Ms. Rowling Discusses Christian Content of Novels

by John on October 17, 2007

Well, folks, it finally happened. The Main Stream Media finally asked Ms. Rowling about the Christian content of her writing, she acknowledged it openly and frankly, and the reporter writes that the “religious parallels” were “always” evident to the “sharp-eyed reader.” What a hoot. I argue for years against the current of opinion and the day Ms. Rowling acknowledges her faith and its place in Harry Potter, the religious meaning and specifically the Christian meaning is now, as she said herself, “obvious.”

And MTV breaks the story! Not quite the Quibbler or National Enquirer, but not the LA Times or Washington Post, either, and they were at this news conference, right? Really, this story is funny. Two months ago in Time magazine Lev Grossman says the books are about the death of God and the victory of secular literature; we morons here who thought otherwise were just projecting our beliefs into the storyline. Now we are part of the crowd who knew it all along. People are funny; reporters are hilarious.

[Please note that the reporter who wrote this up unwittingly serves as the mouthpiece of the Star Chamber Catholics who want us to believe the pope as Cardinal Ratzinger condemned Harry Potter. Some stories will never die.]

Anyway, thoughts on the high points of this article…

The title and sub-title of the piece:

Oct 17 2007 11:20 AM EDT
‘Harry Potter’ Author J.K. Rowling Opens Up About Books’ Christian Imagery
‘They almost epitomize the whole series,’ she says of the scripture Harry reads in Godric’s Hollow.
by Shawn Adler

I am reminded of Madame Pince writing me this February when she posted the 1998 article on Accio Quotes that included Ms. Rowling’s alchemy comments. The feeling I had then — “Wow, I was right; I’m not crazy” — is what I thought when TMatt and Amy Sturgis sent me this article. I’m asked at every book store, church, and school where I talk if I have spoken with Ms. Rowling and if she has acknowledged the books have Christian meaning. Now I can say I haven’t met her but she has acknowledged the Christian content of her novels and that she thought this content was “obvious.” That is a nice change from, “No, I haven’t met her and, no, she hasn’t discussed or confirmed this.”

Back to the story with my emphasis added in places:

HOLLYWOOD — It deals extensively with souls — about keeping them whole and the evil required to split them in two. After one hero falls beyond the veil of life, his whispers are still heard. It starts with the premise that love can save you from death and ends with a proclamation that a sacrifice in the name of love can bring you back from it.

Harry Potter is followed by house-elves and goblins — not disciples — but for the sharp-eyed reader, the biblical parallels are striking. Author J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books have always, in fact, dealt explicitly with religious themes and questions, but until “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” they had never quoted any specific religion.

That was the plan from the start, Rowling told reporters during a press conference at the beginning of her Open Book Tour on Monday. It wasn’t because she was afraid of inserting religion into a children’s story. Rather, she was afraid that introducing religion (specifically Christianity) would give too much away to fans who might then see the parallels.

“To me [the religious parallels have] always been obvious,” she said. “But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going.”

Indeed, at its most simplistic, Harry’s final tale can in some respects be boiled down to a resurrection story, with Harry venturing to a heavenly way station of sorts after getting hit with a killing curse in Chapter 35, only to shortly return.

Again, this is both wonderful to read and very funny. Ms. Rowling thought readers would guess where the stories were going and how they would end if she had discussed the “religious parallels”? Two thoughts come immediately to mind. First, C. S. Lewis’ 1939 comment, when almost every UK reviewer of his Perelandra missed the Christian meaning, symbols, and references that saturate the work, that English novelists could smuggle the Gospel shamelessly because readers were unable to see the obvious if wrapped in fiction. Ms. Rowling gives her readers and the media a lot of credit. Which leads to my second point. Since my first reading of the books in 2000, I got the “religious parallels.” And I tried very hard to predict where they were going and how they would end. As you know, Travis and his bunch at Sword of Gryffindor and all the HogPro All-Pros and I tried to dope out the direction and details of the ending of Deathly Hallows — and none of us came close, really. I’m glad I wasn’t alone, at least, in missing the obvious!

Speaking of missing the obvious, has anyone seen a note from Lev Grossman about Deathly Hallows or Ms. Rowling’s comments today? If I blush because Ms. Rowling thinks the religious parallels should have revealed the ending, then the guy who missed the Christian content entirely, who argued the books had none in an international periodical, has to be crestfallen. No? I wonder if Mr. Abanes or Ms. Kjos are reading this story. What are they thinking? Could this news break the back of resistance to Harry Potter in Christian enclaves? Let’s hope.

Back to the article…

But if she was worried about tipping her hand narratively in the earlier books, she clearly wasn’t by the time Harry visits his parents’ graves in Chapter 16 of “Deathly Hallows,” titled “Godric’s Hollow.” On his parents’ tombstone he reads the quote “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death,” while on another tombstone (that of Dumbledore’s mother and sister) he reads, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

While Rowling said that “Hogwarts is a multifaith school,” these quotes, of course, are distinctly Christian. The second is a direct quote of Jesus from Matthew 6:19, the first from 1 Corinthians 15:26. As Hermione tells Harry shortly after he sees the graves, his parents’ message means “living beyond death. Living after death.” It is one of the central foundations of resurrection theology.

Which makes it a perfect fit for Harry, said Rowling, who was talking about those quotes for the very first time.

“They’re very British books, so on a very practical note Harry was going to find biblical quotations on tombstones,” Rowling explained. “[But] I think those two particular quotations he finds on the tombstones at Godric’s Hollow, they sum up — they almost epitomize the whole series.

Besides the “central foundations of resurrection theology” part where Shawn Adler tries to open up St. Paul for his readers, this was the money part of the article: Ms. Rowling saying that the books are “summed up” and “epitomized” by the scriptural passages Harry and Hermione read in the Godric Hollow graveyard on Christmas Eve. The stories are about Love’s victory over death and the importance of making the right choice about where to keep your treasure.

The debate about the author’s intention and the Christian meaning of the books is over. Close curtain.

As the one to bring together all three magical Deathly Hallows, Harry, in fact, becomes the “Master of Death” by novel’s end, able to bring back the spirits of his parents, his godfather, Sirius Black and his old teacher Remus Lupin. It’s a conclusion that ends Harry’s three-book-long struggle over questions about the afterlife, which begins when Sirius falls through a veil connecting this world and the next at the end of “Order of the Phoenix.”

“Deathly Hallows” itself begins with two religiously themed epigraphs, one from “The Liberation Bearers” by Aeschylus, which calls on the gods to “bless the children”; and one from William Penn’s “More Fruits of Solitude,” which speaks of death as but “crossing the world, as friends do the seas.” No other book in the series begins with epigraphs — a curious fact, perhaps, but one that Rowling insists served as a guiding light.

“I really enjoyed choosing those two quotations because one is pagan, of course, and one is from a Christian tradition,” Rowling said of their inclusion. “I’d known it was going to be those two passages since ‘Chamber’ was published. I always knew [that] if I could use them at the beginning of book seven then I’d cued up the ending perfectly. If they were relevant, then I went where I needed to go.

“They just say it all to me, they really do,” she added.

The HogPro All-Pros get some credit for doping this out the week after Deathly Hallows appeared (my thoughts and yours can be read here). That she chose these passages after Chamber of Secrets was published (1998) confirms for how long the last third of Deathly Hallows shaped and drove the other books in the series, which is to say, “from the beginning.” It’s always been about love’s victory over death.

But while the book begins with a quote on the immortal soul — and though Harry finds peace with his own death at the end of his journey — it is the struggle itself which mirrors Rowling’s own, the author said.

“The truth is that, like Graham Greene, my faith is sometimes that my faith will return. It’s something I struggle with a lot,” she revealed. “On any given moment if you asked me [if] I believe in life after death, I think if you polled me regularly through the week, I think I would come down on the side of yes — that I do believe in life after death. [But] it’s something that I wrestle with a lot. It preoccupies me a lot, and I think that’s very obvious within the books.”

In The Christian Content of Deathly Hallows (A), the first part of my Featured Talk at Prophecy 2007 in August, I discuss this point at length. Harry’s struggle with his belief in Dumbledore and with his mission in Deathly Hallows is a reflection of Ms. Rowling’s struggle to believe and the importance of the choice to believe, especially for postmodern skeptics. It hurts, of course, to read that an interpretation that I made (and which has not been greeted universally as the right one) is an understanding that the author believes “is very obvious.” It always hurts when I laugh this hard. Outside of Travis, Odd Hove, Merlin, Amy, Regina, TMatt and a handful of others, I can’t think of many readers to whom this sort of thing was “very obvious.” The reporter doesn’t acknowledge that he missed this when he read Deathly Hallows but he wants to be sure you know the pope didn’t get it and the fundamentalists were way off:

That, by the author’s own acknowledgement, “Harry Potter” deals extensively with Christian themes may be somewhat ironic, considering that many Christian leaders have denounced the series for glamorizing witchcraft. When he was known simply as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope himself condemned the books, writing that their “subtle seductions, which act unnoticed … deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly.”

For her part, Rowling said she’s proud to be on numerous banned-book lists. As for the protests of some believers? Well, she doesn’t take them as gospel.

“I go to church myself,” she declared. “I don’t take any responsibility for the lunatic fringes of my own religion.”

Again, it’s too bad today’s welcome admission by Ms. Rowling of her faith and how it shaped her novels had to be colored by a repetition of the “Pope Condemns Harry Potter” nonsense. I had to love, though, that the closer in this reporter’s write-up of Ms. Rowling’s public confession of the Christian content of the best-selling books in history had to be what he considers her Parthian shot at her Christian critics. In effect, “Jo Rowling doesn’t like stupid Christians either so she’s still okay, even if she has written a Christian book.” I wonder if the Fourth Estate will ever come to terms with Rita Skeeter and Ms. Rowling’s depiction of reporters and newspapers in her Daily Prophet, not to mention the importance of the Christian content of the books in understanding Harry Potter….

That revelation and epiphany will have to wait for another day. Today, the HogPro All-Pros can enjoy hearing from Ms. Rowling herself that the books are what we’ve been saying they are and discussing for several years now. Raise a glass of your favorite beverage tonight, dear friends, to the Boy Who Lived and the author who at last confirmed the Hidden Keys to Harry Potter, her religious beliefs and struggle to believe.

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

athena October 17, 2007 at 12:32 pm

John,

Huzzah!

You knew it. I knew it. Lots of people knew that these books had strong Christian themes running through them.

However, the book burners couldn’t see the forest through the trees.

They refused to recognize themes and instead got hung up on the setting.

The true Harry Haters will probably never repent, because they are like Voldemort and unable to feel remorse.

Even when the facts are staring them in the face.

This is a good day.

Linda

Arabella Figg October 17, 2007 at 1:05 pm

Woo-hoo! John, we certainly can celebrate:

1) those of us who saw the Christian faith meaning and

2) especially you, laying it out so beautifully in such depth in Looking For God in Harry Potter; helping us articulate what we were seeing and revealing more; speaking on and defending this view against hostile, vicious, ridiculing criticism that must have been, at times, so difficult to bear. You, we, are vindicated. You’re are a hero! A true case of “the least shall be first.”

I do pray, however, that the “spiritual Harry” critics, such as those mentioned above will be able to let go their prejudice (although I expect no recanting). Also that Christians who have struggled over the acceptability of the series will finally read it and be blessed. And I also pray that we show grace and kindness, and not crow as “insufferable know-it-alls.”

I also pray that children of other faiths or no faith, who have found great meaning and help through these books will not feel shut out by this revelation, but become curious seekers.

I also pray these books don’t become relegated to religious sections of bookstores.

It must be a great relief to Ms. Rowling to be able to speak at last. And a great and joyous relief to you, John. I’m so happy for you!

The kitties are “clap paws, dance about”!

pj October 17, 2007 at 2:10 pm

Ah, John, it is truly a good day when one is vindicated.

Thank you for persevering and standing in the gap for readers like myself, less educated in the literary arts but no less interested in interpretive discussion! I have been extremely blessed by your knowledge, insights, honesty, and humility. You turned a personal quest in spiritual and educational excellence for your children into an exciting journey for so many…I believe that had I not found “Looking For God in Harry Potter” during the summer of 2005, I would not have read the HP series for myself. Thank you, thank you!

Bonnie_ October 17, 2007 at 4:05 pm

I lift a toast to you, John, and say: Well done. Well done.

JohnABaptist October 17, 2007 at 4:09 pm

Congratulations John! Your peacocks have become ravens!

Uhhhh, perhaps I should explain. Turkey, peacock and raven are terms I have been using with granddaughter to describe various theories about the Potter Saga.

Turkey = TURKE: Totally Unsupportable Relationship, Kindly Eliminate.

Peacock = PCoC: Purely Coincidental of Course.

Raven = Right-on! Author Verified Entire Notion.

I actually got the idea of the peacock while bouncing theories off of my granddaughter. I would point out something, she would (usually but not always) agree, and then I would tip my hat to the Harry Witch Hunters and say “purely coincidental of course….” Over time I saw that the initials formed an acronym for peacock, and went on to add a bird on either side to keep it company.

Clearly for dead authors a previously unstated theory can never get beyond the peacock stage. And even a living author is under no obligation to comment on any theory (see for example, George McDonald’s famous “If my dog doesn’t bark…” comment.)

In the absence of authorial confirmation, skeptics can and certainly will always point out that “Yes, those items were in the book.”; and “Yes, they might be interpreted that way.”; but it is most likely pure coincidence, and not the result of a conscious design by the author.

In which case, all you, the analyst, can do is to keep lining your peacocks up on the fence until all but the most obstinate critic is forced to admit that “By golly, you don’t get that many birds on one fence by accident, somebody must be breeding them around here.”

You had an awful lot of peacocks sitting on the fence, but it must be really gratifying to see them become ravens. Again congratulations.

Travis Prinzi October 17, 2007 at 4:37 pm

Sadly, this will silence neither Kjos nor Abanes.

Kjos is obvious – despite Lewis’s very clear Christian belief, if I recall correctly, Kjos even thinks Narnia is bad because of the mix of pagan and Christian elements in the story.

Abanes will grab onto two things: the use of a pagan quote alongside a Christian quote (my guess is he’ll argue that she’s giving the two equal weight), and his continued repetition that when Rowling uses the word “Christian.” it doesn’t mean the same thing as when American so-called conservative evangelicals use the word; it’s a “liberal” version, and therefore, in Abanes’s mind, not legitimate at all.

Eeyore October 17, 2007 at 4:49 pm

I love that interview! It’s so nice to have her finally say that she thought the Christian themes were obvious throughout. I first started noticing them on a second reading of Chamber and definitely when I read Prisoner of Azkaban. That was, as near as I can remember in 1999.

Then reading your book, John, cemented my ideas and helped define them. So thank you for your insights and your perserverance throughout all the criticism.

There is an error in the article though–it’s Matthew 6:21. At least they were in the vicinity, but since she has used a direct quote it’d be nice if they got it right.

Pat

John October 17, 2007 at 5:08 pm

Psalms 34:21. And they opened their mouth wide against me; they said: Well done, well done, our eyes have seen it.

Bonnie, the words “well done, well done” are frightening to an Orthodox Reader, but thanks for your kind words!

Travis, take a bow, brother! Who cares about the nay-sayers? The lady herself has told the world our “insights” were “obvious.” If you drink, make it a double and sing a rowdy song to little Sophia — we were right, mate!

JAB, a raven it is. What a hoot.

And to Linda, Deborah, PJ, Pat, and the HogPro All-Pros, thank you for your joining me here, though much of what I published you saw well before I did, and for all the fun we’ve had unwrapping the obvious meanings most of Fandom laughed at.

I speak tomorrow tonight at Washington and Lee (Lexington, VA) and I can’t wait to say this really isn’t conjecture anymore… it’s a raven.

John, off to bed to get some sleep for the drive tomorrow

Shane October 17, 2007 at 5:19 pm

I’m glad that it’s been officially announced. Now I don’t have to worry about people thinking me a lunatic for believing the books are quite Christian.

And John, I had to laugh out loud with your reply to Travis…. I second it of course. Only I believe I shall have a cup of tea or a large hot chocolate perhaps.

rumor October 17, 2007 at 6:11 pm

John, Cheers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And well done. Is this our finest hour or what?

Travis Prinzi October 17, 2007 at 6:14 pm

John: If you drink, make it a double and sing a rowdy song to little Sophia — we were right, mate!

I’ve got a Guinness in hand, and I’ve just finished recording a short pubcast which will be up at SoG as soon as I’m done editing!

TrudyK October 17, 2007 at 6:41 pm

John –

As I recall, when I first emailed you (was it three years ago now?), I said that I thought you were quire correct in Looking for God in Harry Potter. And so you were.

A woman I work with thinks it’s great that I let my kids read the Harry Potter books when so many Christians are saying the books are evil. I just smiled and said, “They are very Christian books.”

A group I belong to that reads and discusses books about faith and culture (like Jim Wallis’ God’s Politics) did consider discussing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Two of us had already read it and a third one did because of what I and the other woman had said. He agreed … although he likened it more to Lewis and Narnia than I think is accurate. HP isn’t that heavy on allegory.

But it is nice to know from JKR herself that we were not barking up the banana bush with what we were seeing. (And thank you, John, for helping to clarify things for us.)

John October 17, 2007 at 7:31 pm

Daniel Pullian writes at http://www.getreligion.org/?p=2779 about the possibility of this story being picked up by more mainstream media than MTV news online (he doesn’t think it very likely and speculates about why it won’t spread). Note already the “duh!” about the Christian content of the books. You can see the movement from “preposterous!” to “it’s not proven!” to “that was obvious!” that historians of science know is a commonplace for paradigm shifts.

That tidal turnover from denial to commonplace acceptance (textbooks) usually takes a generation among scientists; I expect we’ll see it overnight in Fandom. I’m confident that Ms. Rowling’s posture as reticent and hesitant believer and the lingering effects of the controversy will keep her books out of the devotional sections of bookstores until the Lord comes, but the Christian meaning of the books won’t be one lecture at Harry Potter conferences (scheduled at zero-dark-thirty Saturday morning) by the token Christian guy anymore either.

Find a safe place; the avalanche of books discussing the Christian meaning of the stories is beginning. Hear that rumble?

I’d urge you to go over to http://www.SwordofGryffindor.com to listen to Travis’ pubcast, but there are so many kind things he says about me that he ruined a wonderful talk. If you think you can get by all that, it’s really a delight to hear Travis share his thoughts the day of this news; it’s like sharing a beer with him at the Tavern.

And thank you, Trudy and ADT, for stopping in tonight and for our years of correspondence and discussion and fun. The old school All-Pros (from the Boards!) are the friends that made the long haul as pleasant as it has been. Janet should be by soon, I hope. Where’s the Maven?

JohnABaptist October 17, 2007 at 7:43 pm

To all of John’s readers who may be puzzled by John’s quotation of 34:21 above, and may be wondering whether in his ecstasy he has taken to speaking in tongues–rest assured all is well.

The chapter and verse reference is from Psalms.

However if your Bible is not derived from the LXX (Septuagint) tradition, but from the Hebrew tradition (as are the Roman Catholic and Protestant canons), then you will still be confused as in your canon, Psalm 34:21 says “Evil brings death to the sinner and those who hate the righteous will be punished.”

Fear not! If you go down one Psalm in your Bible you will find the verse John is quoting. It will be listed in your Bible as Psalm 35:21. The reason for this discrepancy is that in the LXX the Psalms numbered 9 and 10 in the other canons are printed as one psalm. All of the words of both psalms (or of the one psalm depending on your viewpoint) appear in all of the translations, not a word of scripture is lost, just a disagreement about which finger and toe we count on.

However unless you are reading from the Douay-Rheims translation (alone among a very wide range of English translations) you are still going to be confused as your verse almost certainly reads “Aha! Aha! Our eyes have seen it.” not “Well done! Well done! Our eyes have seen it.”

The stumbling block in this case being the Greek word εὖγε which is routinely translated into English as Bravo! or Well done! over against the Hebrew word הֶאָח which is routinely translated into English as Aha!

If one translates the Hebrew to the Greek, however, one arrives at εὖγε exactly as the LXX has it. The only time an apparent discrepancy occurs is if one translates from Hebrew to English compared to Greek to English and expects them to come out the same…they won’t.

So anyway, John is quoting a Psalm, his reference is to a phrase where David is identifying the people on which he wishes God to pour forth His Righteous Fury in full measure as being those who are saying “Well done! Well done!” to each other… and yup…that would scare the daylights out of just about anybody.

P.S. If the faithful have this much trouble talking to each other is it any wonder that the “Heathen rage?”:-)

John October 17, 2007 at 7:47 pm

Thanks, JAB. I was quoting from The Psalter translated by Holy Transfiguration Monastery (1987) that is a standard in Orthodox Church use. Psalm 34 is read as one of the Six Psalms before every Matins service or after Vespers in a Vigil.

Back to Harry… Check out this wonderful blog post below from long-time All-Pro, Beth Priest. You have to wait for the Harry Potter moment but it’s worth the wait. Ms. Rowling’s message today will be especially disturbing to this French faux-mom.

http://bookwormjournal.blogspot.com/2007/10/blessing-of-children.html

Arabella Figg October 17, 2007 at 8:06 pm

John, you’re absolutely spot-on about the “duh” reaction. I believe I wrote on an earlier thread that, at another well-known HP site a few years ago, the moderator wrote, “we all know the books are based on alchemy….”

Duh. “We all know”? And just how do we all know? BECAUSE JOHN GRANGER TOLD US SO!! But, of course, no credit to you, because “we all know.” Aaaarrrgghhh.

So now it will be “we all know the books are woven with Christian faith themes….” Who’s that Granger guy again?

But you got there first with the alchemy, the faith, the structure, everything. You are Potterverse’s main man. Take a bow, bro. This is your moment!

(Sorry for the shout, friends, couldn’t resist.)

I lift my cup of tea with and to you.

Arabella (Muggle name Deborah) whose kitties never saw a theory they wouldn’t chase…

John October 17, 2007 at 8:23 pm

James Calvert wrote in an Amazon review for Hidden Key to Harry Potter circa 2004:

It is not surprising that a great deal of this would have gone over the head of the average reader of the Harry Potter books. At the very least, one would need a working familiarity with Medieval Christian iconography to pick up on a lot of the symbolism Granger identifies. Assuming, of course, that Rowling is in fact writing from the perspective Granger claims she is. Sometimes, in reading Granger’s book, I wondered what Rowling would think of all this. Would she say, “Finally, someone got it!”? Or would she be thinking, “Gee, I never knew I was putting all that stuff in my books!”? Unless and until Rowling herself speaks on these issues, we won’t know. But at the least, Granger makes an excellent and thought-provoking case. And he also provides the great service of cutting through all the “Single-Mom-Turned-Overnight-Success” malarky to point out that Rowling is in fact a highly-educated woman with high marks in Classics and French from Exeter, one of England’s leading universities – which of course bolsters his arguments about the serious, scholarly underpinnings of these books….

“The Harry Potter books have sometimes been likened by their Christian critics to a kind of literary Trojan Horse, sneaking Satanism and demonic influences into the citadels of our homes and our children’s minds. But if John Granger is right, the books are indeed a Trojan Horse, but of a different kind: Rowling will have stormed the citadel of secular public education and public libraries with profoundly Christian books proclaiming the Gospel, disguised as stories about witchcraft. If, indeed, these are Christian books, what are the secular humanist guardians of public school portals going to do when they find out? Hold their own book-burning? If nothing else, contemplating the delicious irony in this state of affairs makes me hope devoutly that Granger’s analysis is correct.”

I’m not predicting any secular book burnings, but it is great to have the author on record, James.

Beth October 17, 2007 at 8:26 pm

Wow, John’s quick! I sent him a note and then popped over here to read some more comments and join in the celebration, and he’d already posted the above. Thanks, John!

It’s wonderful to hear the rejoicing in HogPro land this evening. :-) It
IS ironic and wonderful, isn’t it, after all these years, to hear John’s thoughts (and the thoughts of so many thoughtful readers from this site) affirmed by the author herself. And the former skeptics lining up to say they noticed it first. John, I loved your line by line reading of the article, and think you were spot on in your assessment of the ending. Looks like the reporter definitely wanted to assure folks that Rowling was really still on the side of the secularists at heart! Of course, there’s the pesky matter of the Christian content of the stories themselves…

Raising a butterbeer in Jo’s honor, and in John’s!

Pheugo October 17, 2007 at 9:06 pm

Kudos and tip-o-the-hat to all those who stood up for Harry Potter as a Christian-themed novel for all these years… Vindication is nice.

For myself, I never read HP until March of 07, but by the time I got to the end of the first book I thought it was obviously based on a Christian-theme. Let’s see…

If you have within you the blood of one who loved you enough to die in your place you are protected from a death-curse. Hmmm. Where have I heard that before?

It makes me wonder – I have to conclude that many people today either know nothing of the basic doctrines of Christianity, or, they were never taught to read critically. Probably both.

seifli October 18, 2007 at 1:51 am

Mrs. Rowling did nothing else than most people do if there are somehow rooted to a religion. She choose a tiny little aspect of the religion which matters for her personally. Since her mother´s death the question about a “life after death” rules her mind more than any other aspect of religion. Her confusion about the issue finds its expression in the HP books. Of course there is nothing wrong with it; but it starts to become problematically if the “overcoming of death” suddenly smothers all other concerns/issues and life on earth is null and void (parents are proud if the child wants to die).
A huge part of Mrs. Rowling´s ideas are of course the exact opposite of Christianity, but Mrs. Rowling does not realise that because there are aspects of Christianity (which includes being called by GOD, equality and charity and forgiveness (while still alive) for EVERYBODY, not just Gryffindors!) which are not of interest for her or maybe just marginal. Mrs. Rowling reduces Christianity to a superstitiously folklore. This is the main reason why I am very sceptically about her ” Christianbeliefs”. Even Atheists, Heath, Muslims and Buddhists are capable of to quote the Bible. The quotation of Bible verses from the New Testament is not enough. Now I say (I am Roman Catholic by the way): Jesus Christ is my Redeemer, my Saviour and his death on the cross, his blood, made me pure in the eyes of GOD.

oriflamme October 18, 2007 at 5:38 am

Hello John,
is this the last step before “the meeting” with Mrs Rowling ?( or very kind phone call, or mail ,or personnal letter ).I hope so , but she is certainly diffident about doing something that looks like…going for a first appointement with a Psy , if he had already read her personnal diary…
I’m joking.
Thank you again for your wonderful job !
No comments in France about this interview. DH will be avaible in bookshops on October 27th. Before that very day, no doubt that the publisher doesn’t want to afraid the very secular postmodern society here…And the rules on french fansites are : be polite , no Politics, no Religion.

chrystyan October 18, 2007 at 8:59 am

Praise the Lord! I am pleased that she spoke out on the obvious Christian themes in Harry Potter… snake vs. lion… I mean, come on…wake up world!

Perhaps this will open the door to more discussion by JKR; and I hope, and updated version by John of his books after DH.

Thank you, John, for sticking by Harry and standing firm. Your faithfulness encouraged me to do the same. I’m more than pleased. I am also looking forward to Warner Brothers placing scripture on the big screen in movie 7.

Cristy

Mary N. October 18, 2007 at 10:05 am

I’m surprised to hear a fellow Catholic say that the Resurrection of Our Lord, and the hope it gives us of eternal life in heaven, is a “tiny little aspect” of Christianity. Seems to me, these beliefs are the very foundation of our faith. And the themes of equality, charity, and forgiveness are woven throughout the Harry Potter books. What about the efforts to protect the dignity and rights of house-elves, goblins, and Muggleborns? What about Harry forgiving Draco Malfoy, his Slytherin archenemy, and risking his life to save Draco’s? What about Severus Snape, the Slytherin Potions Master? His story is one of sin, remorse, repentance, and redemption. What about Harry and his mother, who were both willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to protect the innocent? There are countless other examples in the Harry Potter books about the importance of courage and virtue, and countless reminders that we are defined, for good or for evil, by the choices we make in this life.

Joanne Rowling created a magical parallel world as an engaging and entertaining way to convey a profoundly Christian message. Let’s not lose the spiritual forest for the magical trees, if I may quote John’s bishop!

Some people may be distracted by Mrs. Rowling’s discussion of her “struggle to keep believing.” Many great saints, even Mother Teresa of Calcutta, have reported experiencing prolonged periods of spiritual dryness, sometimes called the “dark night of the soul.” The key is to make the choice to keep believing, keep seeking, and keep doing the right thing, even though we can’t always see everything as clearly as we wish. That’s what it means to have faith. That’s the choice Harry makes in Deathly Hallows, and it’s the choice we’re all called to make.

Pheugo October 18, 2007 at 10:26 am

Something else from that article struck me this morning. Rowling’s quote from Graham Greene may be a huge hint as to another source of inspiration for Harry Potter. There are some interesting parallels between Harry and the “whskey priest” in Greene’s “The Power and the Glory.” Both have someone chasing them trying to kill them, and both have to face the fear of death through acts of compassion and a hope for an afterlife.

Just a thought…

korg20000bc October 18, 2007 at 12:33 pm

Seifli’s exact comment has been posted at Sword of Gryffindor and at Leaky Cauldron under different names.

Matthew

Elmtree01 October 18, 2007 at 12:42 pm

“I also pray that children of other faiths or no faith, who have found great meaning and help through these books will not feel shut out by this revelation, but become curious seekers.”

This is what I pray, also! These books never would have had the press, films, and worldwide popularilty they have if people had realized they were Christian in tone from the start. They are not overbearingly Christian… but the elements are there. And beautifully so.

Perhaps now people will seek a bit more.. and find out what’s behind all that.

Daughter October 18, 2007 at 2:30 pm

Seifli,

I think the HP series demonstrates – and in much more than a minor way – many of those other aspects of Christianity that you name: “called by GOD, equality and charity and forgiveness while still alive) for EVERYBODY, not just Gryffindors!)”

It’s hard to illustrate being called by God in a book that isn’t explicit about faith, but Harry is certainly called to the role he plays. And in a sense, so are Ron and Hermione (and Neville, and others) based on their particular gifts.

Equality and charity for elves, muggles, muggle-borns, etc. are certainly major themes throughout the books.

Forgiveness: Yes, Harry forgives Snape at his death. But you see him also change his attitudes toward those still alive: Draco and Dudley for instance.

There are many instances where the characters fall short of these virtues, but that’s true of all of us as human beings. What Rowling shows is characters who grow and change and become better people.

dudders57 October 18, 2007 at 5:05 pm

To “The Boy Who Lived “, JKR, and John I hoist a St. Pauli Girl NA and say “well done”.

To the nay sayers and those so thick they (to mis-quote Ron) “…wouldn’t recognize christian content if it danced naked in front of them wearing Dobby’s tea cozy”, a loud Peeves style rasberry.

I knew the forth estate wouldnt get it but at least one of them reported it.
Although it is very reminiscent of the Prophet printing Harry’s “The night I met Voldemort” interview after spending the year leading upto the battle at the MOM bashing him. Ah well, life does imitate art.

dudders57 October 18, 2007 at 5:28 pm

John wrote ” I wonder if the Fourth Estate will ever come to terms with Rita Skeeter and Ms. Rowling’s depiction of reporters and newspapers in her Daily Prophet, not to mention the importance of the Christian content of the books in understanding Harry Potter….”

Rita Skeeter said it best in book 5 “There’s no market for a story like that.”

It would be easier trying to teach Trolls to waltz.

Travis Prinzi October 18, 2007 at 6:48 pm

seifli, you seem to be making the rounds at all the blogs and discussion boards with this wonderful exercise in missing the point. I do wonder if you plan to re-visit any and engage the actual discussion.

I’ll respond here just as I responded when you posted under the name “RC” at SoG:

If Rowling were setting out to do Christian catechesis with the HP series, we could have the conversation you want to have. As it is, it’s a work of fictional literature that is influenced by Christian belief.

And it’s an excellent one, in my opinion.

pj October 18, 2007 at 7:23 pm

JAB, you make me laugh out loud!!!! I certainly wouldn’t want anyone quoting Psalm 35 on my behalf :-) And I’m glad to know you’re a fellow grandparent! I’m having a great time following my grandson’s adventure through HP….he knows I’ve finished the series and tries to weedle info when he can. (we live 800 miles apart, so our discussions are limited to phone dialogues and occasional visits!)

John…hang in there! Your shoulders must be feeling a little slap-sore from all the well-wishing and celebratory hoopla, but we know that you’re really all about giving praise where praise is due. The victory is truly God’s, as the Gospel will be going forth through Harry’s story; those who see will tell, and those who do not see will be told! How marvelous is this?

James P. October 18, 2007 at 8:33 pm

This is incredibly positive and exciting news! Like many, I was initially leary about about the Potter books based on some vague rumors I had heard. For some reason my wife came home with the first book and decided it would be fun to start reading the series as a family. I did not get very far into the series before I thought, “whoa, there is something very profound going on in these books!” So at a church function I asked some of my friends what all the objections to Harry Potter were about. Nothing they said made any sense, so I knew that they had obviously not read any of the books. Then one day we were shopping in a Christian bookstore and my daughter showed me a copy of “Looking for God in Harry Potter”. Still somewhat sensitive to the mysterious controversy, my first reaction was “what could this possibly be, and haven’t we had enough of Harry Potter for the time being?” I bought the book reluctantly, but when I started reading it I was overcome with joy and relief! I thought “Yes, yes, yes! This guy’s a genious! This guy sees what I see but he can explain it!” You are a Godsend John!

Naiively I thought that here was finally evidence that I could present to my resistant friends, but it turned out that their objections became even more adamant. Even with the great news of this week I know that some people will still not be convinced. But so what? With every reading I find the books more and more edifying. Now we are all assured of the author’s intent regardless of what the critics say! What’s more, reading the discussions here has lead me to so much exceptional reading such as G.K Cesterton, C.S. Lewis, and others. I am so happy to have experienced this deeper dimension of the Potter books and feel so privileged to have been lead by it to a deepening of my faith and broadening of my knowledge. Thank you John and my heartfelt congratulations!

colorless.blue.ideas October 18, 2007 at 8:43 pm

Travis Prinzi:

Kjos is obvious – despite Lewis’s very clear Christian belief, if I recall correctly, Kjos even thinks Narnia is bad because of the mix of pagan and Christian elements in the story.

Some of you may be familiar with William Draper’s hymn paraphrase of St. Francis’ “Canticle to Brother Sun”. It’s generally known by the opening lines, “All Creatures of our God and King / lift up your voice and with us sing,/ alleluia!” There is one stanza which begins, “Dear mother earth, who day by day / unfoldest blessings on our way . . . .” We had a family leave our congregation, using as the excuse that the hymn worshiped a pagan god, namely Mother Earth.

At the time I just thought they were uniquely nuts. Now I know that they are not alone.

BTW, one of the stanzas is very apropos to Harry Potter:

And thou most kind and gentle Death,
Waiting to hush our latest breath,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou leadest home the child of God,
And Christ our Lord the way hath trod.

Another stanza reminds me of Harry, and what Harry needs to hear:

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

aussieseeker71 October 19, 2007 at 1:16 am

The way I see it, those Christians who are adamant that the Harry Potter are nothing more than “gateways to the occult”, will probably respond in either two ways.

1. “Yes, but”….and then they will pick up on every little flaw in her Christian theological beliefs.

or

2. They will stay silent, because they are perhaps too proud to admit that they may have been wrong about the books, and some even too proud to admit that they owe Rowling an apology for their slanderous accusations against her.

In regards to (1); while I believe that their are many people who claim to be Christians, and yet their doctrine and lifestyle would say otherwise, I think there are times when we need to “take the person’s word for it.” We don’t know Rowling personally, we are not with her 24 hours a day to see whether or words or actions are clear evidence of her Christian faith. Therefore, I am not concerned as to whether or not she has a complete understanding of all Biblical doctrine, or how deeply she talks about her faith, because I don’t know how long she has been a Christian; or even what kind of Christian upbringing she has had. I mean, I grew up in a Christian home and went to church, but it was only in the last five years did I have a real understanding of what it meant to be a Christian. As far as I was concerned, I thought been a Christian meant I had to be an outwardly, morally good person.

Personally, I am more concerned about those who claim to be “Christians”, and yet are preaching a different gospel in the pulpits.

colorless.blue.ideas October 19, 2007 at 5:51 am

JohnDudders57 responded: Rita Skeeter said it best in book 5 “There’s no market for a story like that.” It would be easier trying to teach Trolls to waltz.

Ms. Rowling’s depiction of reporters as (1) remarkably deaf to criticism, and (2) slavishly imposing a narrative on the facts, gets reinforced regularly. An example. Recently a retired Army general, Ricardo Sanchez, spoke at a Military Reporters and Editors luncheon. (His speech is available here.) He had two themes:

1. The lack of ethics and factual reporting by much of the press covering military affairs.
2. The lack of a bipartisan effort by the congress and executive to forge a consistent policy involving inter-agency efforts and not relying solely on the military.

In reporting on his speech, the main media outlets mentioned only one of his two themes. The discerning reader can guess which one. In addition, the headlines and main thrusts of the stories laid the blame basically on only a single leader, mentioning the rest of the critique only in passing. Again, very predictable: the report must be fit into the desired narrative.

The description of the mainstream media in Harry Potter is multi-faceted. At times it is personified in Rita Skeeter. She writes without respect to the truth in order to push an emotional narrative designed mainly to sell papers. At other times, it serves mainly in a propagandistic manner: presenting the desired narrative to influence opinion. Unlike our own media, it is controlled by the government (ministry) rather than what more-or-less can be described as groupthink.

In both cases, Ms. Rowling’s zingers are pretty good. Alas, we can enjoy the waltz, while the poor Trolls don’t even realize that there’s music playing. Not because they are deaf, but because they plug their ears.

RenaBlack October 19, 2007 at 10:37 am

AMEN. This has been an amazing 24 hours…

Last night, I watched OotP (its showing on campus) and was simply blown away–again–by how shockingly poignant JKR’s work is. Somebody needs to do a paper on educational theory in Phoenix, ASAP!

But in light of the film, dudders57, your comment about art imitating life (or vice versa) is spot-on. Dumbledore, Harry, John, Travis, and all the rest of us have known for some time that the evidence all points to the truth denied by the majority, but indeed…”the truth will out!”

Now, I feel not only vindicated in my theories, and in my interest in John’s and others’ theories, and in my choice to do a (risky) theological senior honors thesis on the books, but vindicated in my FAITH. Christianity is all about the sacred appearing disguised as the ordinary, having the eyes of faith to see the God who is all around us, constantly, in every aspect of human life. JKR’s courage in explicitly acknowledging the penetrating power of God into literature and the world is to be commended.

I’m brought back to the distinct feeling of joy and incredulity I felt the morning I finished DH: “millions of people just stood in line–in the middle of the night!–to receive some really Good News, and they don’t even know it.” Perhaps, now, a few more might see!

God bless JKR, John, Travis, and all those who seek Him with a sincere heart, wherever He may be found!

secretsimon October 19, 2007 at 2:35 pm

Congratulations! You must feel like you’ve just defeated Voldemort. I don’t think the Christian link was obvious at all, not until the final book, which was when I noticed it myself. I decided to do a post on my blog and was quite surprised when I googled yesterday and found that JK Rowling was discussing the subject openly. Artists usually seem to keep quiet about Christian content in their work – for fear, I think, of scaring off non-Christians. I suspect that this was Ms Rowling’s reason for keeping quiet until she’d got all the sales under her belt. But I might be being unkind. The Christian connection must have been obvious to her, even if not to others. Whatever the truth, good luck to her anyway. She’s written some very entertaining books.

I think you did very well to spot the link *before* the final book, but if anyone did spot the link, it was always going to be a Christian like yourself. The books are about the power of love, which of course you equate to Christianity. Those of us with less mainstream beliefs interpret the power of love more broadly, so we wouldn’t have made the connection.

There’s a few points I’ve put in my blog that I haven’t read anywhere else. But I’ve only just found your site so I don’t know if you or anyone else here has mentioned the apparent connection between the Deathly Hallows and the Holy Trinity? i.e. The power of the sword equating to God the father, the ring’s promise of resurrection to God the Son, and the invisibility cloak to the Holy Ghost. Harry does not pursue the Hallows because – unlike Voldemort – he does not wish to use divine power for earthly domination…

inked October 19, 2007 at 2:50 pm

You are da MAN, John! Da MAN! Of course, I’ve said so since our first correspondence in 2004 and I have an autographed book to prove it! But I have really enjoyed your insights over the years and your constant affirmations of the Truth in the HP series.

I have immensely enjoyed and profited from your hogwarts professorship, Sir. At all the sites it has been available from Barnes and Noble to your dedicated sites!

Thank you.

And now, I am going to have a one person parade going: Uh-huh! Uh-huh! Uh-huh! Uh-huh! Uh-huh! I told ya! (repeat until hoarse)

Alas for the Harry Haters for they will weep and moan and gnash their teeth in rage and refusal. (Not an unknown reaction!) Sort of reminds us of Lazarus’ failed rich man’s family: “They have moses and the prophets. If they will not listen, they will not believe even if one were to rise from the dead.”

And JKR’s one comment in 2000 from British Columbia DID give it all away, didn’t it?

cassiane October 19, 2007 at 5:19 pm

To seifli, John, and all:

Huh? I was rather taken aback to read seifli’s posting and experienced a sort of deja vu: haven’t we been through this territory before? Haven’t we had similar discussions before? I’m referring to the implication that JKR’s characters lack charity, compassion, etc. despise Muggles, Slytherins, and anyone who is not in the alleged in-group. Enough has been said, already, about these things. DH, and by extension the other books, clearly portrays the hope that exists for all human beings; indeed, we see supposedly unloveable and ignoble characters expressing loving sentiments and performing noble deeds. And if Harry and his friends have played a few practical jokes, well–what do you expect? They’re kids, and we’re all much the same.

And who can deny that Harry decides to lay down his life for a noble purpose–to defeat Voldemort and to free both the Muggle world and the Wizarding world from his evil machinations. Here he has abandoned his quest for the Deathly Hallows–for resurrection in a selfish sense–but acts for the good of all.

Indeed, along with Mary N. (You go, Mary!), I was amazed that seifli could describe the Resurrection (and life unending) as a “tiny little aspect of Christianity.” “If Christ is not risen from the dead, then your faith is in vain.”–St. Paul, approximately. The Resurrection is the central doctrine of Christianity, and the Crucifixion is important, because it was the way for Christ to undergo death, defeat the devil and hades, and then rise from the dead.

But then I’m only a cranky old Orthodox.

Anyway, congratulations, John, you were right on track!

Perelandra October 19, 2007 at 5:26 pm

But John, you’ve made your case so well over and over again, Rowling’s admission is just a dusting of dragees on the cake. Alas, it won’t make any difference to the Harry-haters.

A tiny insight I’ve not had the chance to post before: why is there an interval of 19 years and not some other number? 19 is the length of the Paschal cycle in the church year. Harry defeating Voldemort was an “Easter” and now the wheel of time has returned to the same spot with hopeful signs new grace.

shaunnatimmons October 19, 2007 at 10:23 pm

I was a huge fan of Harry Potter, knowing and completely agreeing with everything you are saying about the Christian points throughout the entire series; however, based on Rowlings recent interview…I am shocked. What do you think of what she said about Dumbledor being gay? A boy asked Rowling if Dumbledor was ever in love, and the author answered, “Dumbledor is gay.”………Is she serious? I feel like my best friend just slapped me in the face. What do you think of this?

pj October 20, 2007 at 7:27 am

Dear, dear friends….before we jump any higher and toot our horns any louder, let us consider the most recent (and in my opinion) jaw-dropping bit of backstory news to come out of JKR’s USA book tour guaranteed to further fuel dissent among those who discount the Christian themes in Harry Potter: the Headmaster was gay.

I’m still trying to get my head around the whole idea. I certainly didn’t see this coming. And perhaps that’s the bottom-line: what we aren’t looking for, we don’t see until we’re blind-sided into taking a big 360 degree turn to what’s happening around us. Am I the only person who did not interpret AD’s and GG’s teenage fanaticism with each other to be anything other than mutual greed for power and Wizard-dominance over Muggles? A little help, here, please! Is this the reasoning behind AD’s purple (and sometimes flamboyant) robes and his penchant for grandiose holiday decor in the Great Hall?

What say you, John? I’m having a difficult time articulating a clear thought.

EmmaReader October 20, 2007 at 12:24 pm

Here’s one link to the interview where JKR says Dumbledore is gay:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20071020/books-harry-potter/

John October 29, 2007 at 1:05 pm

How about this? A Catholic Middle School in New Hampshire is using Harry Potter to make theological points with their students: check this out!

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071025/COLUMNISTS27/310250071/-1/columnists

inked October 30, 2007 at 7:27 am

Canon is what counts, ya’ll. Canon. If you don’t believe that, just ask the actively gay for their account… http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1675622,00.html

This of course tells us that canon counts. And what’s in the canon that can be discerned and by the author’s statement? Yep. The Faith.

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