I think those two particular quotations [1 Corinthians 15:26, Matthew 6:21] he [Harry Potter] finds on the tombstones at Godric’s Hollow, they sum up — they almost epitomize the whole series.
Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. he didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mother’s for you leaves its own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign…to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrell, full of hatred, greed, and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.
-Professor Dumbledore to Harry Potter, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”
When I read that paragraph in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone*, I wondered again what all the fuss was about with Christians and Harry Potter. I was reading the book because of the number of Christians who had told me it was evil despite never having read the book.
*I prefer to call it that instead of Sorcerer’s Stone since that’s what JK Rowling prefers.
It’s not often I accept Evangelical Christians fears at face value. They always seem a bit ridiculous. Whether it is President Obama being a closet Muslim, the show Touched By An Angel being cancelled for its religious storylines, or Pokemon* being demonic.
*In January 2000, I was leading a team of college age students on a ministry trip in Wisconsin. During one of our long drives, I heard the students talking about how Pokemon was evil. None of them could explain why it was evil. The next time we fueled up the van, I bought a pack of Pokemon cards. I showed them off in the van, and there was responses of, “Those are evil!” I asked how they were evil. Multiple people told me, “Because Dobson says they are.” Again, I asked how they were evil, and none could respond.
I know I had seen the books at Barnes & Noble, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2000 that I really noticed the books everywhere at the store. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released that July, and I saw stacks upon stacks of Potter books.
It was also around this time that I started to hear how evil the books were. I heard how the author, JK Rowling, was leading kids into the occult. The complaints were standard Christian bullet points as to why they were evil. And, inevitably, it made a majority of the Christians making the complaints look out of touch and hypocritical. Often they were just regurgitating someone else’s viewpoint on the matter, someone who hadn’t read the book in a majority of the cases.
Like with Pokemon, my interest with Harry Potter was piqued. I then saw the teaser trailer for the first film and that added to my interest. I wanted to read the book before the movie came out. I bought the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, sometime in 2001. I didn’t start reading it right away, though. It was later in the year, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, that I read it. I can’t recall why I picked it up then to read, but I did. I finished it in roughly a week. Here’s part of a journal entry of mine, from September 21, 2001, about the book:
I do not consider it demonic, but rather entertaining. After further review, Christians hyped up the bad aspects, if you can call those aspects bad. They also downplayed the good. I think it to be an incredibly well-written story for children that would draw them into reading more and more. It opens up the imagination, and with a parent there to guide them, that can’t be such a bad thing…I can’t believe people are in disarray over this book. No wonder the church is fractured and not reaching the world.
I was a bit guarded at first, but I truly enjoyed the book. That fall, Jana and I were on tour with Twila Paris* and I bought the available paperbacks of Harry Potter to read. Many late nights on the tour bus I’d be in my bunk plowing through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and then Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. And when the soundtrack to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released I bought it and listen to it as I fell asleep.
PERSON: Harry Potter is evil because it has wizards and witches.
ME: Have you read the book?
ME: Do you like Lord of the Rings*?
PERSON: Oh yes. It was written by a Christian, you know.
ME: Do you like Star Wars?
PERSON: Of course! I grew up with Star Wars.
ME: Do you like The Wizard of Oz**?
PERSON: What a classic.
ME: Do you see how you’re being inconsistent?
*I’d never heard of Christians speak of J.R.R. Tolkien or “Lord of the Rings” until it made a billion dollars at the box office. You did not see it at Christian bookstores until then either.
**If I know the person well enough, I’ll throw in a classic Disney movie, or something else, that I know will trip up their logic.
It’s funny to me how attitudes can change on a topic. People can justify their likes and dislikes with ease and not even be consistent toward other things they like or dislike.
|Jana and I at the midnight release party. I’m channeling Harry Potter with the glasses and Quidditch broomstick. Jana has her wand at the ready like Hermion Granger.|
As the theater went dark for Part 1, and when the movie titles came up, the theater was almost deafening. Most emotional scenes were responded to appropriately, with clapping or screams. Even the death that marks the end of Part 1 was responded to by everyone. It was silent. The only time that was the case the six plus hours I was in the theater.
Part 1 ended and we had a thirty minute intermission till Part 2. Two guys, one dressed as Dumbledore and the other as Lucius Malfoy, put on an impromptu play. The staff tried to get them to stop, but gave up.
The theater went dark, we put on our 3D glasses, and the show started immediately. It was a fast paced two hours. I was a bit surprised how quickly it went to the battle at Hogwarts, but grateful the movie spent a majority of its time there. It wasn’t just the ending to the movie, but to the series. Thankfully, the producers did the exact opposite of the producers of Heroes and its season one finale.
For many younger than me, the movie’s end, the series end, marked the end of their youth. Understandable. I didn’t have that experience with the film, having just turned 35, but was a bit sad that it did end. It’s been nearly ten years since I first immersed myself into the Harry Potter world. Ten years of enjoyment through books, films, soundtracks, conversations and experiences. However, I know the memories from the series will continue. I’ll be enjoying it for years and years to come. I look forward to reading it to my children, and, if I’m lucky, to my grandchildren. The end of the series does not the bring to end the Harry Potter universe and its fans. I look forward to experiencing more with Harry Potter in the future.