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Is Harry Potter a Christian Allegory? Does Harry Potter Teach Christianity?

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When Christians talk about the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, it’s most often to complain about them - for example, their use of magic. A few Christians, though, argue that the Harry Potter books are not only compatible with Christianity, but in fact contain implicit Christian messages. They compare Rowling’s books with the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis or the books by Tolkein, all works imbued with Christian themes to one degree or another.

An allegory is a fictional story in which the characters or events are used in place of other figures or events. The two groups are connected by suggestive resemblances, and therefore an allegory is often described as an extended metaphor. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series is an obvious Christian allegory: the lion Aslan offers himself to be killed in place of a boy sentenced to death for his crimes, but rises again the following day to lead the forces of good in their defeat of evil.

The question, then, is whether the Harry Potter books are also a Christian allegory. Did J.K. Rowling write the stories such that characters and events are supposed to suggest some of the characters and events central to Christian mythology? Most conservative Christians would reject this notion and even many moderate and liberal Christians probably wouldn’t think it likely, even if they see the Harry Potter books as compatible with Christianity.

A few, though, are convinced that the Harry Potter books are more than compatible with Christianity; instead, they metaphorically present a Christian worldview, Christian message, and Christian beliefs. By communicating Christianity indirectly, the books can both help current Christians reinforce their beliefs and perhaps lead non-Christians to Christianity by laying the groundwork for acceptance of Christian doctrines.

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Background

Many in the Christian Right see the Harry Potter books and the resulting cultural phenomenon as an important issue in their general “culture war” against modernity and liberalism. Whether the Harry Potter stories really do promote Wicca, magic, or immorality may be less important than what they are perceived to be doing; therefore, any argument which can cast doubt upon popular perceptions can have a significant impact upon the wider debates.

It’s possible, but not likely, that J.K. Rowling has no intentions or message behind her stories. Some books are written merely to be entertaining tales that are enjoyed by readers and make money for publishers. This does not seem likely in the case of the Harry Potters stories, however, and Rowling’s comments suggest that she has something to say.

If J.K. Rowling intends her Harry Potter books to be Christian allegories and to communicate basic Christian messages to her readers, then the complaints of the Christian Right are about as wrong as they could be. One might be able to argue that Rowling isn’t doing a very good job at communicating Christian messages, such that she is too easily misunderstood, but the argument that she is deliberately promoting witchcraft and magic would be completely undermined.

J.K. Rowling’s intentions will also be important to non-Christian readers. If her goal all along has been to create a Christian allegory that lays the basis for adopting Christianity itself or to make Christianity more psychologically appealing, then non-Christian readers may want to adopt the same cautious attitude towards the books that some Christians have now. Non-Christian parents may not want their children to read stories designed to convert them to another religion.

None of this holds true, though, if the stories merely use themes or ideas that happen to appear in Christianity. In that case the Harry Potter stories wouldn’t be Christian allegories; instead, they would simply be products of Christian culture.

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