I recently talked about how I was appalled that certain Christians, such as those at Reformation Nation, are STILL saying Harry Potter is nothing more but a pagan novel about the occult. But rather than continue to harp on what they have wrote, I invite the people there to come here and begin a discussion on the theological elements at work in the Harry Potter series. I hope that those at Reformation Nation, and others found here, will come off their high horses and discuss with me here why they think Harry Potter is so offensive. To cover all of the theological elements in Harry Potter is impossible, so I will only cover one chapter entitled “The Lost Prophecy,” from Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix where I think we can see clearly Rowling’s purposes in writing these powerful books. Before you begin, however, one should read this interview with Rowling from TIME Magazine.
In it, we finally find out why Voldermort is after Harry Potter. Potter’s parents were killed by the evil wizard Voldermort, and Dumbledore, finally, will tell Harry Voldermort’s weakness and Dumbledore’s plan:
“But I knew too where Voldermort was weak, and so I made my decision. You would be protected by an ancient magic of which he knows, which he despises, and which he has always therefore, underestimated–to his own cost. I am speaking, of course that your mother died to save you. She gave you a lingering protection he never expected, a protection that flows in his brain to this day. I put my trust, therefore, in your mother’s blood. I delivered you to her sister, her only remaining relative.”
Magic is the sort of thing that American Christians do not understand because we have put all our faith in science. We pray to ask that the spirit would guide the doctors rather than praying for divine intervention. Church leaders quickly condemned Harry Potter because of their aversion to the “idea” of magic rather than a geniune fear of magic. Christians often forget that Jesus did majgic–a magic that we call miracles–because his life-blood was intimately connected to the spirit of Yahweh. It is a spirit that evil nations have “underestimated”–much “to their own cost.”
Rowling seems to understand magic better than most people who opposed the book in this regard.The problem, however, is that Dumbledore has always been a bit of an enigma to allegorize. In the present chapter, Dumbledore openly admits the mistakes he has made in regards to Sirius (who just recently died). Dumbledore keeps alluding to a fatal “flaw” in his plan. And what was that flaw?”I cared about you too much,” said Dumbledore simply. “I cared more for your happiness than your knowing truth, more for your peace of mind that for my plan, more for your life than for the lives that might be lost if the plan failed.”
Dumbledore is clearly a wise and powerful wizard, but equating him to God (as some have tried to do in allegorizing the tale) is quite a stretch if we are speaking of the Christian God. In this instance, we might view him as the evangelical church who has become so blinded by love that they have forgotten the greater plan. Rowling praises love in other places, and Dumbledore’s hope in Harry obviously stems from the love he has for him, but love without truth, according to Rowling, is empty love. What a shot at the evangelical church (that even John MacArthur would agree with)!
But what is this “plan” that Dumbledore is attempting to unfold to Harry? First, it is not accident that Harry’s scar (as a result of being attacked by Voldermort as a baby) is referred to as a “curse”–reminiscent of Genesis 3. In a moment that should have been joyous–name the creation of a son–a curse is brought down by Voldermort when he kills Harry’s parents and attempts to kill Harry (but fails). This is surely something that is familiar and truthful to Christians. We have, from birth, (not through any fault of our own) have been born into a world of evil and sin. But Christians also know this is not the end of the “plan.”
Dumbledore goes on to speak of an age-old prophecy that suggests:”The one with power to vanquish the dark lord approaches…he will have power the dark lord knows not…and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives…the one with power to vanquish the dark lord will be born as the seventh month dies…” Dumbledore goes on to explain that Harry, through his circumstances and the choice of Voldermort (who himself attempts to extinguish the prophecy in Herodian fashion), fulfills the prophecy. After this Dumbledore makes one final comment to end the chapter:”I feel I owe you another explanation, Harry,” said Dumbledore hesitantly. “You may, perhaps, have wondered why I never chose you as a prefect? I must confess that I thought you had enough responsibility to be going with.”Harry looked up at him and saw a tear trickling down Dumbledore’s face. In other words, Rowling is reminding us of a father’s love for a son. Harry, in my opinion, is not meant to be a “literal” Christ-figure in the books, and Dumbledore is not meant to be a “God the Father” figure guiding Harry. Rowling was not attempting to recreate a Chronicles of Narnia type allegory.
There are remnants of allegory, but she is really attempting to write, both satirically through other characters and quite seriously in the the case of Harry and Dumbledore, real life stories. This is why, in the seventh book, she will note the many shortcomings of Dumbledore’s youht–not unlike Job’s confession of the sins of his own youth in the book of Job. Rowling did a good job of building up Dumbledore in the story and then making you think twice in the seventh book by questioning the character that you have grown to love. Such characters are in the Bible as well. The author of 1 Samuel does an amazing job of making us like Saul a lot before showing us his many weaknesses later on in the story. While Dumbledore is redeemed more than Saul in Rowling’s story, it is a stern reminder that we must think twice before we put too much faith in humanity as if to say, look at your own pastors and leaders in your community, and you will find even the most righteous have their faults.
But Dumbledore’s hope is not in himself, but that an average kid like Harry Potter can stand up even to the greatest evil of all.There is a deep hope in the Potter series from those who have already lived a long life to put hope in a new generation that rise to meet the challenges of evil in their present world. Rowling, speaking through Dumbledore, is reminding us that we can act as Christ acted in our own world if we get beyond our own adolescent obsession with self. We have to look beyond ourselves to a plan greater than empty love–to a love that will truly sacrifice everything and rise again–as Harry Potter later exemplifies in the seventh book.Such things are distinctly Christian, and Rowling has admitted so. I have made my case. Now I would appreciate them to make theirs so that we can begin an effective dialogue on the subject.