Every year, thousands of children around the world celebrate when they receive a shoebox full of toys from Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse. The boxes, funded by donations and filled by volunteers, are part of the organization’s annual program Operation Christmas Child, and are always checked over for potentially dangerous items like liquids…and Weasleys?
Yup, unfortunately, the organization has decided to ban all Harry Potter-related merchandise this year, releasing a pretty vague statement from domestic director Randy Riddle (yes, we are avoiding several Tom Riddle jokes right now) that “Operation Christmas Child works with church partners in more than 100 countries from a number of denominations and realizes that not every partner has the same views.”
Speaking to NBC Charlotte, staffer Lindsay Tunnell also pointed out that “We reevaluate the inappropriates every years, so that’s the standard for this year.”
While the organization isn’t really being frank about it, the decision likely has something to do with the Harry Potter series’ fraught relationship with fundamental Christian groups. Criticisms of the series range from accusations of witchcraft to comparisons to rat poison ; the series has also been the focus of numerous banning attempts, often spurred by the view of the series as promoting witchcraft or Wicca.
What’s a little more odd in this story is the timing. Since the report and Tunnell’s quote indicate that the addition of Harry Potter to the banned list of gifts is a new restriction, it begs the question: why start banning the Boy Who Lived nearly four years after the last film, and (sobbing noises) eight and a half years after the final novel? According to Christianity Today, while the battle for Hogwarts might be over, the debate still rages on inside various churches.
Regardless of the reasoning behind this sudden move to excise JK Rowling’s world from the Christmas shoeboxes, here is a chance for us to indulge in a little Christmas spirit instead of cynicism. Let’s hope that the statement from Riddle (clarification, the MUGGLE Riddle) is actually an indication that the ban is less about censorship, and more about ensuring that kids living under strict censorship at home might be denied their toys if they’re deemed pagan. Let’s hope that this is about ensuring access to a happy Christmas for all kids, not promoting a specific ideology. After all, as both Christmas and Harry Potter teach us, there’s nothing more important than hope.
(Image via Warner Bros)