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.
-JK Rowling

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.

*Being on tour deserves its own post. I will say I don’t advise going on tour if you just got married.
I enjoyed the first two books, but when I read Prisoner of Azkaban I began to adore the series. The twists and turns, the emotional highs and lows, had me hooked.
I started to tell others about my enjoyment in reading the books. This led to a lot of bewildered looks and conversations about the series. Some people were surprised by my description of the books and intrigued to read them. The others I talked to about the books? Let me simplify 99% of the discussions I’ve ever had with people who are anti-Harry Potter.

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.

In 2003, I waited eagerly for the release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. So much so that when Jana and I adopted an abandoned kitten we found on a dirt road, a month before the book’s release, I decided to call her Phoenix.* 
*Jana and I tell most people that Phoenix is an appropriate name since she rose out of the dirt and ash to live. This is true, and I like the symbolism. It’s easier than explaining that Phoenix was on my mind because of the book.
When the Barnes & Noble I frequented advertised a midnight release for the book, I was all over it. Thankfully, Jana was game for it. A friend of ours tagged along for a little while and was dumbfounded by Barnes & Noble being overrun by people waiting to buy a so-called children’s book. There were activities, showings of the first two films, and people all over talking Potter.
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.
Midnight came, and I got my copy. I headed home with Jana to read. I started reading, but Jana highly encouraged me to go to sleep. She knew I would’ve read the rest of the night and into the next night. I went to bed, slept, woke up, got out of bed, picked up Order of the Phoenix, and started to read. Early on, when I started to read, my cat Phoenix jumped on my shoulder and peered down at the book. She was on my shoulder for awhile as I read.
800 plus pages of Harry Potter goodness, and I tore through it quickly. There weren’t a lot of highlights in 2003, but one of them was Harry Potter. I enjoyed reading the book, but was always a bit sad by the end. I wanted the next Harry Potter release. I never had to wait long.
We moved to Omaha in early 2004, and almost every year since then brought a new Harry Potter release.
2004 – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
2005 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
2005 – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film)
2007 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
2007 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
2009 – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)
2010 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (film)
2011 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (film)
I would get Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows at midnight release parties. How committed was I? The release for Deathly Hallows happened while I was at a workshop in Seattle. I got online to find the closest bookstore, to where I’d be in Seattle, that was doing a midnight release. I pre-ordered a book from the store so I could pick it up while in Seattle. When the workshop let out for the day, I went to Borders and hung out there for six hours until the book was released. Sitting amongst people dressed as wizards and whomping willows, I did a lot of writing and more.* Flying home from Seattle was a blast as a number of us Harry Potter fans were reading Deathly Hallows on the flights. We’d talk about what we had read so far, and what we thought about the series in general.
I finished the book and was pleased. For once, something had not only met, but exceeded the insame amount of hype leveled its way. Deathly Hallows was pitch-perfect. Oh yes, like any Potter fan I could find something to quibble about with it, but it was a fantastic end to the series. The epilogue being the perfect coda.
When it was announced that the final Harry Potter film would be split in two, I was excited and relieved. I think the biggest annoyance with the films for fans have been scenes and details that we hold dear not make the final cut.* Deathly Hallows is so rich that it would’ve been a joke to try and keep it confined to one film.
*I’m looking at you, Alfonso Cuarón.
Last week, I had the chance to see both parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows back to back. It’s the way to see the films. When I first had the opportunity, I pre-ordered tickets to the Harry Potter experience. At 9 PM, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, and then at midnight Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. It’s not often anymore that Jana and I go to the theater to see films, so when we do we try to make sure it will be worth the trek. We didn’t have to worry with this.
Jana and I showed up at AMC Oakview and it was bursting at the seams with fans dressed as all sorts of Harry Potter characters. The lines waiting to get seats in the theaters snaked through the lobby, down the halls, and into the recesses of the place.
Looking around at everyone I realized I was older than 95% of the people there.* Did I care? Not at all. I felt joy. I was excited to watch the last Harry Potter film with fellow fanatics. We were seated and then the wait began for the films. Jana sat next to a young girl on a date. She was dressed as Dobby, and he was dressed as Harry Potter.
The excitement was palpable inside the theater. Every now and then there’d be random screams and squealing. One of my thoughts? This must be a snippet of what it’s like at a Justin Bieber concert. Jana mentioned it was worse at the premiere of the recent Twilight movie.

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.

The movie ended, and it couldn’t have been a better ending. And that was it. Jana and I sat through the credits to enjoy the score, and to see if chance there’d be something at the end. I thought the film, Parts 1 and 2, were the best of the series.

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.

After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.
-Professor Dumbledore to Harry Potter, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”

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