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Old 08-11-2007, 08:22 AM   #1
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Default Christian themes abound in Harry Potter (warning: spoilers)

I found this fascinating; I hope my Christian friends find it as interesting as I did.

Jeffrey Weiss: Christian themes abound in Potter

Rowling's faith shines clear in final book


05:07 PM CDT on Sunday, July 29, 2007

(Spoiler alert: If you want to avoid learning anything significant, finish the book before you read this column.)


J.K. Rowling gets the last laugh on the dwindling number of conservative Christians who have attacked her "Harry Potter" saga over the past decade: The most important plot point of the seventh and final book is unambiguously Christian.

Ms. Rowling cleverly scattered so many red herrings amongst the loaves and fishes in the previous books that she made it difficult to see the trail clearly except in retrospect. The Potter story is not a linear Christian allegory, no modern day Pilgrim's Progress. And Harry's World is insistently devoid of explicit religion, right through the final chapter.

But Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows finally reveals plainly what the author had said for many years: that her Christian faith undergirds her fictional creation.

Let's build some suspense Rowling-style by first laying out the religious stuff that is not a part of Harry's World.

There is no mention of God, gods, Heaven, or Hell. There's no prayer. Deathly Hallows includes a wedding, a funeral, and the announcement of a birth. Any one of them offered Ms. Rowling the chance for a snippet of religious ritual or sacred language. None appears.

As with every other book in the series, Deathly Hallows includes Christmas with its traditions of decorations, gifts, and songs. But there is no mention of Christ ? not associated with this holiday nor anyplace else in the books.

The practice of magic continues to be as un-occult and mechanical as, say electrical engineering. Dark Arts are dark because of their effects, not because they draw from a power source that's different from the White Arts. (But Ms. Rowling never explains where the power for any magic comes from.)

There's no universal fallen-ness in need of divine redemption. After death, souls "go on." And good and evil committed in life may be linked to what happens next. But we have no more than the tiniest hint of what "next" might be.

Almost every character is revealed by the end of the final book to be a mix of good and bad, but equipped with the free will to choose a side. (The most notable exception is the totally evil Voldemort. But he's more Hitler than Satan.)

Most of the themes in Harry's saga are common to many faiths: loyalty, love, friendship, courage, maturity, sacrifice, moral judgment. Ditto for many of the symbols laced through the books. The phoenix and unicorn, for instance, were borrowed by Christians from much older cultures.

But in Deathly Hallows, the religious identity of Harry's family is made stunningly and suddenly explicit. He visits the grave of his parents, on Christmas Eve in a church-side graveyard, and reads the inscription on the headstone: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."

While Deathly Hallows does not say so, that's a quote from 1 Corinthians 15:26 (KJV), from a passage where Paul is discussing the resurrection of Jesus.

Much more essential than a New Testament quote to the Christian nature of the Potter saga, however, is a theme that Ms. Rowling introduced in the very first book: The greatest power in Harry's World turns out to be the substitutionary sacrifice of one's life, when offered only for love, and with no hope of survival.

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (bowdlerized to Sorcerer's Stone in the American editions), we're told that Harry survives because his mother, Lily, sacrifices herself for him. The act somehow confers magical protection on her infant son. But Harry's father, James, is murdered first. Why didn't his death protect his wife and child?

In a 2005 interview for two fan Web sites, Ms. Rowling explained that James was forced into a futile attempt to battle Voldemort. "But the caliber of Lily's bravery was, I think in this instance, higher because she could have saved herself."

In Deathly Hallows, the murder scene is replayed in great detail.

"Take me," Lily begs Voldemort. "Kill me instead."

This theme ? the transcendent power of the freely given supreme sacrifice? is the fulcrum upon which the final battle in Deathly Hallows turns.

Harry believes that only his demise will save his friends. Like his mother, Harry is willing to choose that death without fighting. The final battle includes death and resurrection, spiritual power carried by blood, and an apparent total loss followed by ultimate victory.

Distinctly Christian? I'd say so.

As Albus Dumbledore explains to Harry in Deathly Hallows (he remains a lively presence despite being dead): "The true master does not seek to run away from Death. He accepts that he must die and that there are far, far worse things in the living world than dying."

Ms. Rowling has been asked many times about her faith and the religious themes in her work. She said that she is Christian but "if I talk too freely about that," she told the Vancouver Sun in 2000, "I think the intelligent reader ? whether 10 or 60 ? will be able to guess what is coming in the books."

That may overstate the case a bit; her plotting was far too knotted for easy guessing. And her strongest Christian critics will probably not be mollified.

But many readers who finish the Potter saga will conclude, perhaps to their surprise, that Harry's World is at least as Christian in its essential underpinnings as is C.S. Lewis's Narnia.


Jeffrey Weiss is a religion reporter for The Dallas Morning News who had analyzed the previous books in the Potter series for religion content. His e-mail address is jweiss@dallasnews.com.
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Old 08-12-2007, 06:07 PM   #2
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Default Re: Christian themes abound in Harry Potter (warning: spoilers)

Makes sense. JK Rowling knows how to sell books, and when trying to write fiction, why not emulate and imitate the best selling piece of fiction of all time?

I'm going to get it for that one, aren't I?
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Old 08-13-2007, 12:52 AM   #3
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Default Re: Christian themes abound in Harry Potter (warning: spoilers)

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Originally Posted by revefsreleets View Post

I'm going to get it for that one, aren't I?
nah, weve heard more obscure opinions on this board, such as the bengals being superbowl bound.
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Old 08-13-2007, 12:59 AM   #4
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Default Re: Christian themes abound in Harry Potter (warning: spoilers)

The best messages are always the ones that you have to work to find.

Another example, albeit a less mainstream one, is the horrocore rap group The Insane Clown Posse. ICP was well known for their often graphic lyrics that included sex and violence. But at the end of every Joker's Card album, there was a song that made you think there might be something more to ICP than Juggalos and Faygo showers.

Then the last song the album The Wraith, ICP pulled a stunner by claiming that they had always walked with God. It shocked a lot of their fans, but there were always some of us who had taken to time to hear the lyrics instead of just listening to them and we weren't all that surprised.
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Old 08-13-2007, 04:19 PM   #5
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Default Re: Christian themes abound in Harry Potter (warning: spoilers)

What amazes me is that it took people this long to figure out that Harry Potter had a lot of Christian themes. I found them in book 1-6 too. Just because something doesn't mention the Bible or quote scripture doesn't mean it anti-christian.

Rowling does have the last laugh and I personally love it.
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Old 08-13-2007, 08:38 PM   #6
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Default Re: Christian themes abound in Harry Potter (warning: spoilers)

My best friend who is Christian thought Rowling's books were very dark sided. At least that's what she's got when my wife gave her the first 5 of Potter books few years ago. She was going to translate it into Mongolian, but she just couldn't take it (btw, her English is really good!). She's very spiritual and church going person.

I have no preference in religion and I never read it myself so I can't comment on it.
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Old 08-13-2007, 09:26 PM   #7
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Default Re: Christian themes abound in Harry Potter (warning: spoilers)

I like the way that the author lays out the case; this essay is very well done. The theme itself is powerful and enduring, to both Christians and non-Christians alike.

There are things I like and things I don't like about the Potter books, but overall I think the series is a modern classic.

Tom
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Old 08-14-2007, 05:24 PM   #8
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Default Re: Christian themes abound in Harry Potter (warning: spoilers)

Quote:
Originally Posted by tony hipchest View Post
nah, weve heard more obscure opinions on this board, such as the bengals being superbowl bound.
I'm not sure "obscure" is the right word. I'm not an atheist, but there are a couple of atheistic books that were on the NYT's best seller list in the very recent past. There are plenty of people who view the bible as fiction, and I'm one of the more benign. I think it's a useful tool, allegory, interesting stories with a moral code embedded from which many draw inspiration. In these things, it's no different than Harry Potter.
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Old 08-17-2007, 05:41 PM   #9
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Default Re: Christian themes abound in Harry Potter (warning: spoilers)


These people are Not Christians that agree with that these movies or books are like the Bible.. are you kidding me? What a Joke!!!!
Lord... As I come to you right now I ask that you please forgive me for all my sins and short comings today and just ask you Lord just to watch over my fellow forrum friends here that they will Not be Lead Astray by the satanic things.. Amen..
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Old 08-17-2007, 05:49 PM   #10
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Default Re: Christian themes abound in Harry Potter (warning: spoilers)

Nothing to see here, TexansFan....


(would hate to see this turn into a 500-600 post Judaism vs. Christianity thread)
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