The new Harry Potter book is out, and people all over the world are diving back into the series. What kind of world does the latest adventure depict? How might Christians interact with the book? There will be SPOILERS in what follows. There will also obviously be SPOILERS for any other books in the series.
Harry Potter and Christianity… what?
Some may immediately object to the notion that Christians can or should interact with something like Harry Potter. What I say likely won’t convince anyone. But what I would say is that Harry Potter helps re-enchant the world, and our world is in great need of re-enchantment. The Bible speaks of a world created by God, inhabit by angels and demons, and full of the miraculous. The world we most often observe is utterly mundane in comparison: a world which we often think we have entirely figured out.
Harry Potter, however, opens the door to re-enchantment. The world of Harry Potter is magical–and the wonder of magic is similar to the wonder that readers have the first time they enter that certain Wardrobe from the Spare Room or see the White Wizard reappear. It’s a world that moves beyond the mundane and speaks to something more. And Christianity teaches that there is something more. The world is not just what we see with our eyes–it is a world that is utterly enchanted, full of mystery, and created by a loving God.
What’s more, the Harry Potter story so far ended in a kind of re-telling of the Messianic story. Potter laid down his life for his friends, was resurrected, and saved them. It’s a familiar story with different trappings, but one that each generation must learn anew.
One of the most important themes in “Cursed Child” is grace. Harry must have the grace to love his son, Albus, despite the imperfections. Albus must forgive his father and show grace to him to begin healing their relationship. Albus must learn the lesson Harry learned long before–that grace can defeat evil. He spares Delphi, an act of grace, despite her deserving great punishment. It’s a lesson that is brought forward time and again. In every relationship mentioned in the book, grace is needed to help heal wounds of doubt, of barbed words, and more.
Loyalty is another theme that shows up time and again throughout the series, and Serverus Snape’s loyalty to Lily and Dumbledore is perhaps the greatest example. Even in the alternative future that Albus visits, Snape remains loyal to the memory of Lily and his promises to Dumbledore. He fights alongside those who, in some cases, he has every reason to despise, at least historically.
That history is another major theme of the book: does one’s past determine one’s present and future? Delphi felt as though she must follow a prophecy that would allow her to be reunited with her father. Snape had to get beyond the history that he had with Harry’s father to continue the fight against darkness in an alternative future. Harry and his son Albus’ relationship is strained both by their own history and by the history of Harry. Who you are, it seems near the beginning, is determined by what you–or your parents–were. But that myth is dispelled as it becomes apparent that current action and decisions can break away from the bonds of history. Through the power of grace, as already mentioned, relationships may be healed, people may move forward.
But is it good?
Okay, okay, we get it. There are themes that interact with Christianity in Harry Potter. Is the new book worth reading?
I’d say absolutely, for fans of the series already. It’s not as detailed as the novels are, because it’s a script. But it is a good script, and the characters do develop quite a bit. There are some moments that will make you gleeful as you pick up references to previous books. The main complaint I’d have is that because it is a script, there is so little description of the environment and the characters’ internal struggles–something Rowling excels at. It’s a good entry in the series that won’t make you completely disappointed, but it isn’t as fabulous as the previous books in the series.
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I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I think the books are phenomenal, and the movies have often been just as great. What interests me, as usual, is how the Christian can relate to this extraordinarily popular series.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 released on Blu-Ray and DVD today. I was at the midnight showing with my wife (then fiancee) when the movie came out in theaters. The best description I can give of our feelings when it ended is this: bittersweet. The series is over. The books and movies are no longer coming. This is the end! Or is it?
THERE ARE MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS BELOW
That is the feeling I got throughout the movie. Is death the end? The movie takes little time to get going. Soon, viewers are thrust into the epic final conflict in which Harry Potter rushes to destroy all the horcruxes (pieces of the evil Lord Voldemort’s soul) in order to finally defeat his enemy. Things get going fairly well. Harry shows up at Hogwarts again with resounding support. He quickly uses his allies to take back the school and set it up for a final showdown with evil. As his friends battle the forces of darkness closing in around them, Harry searches frantically for another horcrux while Hermione and Ron locate a basilisk fang–one of the only things capable of destroying these pieces of soul.
But once both Harry and Hermione/Ron have achieved their missions, the goal is still only close at hand. They must destroy Nagini, Voldemort’s snake (and another horcrux). They immediately set off to find the snake and witness the murder of Professor Snape–who turns out to be a double-agent after all. The fact that he killed Dumbledore turns out to not show his final betrayal, but the depth of his loyalty. But from Snape’s dying memories, Harry gleans the truth: Harry himself is an unintentional horcrux. When Voldemort killed Harry’s parents, he sealed part of his soul inside Harry. So Harry must die if evil is to be defeated.
Harry goes willingly to his death. He meets Voldemort among his followers, and allows himself to be killed. But it turns out that this is not the end. Dumbledore had sealed the Resurrection Stone inside a gift to Harry. This stone allows Harry to speak with his dead friends and family. Harry, once dead, is made alive once more after a discussion with Dumbledore. Harry awakens in a pivotal scene in which Voldemort is announcing his victory over all wizards, and he and Voldemort battle in a final, epic showdown in which Harry overcomes evil once and for all.
Christians reading this should be sensing some interesting underlying themes here. Harry Potter is innocent–he’s thrust into the events upon him. He willingly goes to his death, knowing it is literally the only way to defeat evil. And, once he’s died, he is resurrected, back to finally bring about his victory over Voldemort. Yeah, it seems Rowling might have borrowed a bit from the story of Jesus.
What explains the astounding popularity of the Harry Potter series? J.K. Rowling has weaved a series of books which tie together in sometimes amazing ways. What seem like random details and “fluff” in one book turn out to be of immense importance later in the series. Each book, mostly self-contained, features a different thrust. Yet they are all tied through broad overarching themes. But could it be that there is another theme, oft-ignored in discussions of Harry Potter? It seems so. The climax of the series occurs in the death and resurrection of Potter. The Christian story culminates in the same. Potter is fiction, but his tale, so wonderfully complex, leads us to the story of Christ. He had to die for the sake of all–Voldemort would have overcome. Jesus, similarly, had to die for the sake of all–lest sin and the devil overcome.
This parallelism with Christianity was not revealed until the final book, yet perhaps it can explain how Rowling was able to make the conclusion to her epic so satisfying. She was telling a story we all knew. She was telling us, in a very different way, what must happen for evil to be overcome. Her story is fiction, Christianity’s story is real. What we want to believe in (Harry Potter) is what many of us do believe (Christianity). Whether intentional or not (and I think it was intentional), Rowling wrote a story which resonates deeply with Christianity’s own. And her fiction points us towards the greater reality.
Christians, I encourage you to read and watch Harry Potter. The books and movies are just phenomenal pieces of literature and filmography. Think of the themes that are woven throughout the books. Think of the final showdown between good and evil. And think of Jesus while you do so. You’ll find that within Potter, we discover hidden truths of our own faith.
But hey, you don’t really have to think of all these themes. And it’s highly questionable whether these parallels are intentional or not. It’s okay to just enjoy the movies anyway. My point is that, as a Christian, I saw these themes. And I found it thrilling.
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.