I like Harry Potter

Yep, I really like Harry Potter. And am enduring a minor case of HPWS: Harry Potter Withdrawal Syndrome.

Yeah, I took a while to get on the bandwagon. Three years in fact. Why would I, a Christian, waste my time reading a book that glorifies witchcraft. Dumb at best; dangerous at worse.

But I was wrong. Dead wrong. Somehow, I totally neglected the witches, wizards, and magic in Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. Even when Gandalf is one of my all time heros.

A few years ago, I really appreciated a Christianity Today editorial “Why We Like Harry.” (And I rarely “really appreciate” much from CT.) Today, Lois Nash a fellow pastor on Long Island, sent me a link to a Newsday editorial. I’m including it here in its entirety.

“Keating: Harry Potter and the Christian allegory”
Raymond J. Keating
August 13, 2007

It’s the summer of Potter. Should Christians be pleased or worried?

In July, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” hit movie theaters, and the final book in the series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” hit stores. Both have been wildly successful.

In 10 years, seven books and 4,100 pages, author J.K. Rowling has proven to be a master storyteller. She created a fictional universe that rivals what J.R.R. Tolkien accomplished with “The Lord of the Rings” and C.S. Lewis with “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

Rowling’s “Potter” series wrestles with big issues: the journey from child to adult, power, family, friendship, the fight between good and evil, and the choice between what’s right and what’s easy. And it’s all wrapped in stories featuring fascinating characters, adventure, humor and sadness.

A hundred years from now, people will still be enjoying and discussing Lewis, Tolkien and, yes, Rowling.

Lewis and Tolkien, though, integrated Christian allegory, themes and symbolism into their works. What about Rowling?

Well, some Christians – mainly fundamentalists – have attacked “Harry Potter” for featuring witchcraft. Meanwhile, in Time magazine recently, Lev Grossman argued: “If you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy: God. … Rowling has more in common with celebrity atheists like Christopher Hitchens than she has with Tolkien and Lewis.”

Both Grossman and the fundamentalists are dead wrong.

Holy Scripture certainly instructs against dabbling in witchcraft. But it doesn’t prohibit using imagination in writing, reading and enjoying great fantasy tales. Those viewing “Harry Potter” as a path to the occult either haven’t read the books or they’ve failed to understand them.

As for Rowling herself, she told a Vancouver Sun reporter in 2000 that she’s a Christian. She added: “Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said, ‘yes,’ because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that, I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.”

That’s evident in the “Deathly Hallows,” which is rich in Christian imagery and references if one pays attention. (Warning: Spoilers follow.) At one point, Harry – who, by the way, had to have been baptized, since he has a godfather – visits a graveyard behind a church in which people are singing Christmas carols.

One headstone carries the inscription: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Though not cited in the book, that’s from Matthew 6:21. The tombstone for Harry’s parents features: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” That’s in 1 Corinthians 15:26, in a section where St. Paul speaks about Jesus Christ, and how his sacrifice and resurrection conquered death.

In Christ-like fashion, Harry’s mother willingly gave her life for Harry, and later Harry chooses death to save those he loves. It is the shedding of innocent, sacrificial blood that protects against evil and overcomes death in “Harry Potter.” Meanwhile, what drives the evil Voldemort is his inability to accept death. Rowling’s unmistakable point in the “Potter” series is that there’s more. Death is not the end.

After sacrificing himself, Harry talks with Dumbledore, his deceased mentor and friend. Dumbledore advises: “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love.”

In 1 John 4:16, we are reminded: “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

It’s possible to read “Lord of the Rings” and “Narnia” without recognizing the religious aspects. That’s even more so the case with “Harry Potter.”

But Christian themes are there nonetheless. Rowling embraces Christianity; Christians should embrace her fantastic fictional world.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

I’m not going as far as to say you “should embrace her fantastic fictional world.” It’s fine to disagree.

And for what it’s worth, I intentionally laid the foundation of Narnia and Middle Earth for my kids before introducing them to Harry. I wanted them to say that Potter was like Narnia; not Narnia was like Potter!

Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman helps leaders lead their teams with more effectiveness and less stress. The author of "Ask Without Fear!®," he is the founder of The Concord Leadership Group and FundraisingCoach.com. He's also the executive director of TheNonprofitAcademy.com and an Advisory Panel member of Rogare, a prestigious international fundraising think tank. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook. To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to http://thenonprofitacademy.com/21waysebook

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Rob

    Marc –

    I’ve yet to take the HP plunge. I simply haven’t picked up the books, but am looking forward to reading them with my children.

    I wanted to send along a link to my favorite podcaster Fr. Roderick, founder of SQPN.com. I usually listen to his Daily Breakfast show. I highly recommend that, but he has a number of others, one of which is The Secrets of Harry Potter http://www.sqpn.com/?cat=10
    He is a true fan and explores many Christian themes in the book. He also has a “Secrets of the LOTR” and a “Secrets of Star Wars” podcast. I’m not sure where he gets his energy. Although he’s young like us! 🙂

    He’s also a huge Simpson’s fan.
    Anyway, check out any of his shows.

    All the best,

    Rob

  2. Marc

    Thanks Rob!

    I love the concept and hope to listen tomorrow.

    I haven’t really gotten into podcasts…but he sounds like my kind of guy. 🙂

  3. CactusFreek

    I personaly think that books/movies like HP, just glorify witchcraft and make it look innocent and harmless. And that’s a nice foot up for Satan.It desenseitises[?]us just a bit more for the next thing. I don’t let my kids watch the movies, but i don’t condemn anyone else who does. It’s not my place to judge what other people do, but it’s my job to protect my kids to the best of my ability.

  4. Rob

    Perhaps, CactusFreak listening to the podcast above, will help. When my children are encountering something that has challenging themes, I try to be with them to help them look for and discern what is going on. I look to them to teach me what it is that they are seeing so that together we can figure it out. So often our children will encounter these challenges and we won’t always be there to keep them from it. It seems to me that the more we can arm them with the tools to face them, the better they will be when the choice is their own.
    In the case of HP (having only seen the movies and heard discussions) it seems that the prevailing theme is love, which in the end (so I’ve been told) conquers all evil.

    What could be more Christian?

  5. Marc

    Thanks to both of you.

    I certainly don’t intend to try to convince anyone that their stance is wrong on this. (Life’s too short!)

    I really like to interact with culture on its terms as much as I can. HP is HUGE. This can only go so far but that limit is different for each of us.

    Like Rob, I’d rather be the “filter” for my kids interacting with culture because I help them to discern truth, lies, etc.

    One of the coolest things in Sorcerer’s Stone was that Voldemort says, “There’s no good or evil, just power.” And Rowling proved that wrong. There IS good and evil. But as it is in real life, evil tries to convince us it isn’t there.

    I almost shout each time I see the movie or read that line in the book. I WANT my kids to hear from others that evil is real and is deadly. From what I’m seeing from their interaction with HP, my kids would rather be on the side of good.

    I can’t say that with Star Wars (as much as I like it). The Dark side is much more compelling there.

Leave a Reply