Q. With the Harry Potter movies wrapped up, a blogger has published an article calling the main character “one of the most Christian symbols of modern pop culture.”
Writing on RelevantMagazine.com, Ryan Hamm argues that, for all the criticism of the Harry Potter books and films claiming young fans would become interested in witchcraft and the occult, the series has consistently promoted strong Christian values such as loyalty, friendship, love, belief in good, and a “constant support for the oppressed, the downtrodden and those without a voice.” Author J.K. Rowling has admitted that Christianity features strongly in the novels, and the Church of England even published a guide advising youth workers on how to use the Potter books to spread the message of Christianity.
Are the Potter books a good life lesson? Do they promote Christian ideas, or are they really a gateway to the occult?
I consulted some children I know about this, and they said, “Ummm, nooooooooo, we don’t know any kids who have become witches or wizards because of Harry Potter.” They looked at me with quizzical pity when I asked, and they answered with the gentle, patient tone that good children use to address daft old folks. They were too polite to say: “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”
Children understand what “pretend” means. Even if the Harry Potter series had no other redeeming value, kids would get that it’s only a story, a beautiful alternative vision of coming of age, offering a therapeutic escape from the kids-can-be-cruel hallways they walk every day.
And of course, Christian themes abound in Harry Potter.
There are definite connections between Harry and Christ: With no insult intended to Mary and Joseph, you might say that Jesus was raised by Muggles (non-wizard or, in Jesus’ case, non-divine parents), and that his true parentage was key to his destiny.
Jesus’ ministry began with a wilderness encounter with personified evil (as Harry met Voldemort while still in his crib), and was then punctuated by battles with demons, the Gospel plot line drawing him toward an ultimate battle with evil and death, just as Harry’s story does.
Like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Harry Potter agonizes before the final battle. Like Jesus (spoiler alert!) Harry wins the battle only by dying and coming back to life. And like Jesus, Harry Potter, through his victory, breaks the power of death forever (snapping the Elder wand) and, standing on the symbolic bridge of a new world, ushers in a new era of life for all people.
Harry Potter’s lessons are Christian lessons: All around us, and within us, the limitless world of the Spirit is alive and well; a world in which Life is more than life, and Love has healing power, and Goodness never dies.
So take a breath, religious hand-wringers, and pick up where Harry Potter leaves off: Teach your children that an enchanted world of Holiness does exist, for those who have eyes to see.
The Rev. Amy Pringle
St. George’s Episcopal Church
La Cañada Flintridge
When the first Harry Potter installment made its debut, I went solo and viewed the film with the intention of being a responsible parent who also happened to pastor a church with parishioners concerned about exposing their younger children to a story where witchcraft was presented as a moral good.
Biblically, witchcraft is a moral bad. It’s a pagan affront to God and is condemned repeatedly as idolatrous spirituality. Both Testaments command us not to engage in witchcraft because it is detestable, sinful and damnable (Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Galatians 5:19-21). The Potter series presents witchcraft as good, and non-practitioners as “muggles” (bad, foolish, ignorant, etc). This opposes God’s perspective, so it should immediately concern anyone who thinks moral ideas matter. Accordingly, God declares “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isa 5:20).
In Theory: Interpreting the Harry Potter series
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.