Harry Potter and the Christian Allegory

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 7, 2007 — 4 Comments

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.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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