I have no desire to revisit discussions that have been going on for the past 20 years. If you and your family do not feel comfortable reading the Harry Potter books, I won’t try to convince you otherwise. Still, the whole debate struck me as strange. Both the Harry Potter and Narnia books take place in a magical world, where good ultimately triumphs (spoiler alert) in the battle against evil.
Narnia is an allegory, with direct parallels between Aslan and Jesus. One of the main themes of Harry Potter is that the only thing more powerful than evil is sacrificial love. Despite the overlap in moral teaching, The Chronicles of Narnia have been labelled “Christian fiction” while Harry Potter is considered secular. Perhaps it comes down to marketing, rather than an indictment of the content of these books.
In my opinion, there are only three things we should ever label “Christian.” The first is people, those who have professed faith in Jesus and do their best to be a light to the world. The second is the church, which describes the believers who gather and not necessarily the building we gather in. While sanctuaries should be treated with reverence, they are only holy places because that is where we choose to come together and worship God. The third and final thing is the Bible, which provides direction and teaching from the mouth of God.
Ascribing the label “Christian” to fantasy books or businesses does not sanctify anything, but rather markets a product in hopes you will buy it.Labelling these three things alone as Christian is the only way to keep from watering down the meaning of the word. To be Christian means to confess Christ as Lord. Ascribing the label “Christian” to fantasy books or businesses does not sanctify anything, but rather markets a product in hopes you will buy it.
There is no such thing as a Christian business. A business can be owned or operated by Christians, use Bible verses or Christian symbols on their packaging or pray for their customers, but if the end goal is financial profit, it is not a Christian enterprise. I am not saying businesses should ignore their faith—1 Corinthians 10:31 says plainly, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” What I am saying, however, is if it’s part of a marketing strategy to drum up support by paying lip service to the Christian community, while underpaying staff, destroying the environment or giving little to charity, it’s not Christian.
Additionally, there are businesses in the world today that are masquerading as churches. If the pastor of a megachurch is more concerned about private jets than poverty, it’s clear that the Bible and faith have become products they are trying to sell, and not God’s kingdom on earth.
In Scripture, the only time we witness Jesus being angry was when he saw the money-changers in the temple. It wasn’t a momentary decision to flip over the tables and drive the animals out; he spent time beforehand fashioning a whip out of cords. If you have ever braided something by hand, you would know that this is a lengthy process, which would have given Jesus time to think, pray and possibly get angrier. While driving the dove sellers out, he said—or possibly yelled— “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” (see John 2:16). While this anger is often attributed to the money-changers charging exorbitant fees, preventing some people from practising their faith, it seems clear to me, from the very words of Christ, that Christianity and exploitative economic systems are not supposed to mix.
Labelling some fast-food restaurants as Christian because they put Bible verses on their wrapping paper has the added effect of pressuring Christians to eat there, because they are “on our side.” Keep the name “Christian” for the church, the Bible and people—and train people to seek out God in what they read and eat. God is too big to be confined to the pages of a fantasy book or a fast-food menu.
Darryn Oldford is a senior soldier in Toronto.