Christians still debate over Harry Potter?

Posted: 14/09/2011 in book review, Christian living, church, Movies
Tags: , , , , , ,

Yes, I am posing this as a question for everyone here to contribute.  However, please understand this is a question of whether Christians debate over Harry Potter, but at this point the question is why?!

We all know what the debate is.  When Harry Potter first became popular concerned parents started wondering if it was the devil’s work because their kids enjoyed it, but did not get it from the Bible book store.  This is a common recurrence.  It is the same semi-fundie to completely fundie mentality that raised issues over things like He-man, Pokemon, The Smurfs (the Smurfs?!), and Dungeons and Dragons.

Is Harry Potter the Devil’s work?  Well, no quite the opposite.  Harry Potter is Christian literature in the same tradition as Tolkien and Lewis, which the concerned parents typically praise!  The debate really should end with this quote from the Christian Post:

J.K. Rowling wrapped up the final book in the seven-volume series, and finally spoke openly in several interviews about her Christian faith.

She went so far as to say she had hesitated to talk about her faith previously because it would have made the series’ conclusion too obvious to discerning readers.

We know the authors intentions now.  That should close things right?  John Granger has also written a few papers on the Christian themes of the Harry Potter series.

In fact, many of the themes are fairly obvious.  A friend of mine once said that if people simply read the books, they’d see the Christian themes in them.  Perhaps though, prejudice and lack of aesthetic sense prevents people from doing so.

Nonetheless, this blog is for readers of Harry Potter who did notice Christians themes in the book.  Share what you saw in the books that were Christian themes.  Re-post it on facebook.  Share with everyone example after example of Christianity in the Harry Potter series because only when the opposition looks silly enough to be silent.  Let everybody know that this debate needs to be closed.  Be as specific as possible, and cite the books if you have them.

One example comes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  While in the forest, Harry Potter sees a figure suck blood from the body of a slain unicorn.  It is one of the first truly scary scenes in the book.  A centaur, Firenze, comes upon the scene after the dark figure has escaped.  Firenze shares this insight with Harry Potter:

“It is a monstrous thing, to slay a unicorn,” said Firenze.  “only one who has nothing to lose, and everything to gain, would commit such a crime.  The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price.  You have slain something pure and defenseless to save yourself, and you will have but a half-life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.” -Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Immediately after reading this, the first thing that came to my mind was a passage from 1 Corinthians:

Therefore whoever east the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if does not judge the body rightly.  For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.  But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the World. – 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 NASB

This association is reinforced by John Granger’s observation that a unicorn symbolized Christ in medieval artwork.  This was a remarkably subtle connection to the Bible and a passage that is very important to many Christians in high church traditions.

So what did you notice in Harry Potter that struck you as distinctly Christian?  What in the book looked like symbol for Christ or anything else from scripture?  What symbols did Rowling use that the Bible also uses?  The longer conversatinos like this get, the better the position will be.  Please comment as much as you like, and remember to subscribe for future comments and discussion.

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Comments
  1. Alexander says:

    I’m sure “spoiler alert” goes without saying for this entire conversation.

    At the risk of stating the obvious – Harry’s death and resurrection to save others in the final book puts him in the Christ figure category.

    Also, the whole idea of being a witch/wizard from birth strongly evokes the idea of a Christian calling/vocation. One could argue Calvinist overtones, but being a non-Calvinist myself I don’t read it that way.

    You could even extend this to the idea of the wizarding community reflecting the Christian subculture. A few bad apples, but mostly good people. Very unusual to outsiders’ eyes. Some manage to live in both worlds, but those steeped in the wizarding world their whole lives (as opposed muggle-borns) often can’t relate to muggles and make gaffes in dealing with them.

  2. Nate Richey says:

    Sorry, I can’t play into this mindset, at least at this time. While I don’t oppose reading the series, at the same time, I didn’t really go into seeing the story as a Christian story, or a story with Christian themes in it.

    I don’t really go in this mindset of whether a secular story has Christian ideas in it or not, because I try to enjoy the story for what it is. That’s not to say I never notice it in stories, but I really don’t go looking for it. Perhaps it’s because I have a bias that stories are there to be enjoyed, not to intentionally have Christian messages in them, and when they do I dislike it if the story itself is cheesy.

    Despite that there were some people in my background that’s said Harry Potter is evil, in that same circle or circles, different people would try to pull examples from other secular films. Doing this seemed like you can have infinite possibilities of telling a Christian story.

    Going to college, by going into biblical studies, I learned to try to take the Bible in it’s literal sense (not to be confused with taking the Bible literally). I learned that taking abstract interpretations from Scripture are a bad thing, because that could make it out to mean anything. I’ve done the same thing with movies, and stories. Why try to find abstract Christian stories from secular films when most of the time they weren’t intended that way? So for that reason, I ignore looking for Christian concepts in secular stories and films, and try to enjoy the story as a story, even if there are some blatant Christian ideas in them.

    • Alexander says:

      Nate,

      It sounds like your training in biblical hermeneutics has blunted your desire to engage other works on a literary level.

      There are plenty of stories that can be enjoyed only on the “good story” level and no more. But there are others that bear engagement on a deeper level, exploring and engaging with themes and motifs – Christian or otherwise – that almost tell a second story. I find that this kind of engagement enhances rather than detracts from my enjoyment of such stories.

      There are ways to weave ideas – again, Christian or otherwise – into a story that are more subtle than, say, allegory. I don’t care for Christian stories that feel forced or cheesy or preachy either. But that’s not the only kind of Christian story.

      Also, while with the Bible, seeing something that’s not there can screw up one’s theology, the worst that can happen if one sees something that’s not there in other stories is looking like a fool. More likely it will only result in a polite disagreement, quickly dismissed. Furthermore, it’s entirely possible for an author to not be consciously aware of something that is there. An author can be wrong about her own work. The rules are quite different to biblical interpretation 🙂

      So I hope you have not concluded that misinterpreting literature is dangerous because this can be true of the Bible. Or that exploring certain stories on a deeper level isn’t worthwhile because you yourself don’t enjoy it, or because in some stories there’s nothing else to engage with.

      Respectfully,

      Alexander

  3. Jeyna Grace says:

    I dont understand why this topic is still debatable.. my mother still does not fully condone harry potter no matter how much evidence i put on her table. I guess it is just the way ppl think.

  4. blah says:

    why does “harry potter” have to be a christian-themed novel for it to be acceptable? creating a false dichotomy of “good” (i.e. directly christian) and “evil” (everything else in existence) media does a disservice to the creator and the consumer.

    harry potter need not be a christian allegory to be acceptable children’s literature. perhaps instead of worrying about the christian themes hidden in the deepest crevices of the hogwarts universe, concerned parents can start worrying about the literary merit of the books (which IS rightly debated).

    to boycott the books because one disagrees with the content, only to turn around and change your mind because “oh! now i get it! it’s CHRISTIAN magic!” is ridiculous.

  5. Jaret says:

    In my mind this is how the whole debate has played out

    HP books 1-6:
    Conservative response: “Harry Potter leads children to Satan”

    Book 7 which throws in a few bible quotes (1cor 15:26 & Matt 6:21):
    Response: “Harry potter is a great Christian allegory, everybody should read it.”

    Rowling announces Dumbledore is gay:
    “Harry Potter leads children to Sodomy and Satan”

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