is in the Harry Potter books has nothing to do with Wicca, and that Wicca has nothing to do with the Harry Potter books. But then he goes on to give us multiple pages about Wicca and how it is unrighteous, dangerous, and could “foster a dangerous interest in the occult”. He discusses at length the books available in the fiction section talking about and promoting Wicca. Not one word about the other books promoting the Occult or Witchcraft (like “The Witch Next Door” or “Strega Nona” or “Iktomi”), only Wicca is singled out for this.
Now, please remember this has nothing to do with anything, it’s a tangent and a red herring thrown into this book. It is solely meant to connect, by contamination, Wicca and Harry Potter as both being dangerous.
It seems that Mr. Abanes is a bigot of the highest order, one where he thinks he’s doing the world a favor by speaking out. Just like Jack Chick. Just like Jimmy Swaggert. Just like many other fundamentalists who only want to bring the ends about, not caring who they injure or harm or trample on their way to whatever “paradise” they envision. And Wicca is not the only group he targets, he has another book targeting Mormons as well.
Then he goes back to talking about Harry Potter and the marketing machine behind the books who pumping expectations up. He talks about how the media basically brainwashed people into believing that if they didn’t have Harry Potter everything, they were uncool. What he fails to mention is that this same marketing machine goes to work for EVERY new product and book that comes along, and it works overtime to do the same for the movies.
With all that, it is a well researched book. It can stand on it’s own, and as long as the facts are in order, there is nothing really wrong or outright lies in here that I could spot. The references he uses are also slanted and biased, chosen to prove his thesis rather than to be fair. But the linking of Harry Potter with Wicca, by mentioning them in the same book together, one right after the other, takes this book from a scholarly reference to thinly veiled hate-mongering. Had the references to Wicca been removed, I would have little problem with this book outright.
It is biased. Oh my Gods and Goddesses is it biased. But it is being written by a Christian for Christians in an attempt to save the children from the evil that is Harry Potter, so one would expect bias. It panders to every fear a parent has, bad role models, dealing with fantasy instead of reality, learning morals and qualities which are far removed from parental control and so on. But it is presented as though the Lord of the Rings and Narnia are books of such unimpeachable merit that they should be read in addition to the Bible at every turn, while the Harry Potter books are one step up from the Alister Crowley collected works. And then when Wicca is linked to them, well… as our Hebrew cousins say “Oy vey….”
In honest reflection, this book is not for most Pagan audiences. It is designed to spread fear and hatred in the Christian mind, fostering the belief that Pagans and Wiccans are bad and out to take the children over by any means necessary. It will get Pagans mad. It will give most Pagans another reason to hate Christians. But it is well written hate mongering. In no place *I* could detect is there actual out and out lies. So judging this on it’s own merits, I would rate it at a 3 1/2 stars out of 5. For its usefulness to the average Pagan, I would say it’s about a 1 star of 5. Personally I would probably borrow it from the library or buy it from a used book store, so as not to encourage the author in writing more of this brand of hatred.