Harry Potter and Christianity
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
Should Christians Read the Harry Potter books?
It’s a touchy subject, and there are people of good will on both sides of this issue.
The main issue that most Christians who object to the stories have is the way that magic is used in the stories, and I addressed that in the first post in this series, Harry Potter and Magic, and will address it again in the last three posts: Harry Potter and the Exorcists, Harry Potter and Fairy Tales, and Magic in Fantasy Fiction.
Sometimes the objections are that there are problems with the morality, and that these stories are inappropriate for Christians, or even just very bad spiritually.
Getting Away with Evil in Harry Potter
Sometimes people who haven’t read the books or seen the movies repeat horrific examples of evil in the stories (I’m not linking to them), some even claim that characters in the stories are worshiping demons. The problem with those examples is that there are no demons in any of the stories or movies.
Since that can’t possibly be a valid reason for criticizing the stories, the claim that this is happening is complete nonsense (which is why I’m not linking to those critics).
The other reason that I’ve often heard is that Harry and his friends break the rules and get away with it all the time.
First, "getting away with" something would mean that there are no consequences for the action. That’s definitely not the case with Harry. Sometimes he’s ostracized by his friends, and sometimes he’s ostracized by the entire school.
When he talks to the teachers at the school, they don't react well.
They avoid him (Dumbledore), accuse him of lying (Snape), or dismiss his concerns (Hagrid, McGonagall), the way that some adults do to children in real life.
The problem with this is something that I think J.K. Rowling is trying to point out to her readers.
Harry finds out towards the beginning of the first book that his parents stood up to evil. Later, he also discovers that the reason they died is because of their refusal to either placate or give in to evil.
It’s a powerful lesson to learn, especially for an 11-year-old boy, and he takes that lesson to heart throughout the series. Each time Harry's is faced with Voldemort (who killed his parents), he makes the same choice that his parents did.
Why does he have to do this?
He's just a kid, so why aren't the adults around him protecting the children and taking their concerns seriously?
In every single book in the series, the reason that Harry and his friends disobey teachers and/or parents is because the adults around them have abdicated their responsibilities towards the children under their care, and turned a blind eye to evil.
When people complain about the actions that Harry takes, I think they’re missing this point.
It’s because Harry stands up to evil, and encourages others—whether by example or through exhortation—to join him in that fight, that he becomes a hero.
Morality in Harry Potter
What Would You Expect to Find in a Christian Story?
Jesus as a character?
That makes for a really boring story if it’s fiction, because nothing on earth can completely portray an accurate image of God.
Any attempts to do so by their very nature provide a watered-down version of Him; partly because He is not a fictional character, and partly because all you would get is the author’s very (and necessarily) limited idea of God.
Mostly, it’s because only God can fully comprehend God.
That’s why the better stories use symbols to point to God instead of having Him as a character.
The symbols point to specific aspects of Him, and engage our imagination, while also teaching us to recognize God’s work in all things that are created.
C.S. Lewis uses the character of Aslan as an image of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, but even Aslan is only a symbol for some aspects of Jesus. Trying to make Aslan an exact representation of Jesus will very quickly become a problem.
Jesus rose from the dead under His own power, and He conquered death itself; Aslan came back to life because of the “deeper magic” which caused time itself to work backwards.
Harry goes through trial after trial in every single book. He doesn’t always choose wisely in the stories; in fact, he makes a LOT of mistakes and does stupid things, and sometimes his ego becomes over-inflated.
But by the end of each book he has overcome the obstacles that he faced in that book, learned to choose good over evil, and to fight for the good even when it’s difficult to do so.
Morality is part of how we live out our faith. It’s based on reason and guided by revelation.
So Are the Stories Christian, or Anti-Christian?
If you’ve read the series, you may have seen the Christian elements and symbols in the first 6 books.
If you didn’t, you definitely did--or should have--in the last book.
The last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is where Rowling takes a big bat labeled, “Christianity,” and beats her readers over the head with it from beginning to end.
The villain, Voldemort, is associated with the serpent in Genesis 3:15. In the opening scene, he kills Charity (literally), and proceeds to destroy everything in his way.
He takes control of children’s education away from their parents, and persecutes and kills anyone who fights against him.
You know what's really interesting?
Rowling told her readers that he would do all of that, in the very first book!
What About Harry?
Harry, who has gone through trial after trial in the series, becomes the Christ figure in the end. Just like in many fairy tales, he’s not actually Jesus, but he does “take up his cross and follow” in the footsteps of Christ.
This is why he’s able to vanquish evil and destroy the serpent in the end. In the book, Rowling makes it clear that Harry is choosing good, and it’s through that choice of good over evil that he is able to crush the head of the serpent.
He chooses of his own free will to act in imitation of Christ, and is willing to die so that everyone else might live.
When he faces Voldemort in their final battle, Harry is fully aware of the evil that Voldemort has consistently chosen throughout his life, but Harry still offers him mercy and the chance to repent.
That is why at the end, Harry has become a symbol of Christ, and a Christian hero.
List of Posts in the "Harry Potter and..." Series:
Harry Potter and Christianity (this post)