I had the following exchange with a student in the UK about ‘Christian Religion in Harry Potter.’ I have the student’s permission to re-print it here but s/he prefers to remain anonymous.
I am a student studying in England and am currently taking my A-levels. As part of this corse I am taking an Extended Project, which is worth half an A-level, and have decided to base it on Christian Religion in Harry Potter.
During my research for my project I have come across your name many times and, consequently, have bought and am reading your book ‘Looking for God in Harry Potter.’ It is an incredible piece of work and I am particularly interested in how you argue for Harry Potter as a good representation of Christianity.
I was wondering if you would be able to answer or give your opinion on a few questions of mine and whether you would know of anyone else who could also give their view? I am partially interested in the film series as I want to investigate the effect of people watching the film series without realising that they are subconsciously being exposed to Christian views.
I understand that you are very busy and even if you decline to answer my questions I would like to thank you for your consideration and your books!
1. It is undeniable that throughout the Harry Potter films Christian religion is a major theme which the viewers are being exposed to unknowingly. What is your view on this? Is it justifiable for someone who is opposed to Christian religion to be subconsciously exposed to it?
What a hoot! Is it justifiable that non-believers tell their stories with their godless and materialist beliefs that someone with traditional views may be subconsciously exposed to?
Really, the question betrays overt hostility to Christians, the thought that they live to take over people’s lives and minds surreptitiously. Please note that the English literary tradition until the end of the Great War was exclusively books by Christians for Christians for their greater life in Christ. Are we to understand that writers now are obliged to forsake the great riches of those poems, plays, and novels and all the depths of redemption, resurrection, and revelry because a few atheists don’t want to be exposed to this pathogenic, religious virus?
2. What is your opinion on the view that Dumbledore, Harry and Fawkes the Phoenix represent the Holy Trinity?
In the climax “miles beneath Hogwarts” in Chamber of Secrets, that certainly seems credible. But that chapter is a specific Morality Tale or Everyman Drama in which these characters are those allegorical types. I wouldn’t extrapolate from that one scene to say the correspondents work across the whole series.
3. Would you consider Voldemort to be a representation of Lucifer considering part of his soul is in the serpent Nagini and the imagery the film produces of him seems to enhance his snake-like qualitys?
I suppose. But the Dark Lord is not an allegorical stick-man. He and Harry are anti-podes about what human beings can become based on the quality of their choices. Harry pursues an immortality based on sacrificial love, Voldemort on ego and self-importance. The tit for tat Lucifer correspondence doesn’t bring that out very well.
4. Do you think Harry represents the fall of humanity, as depicted in St Augustines theodicy, by containing a part of Voldamort’s soul, which is then destroyed and Harrys soul is returned to perfection and any corruption or evil temptation is removed?
The idea works, I suppose, but I struggle to think of the Hogwarts Saga as an Augustinian text. Have you read the Rev Dr Danielle Tumminio’s book, God and Harry at Yale? It discusses just this subject at some length.
5. Would you consider Harry to be an unattainably and unrealistically perfect character as he never gives in to temptation or seems to stray from the path of good?
Huh? I’m asked regularly by Harry Haters how I can in good conscience recommend Harry’s adventures to young people because of his proclivity for breaking rules, telling lies, and being disrespectful to his teachers (and any other adult he does not like). He’s a “perfect character” only in the sense that he conforms to all the rules of both the Schoolboy Novel genre and, oddly enough, of Gothic heroines. See Harry Potter’s Bookshelf for all that.
S/he sent me a wonderfully kind thank you note for these responses (and the five Potter Pundits I urged her to contact for a more thoughtful set of answers), which were, to my surprise, what s/he wanted:
Thank you very much for your answer to my questions, they were very helpful and perfect for my project. Once again thank you so much for your time and thank you for you brilliant lectures and books that have helped me immensely.
What answers do you have to these questions? Fire away!