I guess, if I were a real Harry Potter fan I would have done a 7 part blog series, provided that part 7 was a two part post. But I just don’t have 7 (8) parts worth of things to say. So as the poster says, “it all ends”… here, with part 3 of my blog series examining Harry Potter from a Christian perspective.
In part 1, I fought to redeem the Harry Potter series back from it’s place of controversy among Christians. Harry Potter is not the devil, and we should not be afraid to enjoy it. Working from that assumption, I wrote part 2 of the series, where I outlined how we may glorify God through our entertainment choices in general, and Harry Potter specifically.
Originally, parts 1 and 2 were intended to be two or three short paragraphs at the beginning of what has become the final part of the blog series, but I realized that 3 1000-word posts would be easier to swallow than 1 3000-word post. So now, finally, we’ve reached the end, the part of the series where we get to dip into the world of Harry Potter at various points throughout the books and movies in order to uncover truth that is ready to be found.
I want to start by explaining what this blog post will not be.
Several years ago, before I discovered the joys of Amazon.com, I came across a series of books at my local Christian book store that had titles like, Finding God in Star Wars/Lord of the Rings/etc. These books were aimed at putting the Bible into works of fiction. In other words, they spiritualized the stories and stretched the boundaries of acceptable interpretations of Scripture in order to make Christians feel ok about enjoying things that are “secular”. Respectfully, I think that this is lazy and unhelpful in teaching Christians to properly enjoy and consider those things that are not expressly Christian.
Instead, I want us to approach the Harry Potter series with this simple phrase in mind:
All truth is God’s truth
This is a helpful phrase because it assumes, first, that there are true things and untrue things, and second, that any time we see truth, we can and should attribute it to God, for as we are told in Scripture, God is truth (John 14:6), truth is found in Him (Ephesians 4:21), and all that is true comes through Him (John 1:17). Everything true comes from God, therefore, when we see truth in things that the world produces, we can rejoice in the fact that God uses any and all means to communicate His truth to the world.
With that, I want to look at some of the places where Harry Potter gets God’s truth right, as well as a few places where it’s blatantly wrong, yet still provides us with much from which to learn.
Oh yeah, and there may be spoilers, so read carefully.
Of all the themes in Harry Potter, the theme of friendship is most prevalent from beginning to end. From the first meeting of our three heroes, Harry, Ron, and Hermione, we know that they were meant to develop a deep and lasting love for one another, and as the series progresses, and the stakes get higher and higher, their level of commitment to one another rises to the challenge and succeeds in the end. They are compassionate toward one another. They are at times, brutally honest with each other. And they are always faithful to each other.
Their friendship stands in stark contrast to the sort of friendships we develop in our technologically saturated age. So many of us gauge our friends by our facebook friend count or whether we share similar interests. Rarely are our friendships built around a fierce commitment to the Lord and to one another. Scripture’s words on friendship are mirrored much clearer in the story of Harry, Ron, and Hermione than in many of the friendships that we have with people in our own churches. Their friendship looks more like that of David and Jonathan or Paul and Barnabas.
We should take this as a serious challenge to change. Harry, Ron, and Hermione may share a deep love for one another. They may be united in their fight against the forces of evil. But we share Christ! We share in the glories of heaven, the riches of our inheritance as children of God, yet we have few, if any real friends with whom we truly live life together. Our friendships should inspire the ones of which we read in stories! We are to be the friends of which Proverbs 18:24 speaks:
there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
For Christ is that friend to us, and we are to imitate Him.
Closely tied to the theme of friendship is the theme of love. This theme begins to take shape in the story of Harry Potter as we learn more about his parent’s death. As the series begins, we know only that Voldemort, the powerful dark lord, killed them but was unable to kill Harry. Instead, Harry becomes “the boy who lived” the only person to have escaped the “killing curse” with nothing but his trademark lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. As the story moves forward, we discover that Harry’s survival was a direct result of his mother’s love for him. You see, Harry was the real target of Voldemort’s attack and Harry’s mother Lily died protecting him from death. She laid down his life for him and he lived because of it.
I am going to resist giving away a huge piece of the story away, but this theme of self-sacrificing love continues to remain prominent throughout the series. Time and time again, those fighting against Voldemort continue to risk their lives for their friends, often dying so that others might live.
Now, this is not a unique theme to Harry Potter. Story after story over the centuries have been told of those who lay down their lives for their friends. It is one of the most recurring themes in great literature and popular entertainment. There is something irresistible about those willing to lay down their lives for others.
Why would we continue to see this theme play out again and again? Because God’s most glorious gift to man is the story of God laying his life down for us. Even those who rebel against God cannot escape the overwhelming attractiveness of self-sacrificing love. It’s as if 1 John 3:16 is mysteriously written on our hearts:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
Self-sacrificing love is found in the pages of Harry Potter because it is written into the fabric of creation, and for those who have been redeemed, God graciously gives us glimpses of it everywhere, that we might not forget the lengths to which God went to bring back His lost sheep.
Good and Evil
There are few things more satisfying than a story in which the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, and Harry Potter has that in spades. In modern entertainment, there seems to be an overabundance of “grey” characters, those who seem to be good, but just barely. For some reason, those characters are attractive. I can name too many movies that feature “good guys” who are at least as bad as those who are portrayed as the “bad guys.” But in Harry Potter, that line is clear. Harry’s team is the good team, and Voldemort’s team is the evil team. There are those who’s allegiances are questioned, but in the end, pretty much everyone is clearly on one side or the other.
There is, however, a major flaw in the “good and evil” theme that is made evident in a conversation in the fifth installment of the series Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. As Harry is recognizing more and more the deep connection he has with Voldemort, he begins to wonder whether he himself is becoming bad. In one of the best scenes from any of the films, Harry explains this dilemma to his god-father Sirius Black, a man who’s allegiances are questioned numerously, though his intentions are always for the good. Harry confesses his deep feelings of anger and his fear that he may turn out to be bad, and in response to this, Sirius tells Harry:
You are not a bad person. You are a very good person to whom bad things have happened. The world isn’t separated into good people and death-eaters (servants of Voldemort). We all have both light and darkness in us. It’s the part that we act on that determines our destiny
Those are kind words to be sure. But as I read scripture, I see a strikingly different story. We’re told in Isaiah 64:6 that even our best deeds are good for nothing but the garbage and Romans 3:12 says that no one does good. But the most telling words come from Ephesians 2:1-3 which says:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
We do not have good in us. We cannot choose to act on the good. And even the good deeds we do are marred by our sinful natures. But God has made a way for us to walk in the light. Through Christ, we have been made alive again, seated with him in heaven and freed to fight against the evil that surrounds us. This evil is not flesh and blood, but the powers of evil in the heavenly places, a real, true, dangerous, evil.
This is something that the world does not understand. God is the only one who is truly good, and He is the only one who can make us good as well. We don’t choose it, we simply turn and trust in Him to save us out of death and bring us to life in Christ. Harry Potter gets this wrong, but it helps us understand how we should be thinking about the world, and when we spot these inconsistencies we are reminded of how many people so desperately need the gospel.
The Hard Way
Finally, I want to close with a few comments about my favorite quote from the whole Harry Potter series. In the fourth film, Professor Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts, the school that Harry attends, is helping Harry process through the dangers that await him in his near future. In the course of the conversation, he says these words:
Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.
The applications of this quote are many, but what it reminds me of most is the fact that we who trust in Christ are not called to a life of ease. We are called into a spiritual battle, in which there have been many casualties. We are told that we will suffer in one way or another, and that through our suffering, our faith will be perfected (James 1:2-4). We are not called to a life of health and wealth, but a war-time life, where the stakes are infinitely higher than any movie storyline, and the rewards are greater still. But where Harry had to trust in his own strength and the strength of his friends to win the day, we serve a God who has already won. Death is defeated, sin has been crushed, and life has been given to all who put their hope in the Lord!
With that, I leave you with a short and very funny video made by people who have way too much time on their hands: