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Looking for God in Harry Potter

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Looking for God in Harry Potter

Looking for God in Harry Potter

Is the Harry Potter series anti-Christian? That’s the argument made by many conservative and evangelical Christians. They object to the Harry Potter books’ depiction of magic and morality. This is not, however, the only possible Christian reaction. There are many Christians who argue that Harry Potter is not only acceptable, but in fact presents a Christian worldview.

Summary

Title: Looking for God in Harry Potter
Author: John Granger
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
ISBN: 1414300913

Pro:
•  Positive Christian interpretations of Harry Potter are uncommon
•  Can be used to counter Christian Right attacks on Harry Potter

Con:
•  No index
•  Often stretches way too far to argue that Harry Potter is Christian

Description:
•  Argues that Harry Potter is fundamentally a Christian allegory
•  Christian interpretations of every facet of the Harry Potter books
•  Explains how Harry Potter can be used to reinforce or promote Christianity

 

Book Review

Most Christian writing on Harry Potter seems to dedicated to attacking the books, but there are Christian defenses available. The most detailed is John Granger’s Looking for God in Harry Potter. Granger goes to great lengths to prove that Harry Potter is a Christian story with Christian themes, symbols, and messages.

Granger is not an objective, disinterested critic. He states at the beginning:

    “My thesis is essentially this: As images of God designed for life in Christ, all humans naturally resonate with stories that reflect the greatest story ever told — the story of God who became man.”
    “The Harry Potter novels, the best-selling books in publishing history, touch our hearts because they contain themes, imagery, and engaging stories that echo the Great Story we are wired to receive and respond to.”

It seems to be Granger’s premise that any story which “touches” us does so because it contains Christian themes and we are hard-wired to respond to those themes. Anyone working from such an assumption will find Christianity lurking everywhere if they try hard enough — and Granger tries very, very hard.

Often, Granger stretches so far that you can tell that he’s getting desperate. He argues that the centaurs are Christian symbols because Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. He argues that Harry Potter’s name alludes to “Son of God” because the Cockney and French pronunciations of Harry are “Arry,” which sound like “heir to,” and God is described as a “potter” by Paul.

Sometimes the connections Granger tries to draw between Christianity and Harry Potter are reasonable, but also not necessary. There are themes in Harry Potter about sacrificing for friends and love triumphing over death, but they are not uniquely Christian.

They are, in fact, common themes throughout folklore, mythology, and world literature. Granger might argue that this is because God “wired” us to be receptive to the story of Jesus, but that argument only works with someone who accepts Granger’s original premise — a premise which amounts to begging the question.

What of the intentions of author, J.K. Rowling? John Granger has a stronger argument if Rowling intended the books to deliver a Christian message. She is an admirer of C.S. Lewis and a member of the Church of Scotland, but the best evidence that there are Christian intentions behind her books comes from an article in American Prospect:

    “Rowling initially was afraid that if people were aware of her Christian faith, she would give away too much of what's coming in the series. "If I talk too freely about that," she told a Canadian reporter, "I think the intelligent reader — whether ten [years old] or sixty — will be able to guess what is coming in the books."”

Even if Rowling intends her books to be a Christian allegory like what C.S. Lewis created with his Narnia series, I still think Granger overreaches very often.

Looking for God in Harry Potter

Looking for God in Harry Potter

I also disagree with his idea that the “Great Books” are the ones that “(1) Ask the big questions about life, (2) answer the questions correctly (in harmony with Christian tradition), and (3) support the answers artistically.”

Great Books are those that not merely ask “big questions,” but address those questions in a way that allows you to come back to the book multiple times in your life because you keep finding something new. A “Great Book” helps you grow and seems to grow with you. The Harry Potter books are good, but I’m not sure that they fit into the “Great” category. Then again, I don’t define a book as “Great” because it conforms to my religious prejudices.

Granger may be developing a following among evangelicals, so his analysis of popular culture like the Harry Potter books should be understood by anyone with an interest in American evangelicalism. I don’t think that it’s ultimately a very good analysis because it insists that Harry Potter is Christian in nature rather than simply that Harry Potter can be interpreted as Christian — but at least it’s an interesting change from the usual attacks we see.

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