Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Harry Potter - a Christian book after all!

Okay - Harry Potter has been out for over two weeks so I feel okay I posting this now. WARNING - there are spoilers in this post if you haven't read it yet.

Harry Potter books are Christian fiction! I don't mean the soppy, sentimental, preachy, formulaic drivel that is often published. I mean writing in the tradition of Graham Greene, Flannery O'Connor, Dorothy L Sayers, J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis. Writing with learning, depth, spiritual insights and the thread of biblical truth running throughout.

I remember when the first HP movie came out there was this strange furore. At my church I remember this tape by some preacher being hawked around warning Christian parents of the evils of the Hogwarts bunch. As I later discovered when reading it for myself it was a wonderful example of how to take book quotes out of context to prove a groundless point. After reading the first two books to find out what all the fuss was about, I then ready the last five for the sheer pleasure of a great story reasonably well written. And with the release of the last HP book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the Christian undercurrent that I suspected all along has burst out into the story.

There was one of the finest article on this posted last week by a guy called Jerry Bowyer, Harry Potter and the Fire Breathing Fundamentalists. I ought to emphasise that he is looking at the references in both Scripture and Christian art throughout the centuries, so this probably won't all convince the fire-breathers of his title. He puts the case well for a Christian basis to the books including:

  • Harry as a type of Prince Harry/Henry V - the archetypal Christian king.
  • Harry as a type of King Arthur - his upbringing, the wizard guide, the sword from the lake etc.
  • The battle with the Basilisk in Chamber of Secrets as a type of the descent into Hell by Christ, and of the crushing of the serpents head foretold in Genesis.
  • The 'expecto patronum' spell literally means 'I look for the Saviour', and Harry Patronus is a Stag, a common symbol of Christ in medieval art.

This really became so obvious in Deathly Hallows when Harry goes as a willing sacrifice to die, and then returns from the place of the dead he goes to (called King's Cross), following which Voldemort's curses no longer have any power over him. This fulfills the scripture from 1 Corinthians quoted earlier in the book, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death".

For those who wonder if this is all intentional, this quote from J K Rowling when asked is she was a Christian herself should end any argument:

"Yes I am. Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.”

After laying this out, Bowyer makes this devastating comment:

I think the problem is that so much of the religious right failed to see the Christianity in the Potter novels because it knows so little Christianity itself. Yes, there are a few ‘memory verses’ from Saint Paul, and various evangelical habits like the ‘sinner’s prayer’ and the alter call. However the gospel stories themselves, the various metaphors and figures of the Law and the Prophets, and their echoes down through the past two millennia of Christian literature and art are largely unknown to vast swaths of American Christendom, including its leaders.

I can't really add any more.

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