Harry Potter and the Christian Allegory

I thought this post on Harry Potter, from popular Pagan blogger Jason Pitzl-Waters, was worth quoting in full:

Just before the final Harry Potter novel arrived in stores, I made my one and only prediction concerning the novel.

“My own (spoiler-free) prediction? I think there is a very good chance Rowling will reveal the series to be a Christian parable of sorts after the climatic ending of last book.”

While Rowling has been mostly quiet about religion and her books, it is no secret that she attends church regularly and considers herself a practicing Christian. Before the release of the last book she made it plain that there was a Christian message to be found within the series.

“…there clearly is a religious – undertone. And – it’s always been difficult to talk about that because until we reached Book Seven, views of what happens after death and so on, it would give away a lot of what was coming. So – yes, my belief and my struggling with religious belief and so on I think is quite apparent in this book … my struggle really is to keep believing.”

Now it seems that acknowledgment of the underlying Christian themes within the Harry Potter books is starting to expand from a small minority of Christian fans, and into the mainstream.

“Here’s my mea culpa: After finishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I realized the entire seven-volume story is at least as essentially Christian as C.S. Lewis’s Narnia stories. That was a bit of a shock for me, because I’ve spent a couple of years writing about how the books are devoid of anything resembling explicit religion. And I had suggested that the moral themes that some Christian authors found in the books are also found in many other religions.”

Scripps Howard religion columnist Terry Mattingly goes right to the source to point out the completely obvious nod to Christian ideas of resurrection and sacrifice.

“Harry Potter and his best friend Hermione Granger arrived in the magical town of Godric’s Hollow on a snowy Christmas Eve. Carols drifted out of the village church as they searched its graveyard for the resting place of Lily and James Potter, who were murdered by the dark Lord Voldemort. First, they found the headstone honoring the family of Albus Dumbledore, the late headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The inscription said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Then the Potter headstone proclaimed: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Harry was mystified. Was this about defeating the evil Death Eaters? “It doesn’t mean defeating death in the way the Death Eaters mean it, Harry,” said Hermione, gently. “It means … you know … living beyond death. Living after death.” For millions of religious believers who embrace Harry Potter, this pivotal scene in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” — book seven in J.K. Rowling’s giant puzzle — offers new evidence that the author is, in fact, a Church of Scotland communicant whose faith has helped shape her work. The first inscription is from St. Matthew’s Gospel and the second — stating the book’s theme — is a passage in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians about the meaning of Christ’s resurrection. Is this part of what Dumbledore had called an all-powerful “deep magic” built on sacrificial love?”

Perhaps the confusion for so long is that people focused so hard on the witches and wizards in the book that everyone assumed it was downright Pagan in orientation. Some have even themed Pagan money-making enterprises around that conceit. Or it could be that the confusion was caused by Rowling’s attempts to (perhaps clumsily) insert Christian themes in a way that wouldn’t “give away” the climax of the story.

“Wizards have godfathers, celebrate Christmas, name hospitals after saints and put quotes from the Bible on their grave stones, but they don’t have churches, vicars or Christenings and their weddings and funerals are secular affairs.”

Of course conservative Christian adversity to the books only clouded those waters, making everyone forget that one of the most famous Christian allegorical tales also involved witches, centaurs, magic, transformations, and enchanted items. Perhaps in ten years time, people will look back in wonder at all the fuss people made over the books, and everyone will just “know” that the books were written by a Christian who set out to tell a tale that included Christian themes and ideas. Harry Potter won’t be seen as a recruitment tool for Paganism (by Christians or Pagans) any more than any other imaginative work that includes fantastic elements.


And I think this nicely dove tails with a Rowling quote posted by Christian blogger Andii Bowsher:

JK Rowling was “Christian by conviction, is Christian in her mode of living, even in her way of writing.” Rowling
said as much herself in an interview with Vancouver Sun in 2000. It
“seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought
there was no God,” she commented, and added that it suited her not
discuss her faith too freely because, otherwise, “I think the
intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s
coming in the books.”


And note, we still haven’t openly spoiled the climax yet (which you’ll have to read for yourselves). With those sort of media comments I wonder if the tipping point is being reached where the anti-Potter boycotts are starting to look decidedly like a home goal against Christianity as well as a misdirected attack against Paganism, even to the most symbolically illiterate. About time some roses were smelt eh?

Related posts (included spoilers):

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and Witchcraft

Mike Stygal Interview: Understanding Paganism

Demonic Paranoia as Undiagnosed Culture Shock

Elsewhere on the web:


Can You Use Harry Potter to Share the Gospel?

by Connie Neal

6 thoughts on “Harry Potter and the Christian Allegory

  1. What’s so funny is that moderns don’t understand their science as the triumph of alchemy.
    Because it’s devoid of ‘spirit,’ the Church didn’t see any real competition.
    But we are now wizards turning reality into what we want.
    What the Church has always disliked about ‘pagans’ is their profession of being able to control spiritual reality better than Christians.
    It turns out that both Christians and pagans have been usurped by science. And both struggle to keep their versions of reality alive.
    Perhaps Rowling’s tale is more about the re-inspiration of modern life when so few have any real experience outside of the magic of the marketplace.

    Like

  2. On the contrary, it’s been said by others that Rowling represents the disenchantment of magic, given it operates so mechanically in her universe.
    As for Christians and pagans struggling to keep their versions of reality alive, would you include animism / shamanism within that?

    Like

  3. Quite true. Potter represents the human urge to control everything.
    Yes, things look rather bleak trying to keep a spiritual version of reality alive for everyone.
    But it will all come together in the end, as get connected. Everyone has their special gifts to contribute when it has to be realized that reality is more than just human consciousness and matter.

    Like

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