I don’t know how many copies of the 7th and final volume of the Harry Potter series have been sold by now. I only know: I was one of them. And I read it already. Late on Sunday night, one day after the release, I finished the 600-page long book.
And I liked it. It was very suspenseful. In addition, the characters became much more pronounced and gained depth. I am not going to give anything away but I would like to talk about how I read Harry Potter as a Christian. I know there are quite a few people who say that all that talk about wizardry and witches should be avoided by Christians. However, I see the idea of wizards only as a tool to tell entertaining and – I believe – educating stories.
Make no mistake: Harry Potter is not a Christian book. But when I read it as a Christian I discover traits of my faith in it. Let me point that out with two examples
Sinner and Saint
In Harry Potter, only the evil is absolute evil. The good are never absolutely good. All good people have their problems and act wrongly. In some books (particularly the fifth) Harry is bad tempered and his friends are rightfully annoyed. Harry’s father James died protecting his son Harry when he was only one year old. However, as a boy he was mean to other boys and misused his wit and power to humiliate others. Even Dumbledore, the celebrated headmaster of Harry’s school, does not remain without stains. He has set the wrong priorities several times and they haunt him even after his death.
People are not good once and for all. Lutheran theology believes that we are saved not because we are always good people (we are not) but because Jesus Christ has saved us. However, there is certainly a difference to Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, emphasizes very much that the choices somebody makes define her or his life. That is not wrong. But we believe that the choice God has made in choosing us defines our life on the most basic level.
It is a recurring theme in Harry Potter how people find the strength to confront evil. How difficult that is symbolize in Harry Potter the dementors, a certain type of monster. The dementors don’t hurt the body but they suck all happiness out of human beings and leave only despair. In our reality, I know people who are despaired about all the manifestations of evil that we face: The HI-Virus for example, wars, the horrible poverty that still is not eradicated and we could continue the list. How do we get the strength not to despair but to keep working? One part of the answer has familiarities to Harry’s: Love and friendship. While Harry still has to live through the love of his parents who died defending him, we have much firmer ground. Christians can live by the love of Christ who died and rose again – for our sake.
Secondly, the Harry Potter books stress very much how important friendship is. While certainly friendship itself is crucial we also have the church as a web of support. We don’t necessarily have to be close friends to support each other.