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 over the weekend. I was at the midnight showing with my fiancee. 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
And 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 [thanks to an astute reader for making this point more clear]. 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.
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“To Save a Life” is a Christian movie (I imagine some fleeing already, but read the full review!) about some tough issues: teen suicide, self-harm, bullying, and more (no spoilers) come up in this film.
The movie starts with Jake Taylor attending the funeral of a friend from his younger years–a friend with whom he has lost touch. The friend committed suicide, and this leads Jake to seek answers to a number of questions and “Could I have done something?” is paramount among them.
The movie also explores the themes of faith as Jake interacts with a youth pastor while exploring questions about Christianity.
What makes this movie resonate with me is how accurately it portrays a number of aspects of teenage life. I’m very serious here. I knew people like Jake and his friends, and I also knew people who resembled those in the youth group scenes. The movie doesn’t hold punches, there are teens out to sleep with as many people as possible, there are those who have left the faith and are hostile to any mention of it, there is a persistent caricature of Christian belief which the teenagers think they have figured out, even within the Christian youth group there are “pretenders”–only there because they have to be (or want to hang out with friends).
The issues the film covers are, as mentioned, not easy. Teen suicide, cutting/self-harm, and the like are all portrayed. There are answers found, but they are not easy. They provide challenges to viewers to step out of their comfort zone and realize there are more important things in life than the mundane. Viewers will reflect on the movie for some time afterwards, wondering what it is that I should or could be doing.
Now, I mentioned before it is a Christian movie. Often, unfortunately, this means the acting is terrible. Not so with “To Save a Life.” I was engrossed in the film from the first minute. Jake (played by Randy Wayne) is perfectly cast. He poignantly portrays a troubled teenager reaching out for answers. The acting is not overdone. In scenes in which people are fighting, it is realistically uncomfortable; it feels too real. Watchers will have to fight not to pick out people they knew in the characters throughout the film. And this leads me to my next point:
It was stunning to me to watch the movie and realize how close I have been to being any number of these people. I was very close to being a youth who left the faith because of unanswered questions. I thank God that He provided people with answers around me–and people who were willing to say they didn’t know the answers, and point me in a direction to find them.
I watched the movie with my parents this week. My dad is a pastor and he wanted me to evaluate it for its use in a youth group setting. I can say that without a doubt I think this movie should be viewed by youth groups, but it should also be watched by concerned parents with their children. It will provide a springboard for discussion on some difficult issues.
I very highly recommend “To Save a Life.” It will resonate with some viewers in ways that simple lectures or discussions cannot. It presents a strong Christian message, calling youths to strengthen their faith and be willing to reach out to those who are hurting–a message we would do well to take to heart in a hurting world.
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 and provide a link to the original URL. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.