Feature

Harry Potter

Touched by the divine?

'œI had never read a Harry Potter book until three months ago,' said Jeff Diamant in the Toronto Star. But an editor asked me, as a religion writer, to plow through the entire series in conjunction with the release of the seventh and final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Now I've come to understand why author J.K. Rowling has sold more books than any writer in history. More than a mere fantasy series about wizardry, Potter is essentially spiritual in nature'”an exploration of the age-old themes of suffering and death, love and redemption. Harry himself is quite clearly a Christ figure, locked in a mythic struggle against the satanic Lord Voldemort. You don't have to look hard to find plenty of Christian symbolism, said author John Killinger in Beliefnet.com. In his battle against evil, Harry is equipped with magic powers, yet he's also all too human (a muggle). In the end, Harry sacrifices himself to save the world, and is reborn. Sound familiar?

Oh, please, said Richard Abanes, also in Beliefnet.com. Yes, like Jesus, Harry is singled out for a great purpose, and endures terrible ordeals along the way. But so did Robin Hood, Luke Skywalker, and myriad other heroes in popular fiction. Harry's 'œselfishness, disregard for authority, and 'end justifies the means' mentality' mark him as a willful teenager interested only in saving his friends, not in redeeming mankind. In fact, 'œif you want to know who dies in Harry Potter, the answer is easy,' said Lev Grossman in Time. 'œIt's God.' Harry's world is utterly devoid of any kind of religion or spirituality. When confronted by great evil, the kid doesn't pray, or seem to think there's anyone worth praying to. His is a secular sorcery 'œin which psychology and technology have superseded the sacred.'

Many Christian believers beg to differ, said Patrick White in the Toronto Globe and Mail. Various church groups in England and on this side of the Atlantic are using Harry to teach important lessons to children about temptation, sin, and related biblical themes. As an evangelical and a mom, said Ruth Ann Dailey in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I find the Potter books to be deeply moral. Harry and his friends discover that life is essentially a contest between good and evil, and that every one of us must choose a side. Choosing to oppose evil comes at great cost, but as Harry's all-knowing mentor Dumbledore once assured him, in the end, 'œevil can't stand up to love.' That's a message any Christian can support.

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