[Clickworthy] Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me

C.S. Lewis had some strange theological ideas. I still read and love his work. George MacDonald was a universalist. His book are still instructive and beautiful. Tolkien had his own theological failings. After watching the fiery debate over the Harry Potter books, I wonder if any novel, Christian or otherwise, could withstand the theological nitpicking that’s been inflicted on Rowling, either in the work itself or the author’s worldview.

Andrew Peterson’s exploration of spirituality – even overt Christianity – and Harry Potter isn’t necessarily a new thing. But his post on The Rabbit Room blog is quite poignant, conversational, and, given the historic weekend Potter’s final chapter is having at the box office, clickworthy.

Peterson makes an argument that has long been made of mainstream literature and film – that parallels to the story of Christ can be made and should be enjoyed by those who hold the beliefs. I’ve seen creative uses of The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, and countless other films in the context of a sermon. I once used the Harry Potter book series in a speaking appearance of my own. Are they intentionally, explicitly “Christian” works? Not at all. But they still reflect the story in which so many place their hope. As Peterson explains:

Let me be clear: Harry Potter is NOT Jesus. This story isn’t inspired, at least not in the sense that Scripture is inspired; but because I believe that all truth is God’s truth […] I have the freedom to rejoice in the Harry Potter story, because even there, Christ is King. Wherever we see beauty, light, truth, goodness, we see Christ. Do we think him so small that he couldn’t invade a series of books about a boy wizard? Do we think him cut off from a story like this, as if he were afraid, or weak, or worried?

I have always held the same impression of music. Songs mean different things to different listeners, approaching the creative work with different experiences and beliefs. Artists will tell you it’s one of their favorite things about making music – that their art can be interpreted so many different ways. There are many songs in my library that I interpret as having spiritual lyrics (as the mocking statement goes, replace “baby” with “Jesus” and you’ve written a Christian song). When I worked in Christian radio, I loved being able to place those songs in the context of a faith-filled playlist. It added (badly needed) variety, and perhaps accentuated the message I perceived.

So, what do you think? Are people of faith misguided when they attempt to draw parallels between their own source of salvation and a movie or book that may, or may have not intended such a meaning? Should the parallels be used to teach others, even if the other portions of the work arguably depart from the message of the faith?

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5 thoughts on “[Clickworthy] Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me”

  1. I’m not familiar with Harry Potter, but I agree with you generally. Some people didn’t like “Superman Returns,” because “it makes Superman out to be Jesus.” Such a takeaway is really misguided, though.

  2. You prove true the criticism that Christians don’t understand art when you say that Christians shouldn’t view works in this way. But also be sure not to stretch the metaphor where it does not or should not be. Not everything in Narnia is meant to be Christian and Lewis actually wrote letters to the contrary. He said that we limit the literature when we view it only in this thing is Christian. But if even a story of a teenage wizard shows us a better picture (shadow in the platonic sense) of Christ, how could I be anything but in full support?

  3. I think anything that can help make an abstract concept more clear and accessible is fair game. Many people have a hard time wrapping their minds around the message and character of Christ, particularly the first time they hear it. If drawing parallels to something familiar helps a person deepen their understanding, then I think that’s reason enough to do it.

    I see this kind of thing with my three year old daughter all the time- she’ll come up to me and say something like “your hair’s brown like Emily’s dog is brown, and my hair is brown but not like that.” She’s telling me that she is beginning to understand shades and the complexities of the word “brown,” but she doesn’t know how to express it like that. Baby Christians’ understanding is often the same way- they may be beginning to understand God’s unconditional love for his children, but may only be able to express that in terms of Harry’s mom willingly giving up her life to save him (or whatever the parallels are, I haven’t really looked in to that).

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