Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #23: “Smuggling the Gospel” Fallout

I hope you’ll overlook the unavoidable smugness of this post, which, I’m concerned, borders on the quality of an “I-Told-You-So” put-down. I could, after all, be providing space here for concentrated discussion of the debate between James and Severus hallowers and detractors…

When I finished Deathly Hallows and had put my three youngest children to bed last Sunday, I thought of Don Holmes. My septuagenarian buddy in Bellingham, WA, is a loving giant, well over 6 feet tall and not an unpleasant cell in his body. He graduated from Wheaton College ages ago, has the faith of an elder who has studied and practiced the Gospel message for as long, and reads everything he can get his hands on, especially since his retirement from a career as a Christian book distributor. Don even corresponded briefly with C. S. Lewis when he was a college student. Wonderful man and a better friend.

I thought of Don because of his first two responses to reading Hidden Key to Harry Potter in 2003. First, he called me on the phone (Bellingham is close to the Olympic Peninsula where I was living back then) to congratulate me on “getting it right.” He then wrote Richard Abanes, whose book, Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace behind the Magick, Don had also read. Don asked, nigh on demanded, in light of my book’s demonstration of Ms. Rowling’s faith and the Christian message of Harry Potter, that Mr. Abanes offer a public apology to Ms. Rowling and to the Christian community at large for his mistake and calumny.

Mr. Abanes response was pretty unpleasant. When Don shared the exchange with me, I begged him to drop it. What surprised me was not the response he received, but Don’s surety that I was right. Ms. Rowling, in his mind, after reading the arguments that became Looking for God in Harry Potter, had to be a Christian artist. Even I thought there was a chance I was wrong. Nobody else, after all, was saying what I was saying. Christian defense of the books before Hidden Key had been restricted to saying they were “acceptable” reading for children (with strong reservations) or that they could be read as being Christian stories, if the reader chose to read them wearing that set of tinted glasses rather than another or without eye-wear (see Connie Neal’s The Gospel According to Harry Potter for this sort of reading relativism: “it’s all in how you look at it”).

After finishing Deathly Hallows, then, I thought of Don Holmes and the readers who wrote me to say “thank you” and others who emailed to say they had been won over from the Harry Hating camps by my literary arguments. The Gospel messages and allusions in the series finale were so transparent and edifying, surely, I thought, the Harry Haters must be having second thoughts, if not regrets about things they have said with such conviction the past ten years in print and from pulpit.

I haven’t seen any sign of this. Have you? Richard Abanes wrote me a note during P-Week about his new novel, Homeland Insecurity, but he hasn’t written anything I’ve seen since Deathly Hallows was published. He certainly hasn’t written Don Holmes to apologize for the unkind comments he made about Don’s intelligence and reading ability in 2003. And Brjit Kios? Lev Grossman? Where are the Harry is poison or secular fantasy proponents post Deathly Hallows? And, if they’re not admitting they were wrong, why aren’t they?

Again, please overlook the self-importance of this question. I hope if Deathly Hallows had turned out to be a really nasty piece of work that I would have eaten crow, publicly, in sack cloth and ashes. I’m not asking the same from the many people who have questioned my sanity or suggested I was projecting my beliefs shamelessly into the text. I’m just wondering if any of these people are reconsidering their position in light of Deathly Hallows and, if not, why not?


  1. I’ve been wondering some things along those lines as well. I was especially amused by an article by Grossman the week before DH that was titled something like “Who Dies? God”. Well, I suppose that’s right after a fashion, but he was actually saying that God simply didn’t exist in this world. When I saw the Dumbledore tombstone, I admit I crowed a bit. That was huge, it seemed to me; it seemed incontrovertible that the Bible did exist in this world and that Christmas and Easter weren’t just cultural carryovers.

    What did it mean, then, that there’s been no Church? I came to the conclusion that had there been a Church, it would have to had at least some identity as an Institution, and look what Rowling’s done with Institutions! If she went easy on it, she would have tipped her hand; if she treated it like she treats government or the press, it would have undercut her message. So many things make sense and can be said now that Rowling’s fulfilled our hopes and hasn’t pulled the rug from underneath us.

    My preliminary thoughts on the detractors’ silence, though, are kinda of charitable; I simply think there hasn’t been enough time. Those folks, I daresay, either haven’t read the book yet or haven’t yet processed what it’s doing. This initial round of interviews isn’t helping, either; there are very few deep questions being asked (granted, in part because not everyone has read yet.) But soon the initial furor will die down, and perhaps some enterprising interviewer will ask JKR: what about alchemy? what about Christianity? what would you say to your early critics (some of whom seem to have been operating on auto-pilot for about four books now)? Time, we hope, will tell.

  2. John – First of all, I must insist on something. You may be tempted not to let this posting through, because it is going to compliment you deeply, and you may feel strange allowing it through to the public. But please do not keep it off the boards for that reason. Here goes…

    I was VERY interested to read your posting here. I am very glad that your friend Don challenged Mr. Abanes to do the right thing, and disappointed to hear Mr. Abanes’ reaction (but not surprised). I was also very, very pleased (but not in the least bit surprised) to hear that you were prepared to publicly recant if you discovered that you were wrong in your wholehearted commendation of Ms. Rowling’s books as spiritually sound and profound. I was pleased – but not in the least bit surprised. I, too, have spoken very publicly, to many groups, about the Christian grounding in the Harry Potter series. I began the seventh book with “fear and trembling,” knowing that if I were wrong, I would have to publicly recant. This is part of the calling of a teacher – to be ready to openly and humbly confess a wrong teaching. How dare we refuse to do that?

    I, too, have had communication with a prominent Christian Harry-hater, and hope to be able to encourage this person to do what your friend Don tried to encourage Mr. Abanes to do. If you want more details about this, please ask me off-line. But pray for God to open the eyes, minds, and hearts of the Harry-haters, that He would give them the humility and grace to do what Percy was able to do!

    John – I can’t tell you how much I have appreciated your leadership in these matters. Your writings were a big reason why I even bothered to read Harry Potter in the first place. Didn’t think he was worth my time until I “met” you. Thanks be to God – you were right all along. Like I said in my recommendation of your Unlocking Harry Potter, you got the whole “forest” right, and most of the individual trees as well! I continue to have many, many opportunities to talk about the relationship between the Harry Potter series and the gospel, and each time, I recommend other people to you as a worthy teacher.

  3. Pride is a big thing to swallow John.

  4. Hello John,

    Interesting comments. Allow me to respond.

    YOU: I haven’t seen any sign of this. Have you? Richard Abanes wrote me a note during P-Week about his new novel, Homeland Insecurity, but he hasn’t written anything I’ve seen since Deathly Hallows was published. He certainly hasn’t written Don Holmes to apologize for the unkind comments he made about Don’s intelligence and reading ability in 2003.
    1. I haven’t written anything about Deathly Hallows because, basically, I don’t care enough about the issue any more to read it. I have moved on to other things as of long, long ago. I have been doing many other writing projects. HP is not my life. It was the subject of two books I did years ago. The last time I addressed anything regarding HP in print was in my updated/revised book Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings, in which I discuss fantasy literature in general, as well as the three works in the title. I also show in that volume that it is you who have, IMHO, misrepresented Rowling by really stretching her meanings in various words, names, etc. in order to MAKE it Christian. I demonstrate this rather deftly, I think, using Rowling’s own words and explanations of the very things you mis-explain. But, hey, we all need something to do. So, I don’t fault you. You’re quite famous now as the Hogwarts Professor and I am sure it has been a fun ride. So, congrats. As I’ve said before, outside of HP, I’m sure we’d get along just fine. And as for the supposed “Christian” ending to HP that I am hearing about, I assume you ARE familiar with the dying-rising, savior-deliverer myth motif that is present in virtually every culture and actually pre-dates Christ? Rowling is using a very powerful, standard, ancient formula to pack a serious punch into the end of her book that will resonate (as the savior-myth has always done) with readers/listeners. So, I am still not sure how we can attribute to her (without any blatant admission), that she is some paragon of Christian virtue who decided to write a Christian analogy using wizardry (cough cough). Her life before and during the writing of early HP books certainly doesn’t shine Christian (I refer to her: adulterous affair with her now-husband according to some fairly accurate reproting done during that time, her flip comments about belief in God, her hostile responses to “fellow” Christians, and her incessant exaltation of revenge as an acceptable response to persons one doesn’t like). Anyway, I take nothing away from her as an author and someone who has produced a terrifically successful series and weaved together a very complex and creative storyline.
    2. I have no idea who a “Don” is, although I have no doubt he probably did email me ranting and raving about the glory that is HP and J.K. Rowling. If I responded harshly to him, it was probably because I was exhausted by the number of people who were writing me accusing me of saying things I had never said — and not being very pleasant about it, either. And I was also probably more than a little miffed that he was coming so unglued at me based on your faulty, yes I said it, faulty interpretations of HP, which in my opinion, only worsened the conflict between the opposing sides. I had sought to take a middle-of-the-road approach that ended up getting me crucified by both sides. The true Harry-haters thought I was being soft because I refused to say Rowling was a witch, that she was teaching witchraft, that the books were downright demonic, and that there was NOTHING but horrendous evil in them. I also stood against book burning and banning. Then, on your side, HP zealots couldn’t (and still can’t) stand to hear ANYTHING whatsoever negative about their beloved St. Rowling or the god-man Harry and his merry band of rule-breaking saints. Consequently, they became Abanes-haters. So, I moved on — whatever. I have learned that people, rather than listening, tend to react, then just go on believing what they want to believe regardless of the facts. SO, back to Don — “Yo!!!! Buddy!!! if you’re out there in cyber-land. Hey, I’m sorry if I was a bit harsh with you. You probably caught me on a bad day and my self-control meter was down. So, forgive and forget. I’m kewl with you, if you’re kewl with me. God Bless. Have a nice life.” There, an apology given where one seems it was due. As for Rowling/HP, unless some documentation can be produced (instead of theory, assumption, and conjecture) to contradict Rowling’s own previous statements and/or my observations, I stand by what I have said, especially in Harry Potter, Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings As they used to say on The X-Files: “The Truth Is Out There.”
    Richard Abanes

    P.S. And you know, John, I always wish you the best on a personal level.

  5. jaminers says

    John, I cannot express my gratitude for the amazing job you’ve done at exposing the Potter books as Christian masterpieces. Deathly Hallows was beautiful and touching. It was heartwarming to see that Rowling not only blatantly inserted Bible verses into the text, but she made a powerful statement about sacrificial love, the type of love that Christ gave the world. After I read Hallows, I checked Berit Kjos website, and of course there was no word on Potter. I think these Harry-haters are so caught up in their own poisoning hatred toward admitting they’re wrong that we may never see the apology that you yourself so greatly deserve. It’s not enough that Rowling inserts Bible verses into her books, or that Harry shows sacrificial love, or that Rowling herself said that she is in fact a Christian. Mrs. Kjos, and all the other detractors, are too prideful to admit they were wrong it seems. Of course, I may be wrong myself; there may be an apology in the near future, but as of now, I highly doubt it. Thank you for opening my eyes to the Christian symbolism in Harry Potter, Mr. Granger. You have done us all a tremendous favor.

  6. Richard Abanes: I have learned that people, rather than listening, tend to react, then just go on believing what they want to believe regardless of the facts.

    John Granger: Richard, what you have said here is true. All that you need to do with this hard-won understanding, consequently, after reading Deathly Hallows is look in a mirror and self-reflect on your writings about Ms. Rowling, which, sadly, have been little more than poison wrapped in piety. “Pius Thicknesse” almost.

    Read Deathly Hallows, Richard, get “the facts,” and then try to feel some remorse.

    We have seen what will happen to you if you don’t.

  7. Travis Prinzi says

    How convenient of you, richard. John, myself, and many others I’m sure have pointed you to the direct quotes from Rowling stating that she wouldn’t talk in detail about her Christian faith because it would be a dead giveaway for the final novel, and you decide to not read said novel (since it demolishes several of your published works) and instead rely on second-hand reports and link it with savior-myths.

    How ’bout when Rowling kept quoting Scripture?

    If I were like you, I’d dig up your list of sins and explain to the whole world that you weren’t acting like a Christian.

    Your comment is such an abysmal representation of this whole thing, I’m thinking John approved the comment just so his readers could get a good look at what sophistry really is.

  8. mugglemuddle says

    Thank you John!
    There was a point when I was in the camp of viewing HP simply as literature and enjoyment, the colored glasses angle. I picked up your book several years ago and it convinced me the HP was the new excellence in Christian Literature. The journey through Book Seven was an exciting affirmation.

    How many of us stood in awe within the Kirk yard of Godric Hollows? Jo does not site the source of the epitaphs as she does with Penn and Aeschylus at the books opening, but I am sure she felt that we would understand that the source was a given. Even nonbelievers should be able to determine the source. It is a Kirk yard, after all.

    [Harry stopped down and saw, upon the frozen, lichen-spotted granite, the words KENDRA DUMBLEDORE and, a short way below her dates of birth and death, AND HER DAUGHTER ARIANA. There was also a quotation:

    Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.] (DH, p 325, US ed.)

    Later in the same chapter Hermione points out the Potters’ headstone to Harry:
    [Harry did not need to kneel or even approach very close to it to make out the words engraved upon it.
    BORN 27 MARCH 1960 BORN 30 JANUARY 1960
    DIED 31 OCTOBER 1981 DIED 31 OCTOBER 1981

    The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.] (DH, p328, US ed. )

    Both verses are from the English Standard Version of the BIBLE.

    “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
    Matthew 6:21 ESV

    The last enemy to be destroyed is death. I Corinthians 15:26 ESV

    As my college-age daughter and I had our first discussion at the end of reading DH, we both agreed that the hair stood up on the back of our neck as Narcissa Malfoy announced to LV, the Death Eaters, and their allies that “he is dead”. (DH, p 726, US ed.) Both of us saw reflections of Aslan slain on the stone slab in Narnia, with all the enemies and the witch cackling and screaming in triumph. It was an eerie, but triumphant moment for both of us. We agreed that at that point, we knew for certain that Harry and LOVE would triumph!
    “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” I Cor 15:55 ESV

  9. I am not expecting any recanting from the Christian Harry-haters (although I’m “working” on a couple of my own close friends who have forbidden the series to their kids all along).

    I admit I’m uncharitable enough to ascribe the silence to the idea that their minds are made up and they don’t want to be confused by the facts, and therefore won’t bother reading Deathly Hallows.

    I also think that this is not necessarily a bad thing, because I believe that a lot of the good work JKR was given to do is best done by being smuggled. There’s nothing like vociferous objections from Christians to keep those dragons nicely asleep.

  10. I think it interesting that Dickens used scripture too, and we know Rowling would be familiar with his books. All of the essays I read that go with the books (ala Barnes and Noble classics) tell us he used multitudes of verse in his books to make his meaning and point. I think she is tipping her hat to him in her books.

  11. Richard, you’ve just given me what my mother calls a vampire moment. Did you ever watch Night Gallery as a child? There was a fabulous episode in which a young man visited a town, and was struck by the kindness and generosity of the citizens toward him, a mere stranger. He was given the best room in the nicest hotel, free of charge, and invited to many different events. Something seemed strange, however. When he arrived at the banquet being thrown in his honor, the room was packed with townsfolk. Then, suddenly, in the midst of the celebration, the heavy curtains lining the walls fell, revealing walls of mirrors that encompassed the room. The young man was the only person reflected in the glass. The vampires were revealed.

    A vampire moment is a time when someone, wittingly or unwittingly (usually the latter!) shows his hand, reveals who he truly is. This was yours. Like those much wiser readers of the series, I urge you to read what you criticize before you condemn it. Otherwise, how can you be sure you’re not standing the Spirit’s way as He reaches those who would otherwise never hear the message of the Gospel?

    What you’ve done is to reveal yourself, and not as a vampire. Something far worse.

  12. >>What you’ve done is to reveal yourself, and not as a vampire. Something far worse.

    And now I am worse than a vampire — (rolls eyes).

  13. FYI: Richard Abanes responded at great length to my response to his note and to Mr. Travis Prinzi’s response. In brief, he wrote that Mr. Prinzi and I do not understand Harry Potter because we refuse to listen to what Ms. Rowling says herself about her books and that we make up our own theories and interpretations whole cloth from our beliefs (i.e., that we are to Ms. Rowling what he is to the author of The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren). He repeats his accusations that Ms. Rowling is an adulteress and is not a Christian artist.

    Anyone wanting to read Mr. Abanes’ comments in full should ask him to spell them out at his new weblog Our space and time here are for serious readers of Harry Potter, not tar babies with faith litmus strips who haven’t read Deathly Hallows.

    You should note that Richard wrote on that weBlog this morning that his new novel debuted at #7 on the Amazon new books list. On the Amazon sales rank list, though, it is #124,586. Having read the first chapters of this novel, I don’t anticipate it will win the movie deal he is hoping for. The discrepancy between what Richard wants you to think about Homeland Insecurity — “Amazon #7!” — and the sales rank reality is sufficient metaphor and gauge of his relationship with the truth.

  14. Isn’t there a line somewhere in one of the books that says, “It’s harder to forgive someone for being right than for being wrong”?

  15. Rightly said, John.

    Just to clarify, however, for Mr. Abanes: according to mythology, vampires don’t have souls, so it would be silly to expect them to act morally. Those of us with souls don’t have that excuse, sadly. That’s all I meant.

  16. OK John, you’ve finally lured me out of lurking after two years. Apologize for the length of the post; but hey, I’ve got time to make up for!

    John and I have had a number of email conversations this week regarding the reaction of certain Orthodox Christians who maintain that Rowling is evil and the Potter books are demonic. I’m managing editor of an Orthodox Christian magazine, AGAIN, that interviewed John in 2005. We republished the interview on our website the day before Deathly Hallows released, and received a large number of very strongly worded criticisms for our support of John and his work.

    We finally had to go ahead and get a public response up along with the article. But, the “Harry Haters” are alive and well within the Orthodox community. Another well-known and conservative Orthodox writer, whose name I’ll avoid for now, was reminded of what Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has actually called the “Orthodox Taliban.”

    If you want to read the whole interview with John, here’s the link:

    But I thought I’d post here our defense of him:

    Since re-publishing this 2005 interview on our website last week as an aid to the large number of Orthodox Christian parents and children planning on reading the final book in the Harry Potter series, we’ve received a number of strongly worded criticisms from Orthodox Christians with sincere beliefs that not only are the books of JK Rowling not potential gateways to talking about the Christian faith, but are objectively evil. While we’ve striven to respond to each of these critiques directly, it seems appropriate to include here the standard language that has come together over these past days in order to more fully articulate our editorial position at AGAIN Magazine.

    As a warning, let me note that the following editorial comments reveal the ending of the final Harry Potter book. The original interview does not.

    Dear Reader,

    Thank you for taking the time to write and express your concerns. I’d be happy to address any specific critiques you have of the interview we published with John Granger. The interview originally appeared in our quarterly magazine, AGAIN, in December 2005, at which time other articles in the issue on the general topic of Faith, Fantasy and the Christian Imagination were reproduced on our web site and the web site of the Antiochian Archdiocese. We reproduced the interview this past week because of all the attention countless Americans, including our Orthodox brethren, will be giving the series with the release of the final book.

    Certainly there are differences of opinion amongst sincere and dedicated Orthodox Christians regarding the stance that believers should take towards literature in general, and the works of JK Rowling in particular. We at Conciliar Press believe that a crucial part of our mission is to “equip the saints for ministry”. One way in which we strive to accomplish this is by presenting to our readers a range of respected Orthodox Christian teachers and writers and their thoughts on how we can take advantage of teachable moments in our society to witness to the truth of the Gospel. It was in this spirit that we originally published the interview that Matushka Donna Farley, wife of theologian and Conciliar Press author Fr. Lawrence Farley, conducted with John Granger.

    As a father myself of three sons who have enjoyed the Harry Potter books immensely, I believe that they can provide wonderful opportunities to speak to deep Christian truths of loyalty, love, forgiveness and sacrifice. I have not found the use of magic to be any more troubling than the magic of the Ghosts in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. JK Rowling herself has publicly professed her Christian faith, and her admiration for the works of other British Christian authors of mythical literature, like CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. I personally do think that she is sincere. I find myself even more convinced of this having read the conclusion to the series, where Harry Potter gives up his life without a fight for the sake of all his friends, goes beyond death to King’s Cross, and returns to literally disarm and overthrow the evil one who thanks to the sacrifice Harry has made can no longer harm the good people he is attacking. The book is more packed even then its predecessors with Christian imagery, going even so far this time to include direct Scripture quotations at several critical points in the story.

    It can certainly be a wonderful and godly choice for a Christian to avoid literature like that of JK Rowling, or Charles Dickens, or the King Arthur myths, or anything similar. But countless Orthodox Christians do choose to embrace such stories, and if they do it is important that they know of other Orthodox Christians who have wrestled with the kinds of questions they themselves may have as well.

    In closing, let me share this passage from the lead article of the issue of AGAIN Magazine in which the interview originally appeared. The full article is available online.


    We may think of the tradition of heroic epics as a tradition of “men of the west,” Tolkien’s evocative image for the good guardians of civilized society. While legendary tales are found in the folklore of all ages and places, the epic fiction of the traditional lands of Orthodoxy is little known to us in America today. Most of us have read about King Arthur and at least heard of Beowulf, but how many know The Lay of Igor or Ruslan and Ludmila, the great epics of medieval Russia? The heroic fantasy that forms a part of our cultural heritage is primarily that of the West.

    But does this fact make such literature irrelevant to our lives as Orthodox Christians? One Orthodox authority who has given this topic much thought is Bishop Kallistos Ware of Oxford, England. In an interview recorded in Kyriakos Markides’ wonderful new book Gifts of the Desert, he encourages a careful but wholehearted engagement with the best that Western culture has to offer. “Christ is the lord of history,” reflects Bishop Kallistos. He continues:

    “We must look, then, for signs of the Truth, traces and footprints of the Truth, throughout our modern culture. . . . We Orthodox, particularly those of us who are Western converts, are often in danger of becoming church mice. We just live inside the church and nibble at the crumbs in the church, but we don’t look outside at the presence of Christ in the world as well. We Orthodox who live in the West are heirs to the entire cultural and intellectual tradition of the West, much of which indeed is profoundly Christian. We are heirs to Dante, to Shakespeare, to Milton, to Wordsworth. Of course we have our own Orthodox interpretation of their work. But if we are to play our role as Orthodox in the Western world we must be willing to listen and to learn from the spiritual masters of the Western tradition. . . . [Some] of us must surely engage in a dialogue with Western culture. Otherwise we are betraying our roles as Orthodox placed here in the West as mediators and witnesses.”

    Orthodox Christians can hold their heads high, and unashamedly embrace the traces of Truth found in our cultural heritage—including the tradition of heroic fantasy—without compromising our allegiance to our Faith. We are, after all, Orthodox of the West. With that comes an obligation to develop an Orthodox understanding of the great stories of the West, to witness to the Truth of Christ present in them.

    The American monk Fr. Seraphim Rose understood this need for Orthodox to serve as mediators, bridging Christ’s presence in both the East and the West in our own lives. “In general,” he wrote, “the person who is well acquainted with the best products of secular culture—which in the West almost always have definite religious and Christian overtones—has a much better chance of leading a normal, fruitful Orthodox life than someone who knows only the popular culture of today. . . . Everything good in the world, if we are only wise enough to see it, points to God, and to Orthodoxy, and we have to make use of it.”

    . . .

    Orthodoxy has always been able to embrace and renew pre-Christian understanding. St. Basil the Great spoke of the potential value of the epic legends of the pagan Greeks, saying, “No source of instruction can be overlooked in the preparation for the great battle of life, and there is a certain advantage to be derived from the right use of the heathen writers.”

    Fr. Alexander Schmemann explains the reason for this “certain advantage” in his book For the Life of the World. “Before Christ came, God had promised Him to man,” he explains. “As Christians we believe that He, who is the truth about both God and man, gives foretastes of His incarnation in all more fragmentary truths. We believe as well that Christ is present in any seeker after truth. Simone Weil has said that though a person may run as fast as he can away from Christ, if it is toward what he considers true, he runs in fact straight into the arms of Christ.”

    AGAIN columnist Fr. Michael Oleksa, drawing on his own long experience with the native culture of Alaska, explained the relationship to me. “I’ll take a good pagan any day,” he said. “The Church knows how to deal with pagans. You find some common ground and bless it. You find some points of agreement and enlarge them. You find something good, true, and beautiful in a belief or practice and affirm it, endorse it, celebrate it.”

    Christ Bless,

    Douglas Cramer
    Managing Editor, AGAIN Magazine

  17. John —

    You got it right. You helped hundreds of others to get it right. The dogs bark, but the caravan passes on.

    Thank you for standing in front of Harry with your arms spread wide to protect him… even though it turns out in the end he didn’t need all that much protection after all!

    May Harry continue to be a blessing to you and to us all.


  18. I predict that the previous Harry-haters will have a 70-30 response, with 70% insisting they were right and are still right, mostly because the last book still had people casting spells. 30% will sheepishly come around. Most of the 70% won’t ever read DH.

    It is a sign of how the Devil’s favorite game is to get Christians pitted against each other, and distracted from more serious matters at hand. I imagine this is what he is saying: “What fun to get Christians declaring that a book full of Christian imagery and morals is a tool of the Devil! Let’s go to court and try to ban the telling of a tale of sacrificial love and the destruction of Death! After all…can’t let the general public think any of this stuff that’s in the heads of Christians is real. While everyone is blathering on about witchcraft in Harry Potter, I’ll just let the blatantly atheistic movie, The Golden Compass, sneak in right under the Christian Radar.”

    I know the feeling of vindication. I was at a Christian teacher’s conference a few years ago, and attended a workshop called “what to do with Harry Potter”. The debate was heated, and my input was that the books certainly seemed Christian, but I said we had to wait for the end. I was so nervous that it was going to end in some new-agey cheesy “just use the force, Harry, and find strength within yourself” sort of way. I’m so glad that it ended the way it did. Whew. I’ve been talking about it with my students, too, always with a twinge of nervousness about how their parents might react to my view on things. I’m interested to see if this topic will come up again at our next conference, and if it does, to see how opinions might have changed.

  19. Travis Prinzi says

    It is very interesting to watch the Harry Haters jump ship. I’m not going to respond anymore to Abanes specifically, unless he gets a conversation going at his own blog, but it’s fascinating that this Harry Potter thing that’s supposed to be such a threat the minds of young children isn’t such a big deal all of a sudden. Laura Mallory has dropped her pursuit of the banning of the books (to do youth ministry…woe to those who are under her care as a youth leader! It’ll be Christianity as culture war, not the gospel).

    I’ve been wondering what the response would be after reading Deathly Hallows. I thought the debate would still be difficult, honestly. I had assumed Rowling would be vague enough with the Christian content of the last book that there would be room for the fundamentalists to continue to gripe. I was shocked at just how blatantly obvious the Christian story was in Deathly Hallows, and I’m really interested to see where the Harry Haters go from here. I suppose refusing to read the 7th book will be sufficient for some, and their arguments against the series will seem all the more ludicrous in light of Book 7.

    One thing is certain: I’ve never seen Christian fundamentalists and atheists so united on an issue!

  20. Harry haters really have to read the books before they can be critical. But crow is such a tough dish! I don’t look for many to do it. Some of them can’t even spell! (Still!!!!!)

    John, you were right. How does it feel to be on the side of the angels in this lifetime?

    I have had my appreciation of JK Rowling immensely increased by your scholarship and lucidity of expression and challenging ideas. Thank you!

    Meanwhile, some persons may need to re-read THE GOLDEN BOUGH to learn to distinguish between the alleged dying and rising gods and Jesus. Having done that, they MAY be able to see that JKR’s presentation is CHRISTIAN through and through. On the other hand, the actual corn king/osirus connection is more manifested in Voldemort, who is, after all, the character who is chopped up into pieces that no one can put together again.

    John, maybe you need to get a book out on the differences between these two presentations of dying and rising gods versus the Messias, Yeshua. Some persons could stand to learn more deeply about it, it seems. Your track record is pretty good on explanation and explication. Think about it.

    Thanks again! Pax Christi!

  21. aussieseeker71 says

    This is the first time I have posted, and I must say from the start that I feel a little intimidated, because I am not very good when it comes to articulating my thoughts; neither written or verbally.

    But I would like to respond to two comments that Abane wrote in regards to Rowling’s Christianity.

    “Her hostile response to “fellow” Christians”

    I have read all the articles I know of, and have seen nearly interview I can think of, and not once have I ever encountered any hostility towards fellow Christians. Has she responded with frustration? Yes. But I would hardly call that hostile. In fact I think she has responded more graciously than I ever would in her situation. Unless of course, Abane has a different interpretation of the word “hostile” than I or others do.

    “Her flip comments about her belief in God”

    Now I’m not sure if I’m allowed to post that part of an interview that Rowling did where she confessed that she is a Christian. So please feel free to remove it, if necessarily. Although unfortunately my response may make less sense if you do.

    From an interview done in 2000

    Interviewer: “Are you a Christian?”

    Rowling: “Yes I am. Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.”

    Okay, now I am going to break down what she has said, and give my own response.

    “Yes I am”

    This would probably be the same answer I would give if someone were to ask if I were a Christian. Would I elaborate further? Yes I would. But this is a media interview, and even if Rowling had elaborated further (or at least give a answer satisfying to Abane), what would be the chances that any mention of Jesus would be edited out? And even though it is true that nearly every Tom, Dick, Harry claims to be a Christian, I think “Yes, I am is a satisfactory answer in certain situations, especially where there are rules that don’t permit discussion of religion. I might not like those rules or agree with them, but out of respect I will adhere to them.

    “Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God.”

    It seems to me that what she is saying is “Well they rather I wasn’t a Christian.” In fact she says in another interview (which she did with Katie Couric in 2003, on Dateline), “For some reason, I don’t think they want me on their side at all.”

    Now if that is the message that she is getting from the Christian community, can you really blame her for not wanting to elaborate on her faith?

    “Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.”

    From what I understand by her comment here; it seems to me that what she is saying “I would be happy to speak further about my belief in God…but not right now.”

    Personally I can accept this, because I appreciate the fact that she didn’t want to give away the ending of her book. Yes, you may argue that talking about her faith would not have necessarily been any great risk to any major plot revelations. However, one has to consider the fact that Rowling is very, very protective of her books when it comes to further storylines, and would not have taken ANY risk to reveal any major plots.

    Now having said all that, is it possible that Ms Rowling’s Christianity is of the more liberal kind? Quite possibly. Would she and I have some theological differences? Again, quite possibly. However, when she says she is a Christian, I will at least give her the benefit of the doubt. Besides, she also could be new to the faith, and if that’s the case, I don’t expect her to just change over night. And as for this “adultery” that she has supposedly committed; well as far as I know, her first marriage failed, she later met another man, they married and had two children (in addition to her daughter from the previous marriage). So I am not sure where the “adultery” fits in here? I am wondering if Abanes is basing his accusation on Mark 10:12 “And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she has committed adultery.”

    Now let me just say that I believe adultery is a sin. However, we also don’t know the circumstances behind the failure of her first marriage. Secondly, I also have a friend at church who is a single mum with children, and she has often spoke of the guilt and condemnation she has felt from others, because of her failed marriage. I guess what I am saying here, is that Ms Rowling probably feels bad enough that her first marriage didn’t work out, without putting further shame upon her. Am I saying that she hasn’t committed adultery? Not necessarily. Also, I am not excusing any sin that is in her life. But at the same time I believe that she deserves as much grace extended to her as anyone else.

    I know Abanes and others may argue that there is “no evidence of any fruit” in Rowling’s life; and yes it is true that fruit is the evidence of one’s faith. However, it is also true that the fruit in one’s life can take time to produce; people don’t always just change over night. But whether you believe Ms Rowling is a Christian or not; in the end only God knows whether she is truly her child, and only He can penetrate any hardness of heart towards towards whatever sin is in her life. And if that’s the case, wouldn’t it be better to pray for her, rather then basically saying ‘Well I question her Christianity because she has done X, Y and Z.”

  22. jaminers says

    (I went on Richard Abanes’s blog and read his nasty comments that John thankfully left off this disscussion board. Richard attempted to discredit John by mentioning some of John’s theories about HP characters’ names. Below is what I wrote to Richard about his comments. I don’t know if Richard will post it for viewing on his blog, so I figured I’d write it here too so John would get a chance to read it and anyone else who’s interested.)

    You are a sad man, Richard. God bless John Granger! He never claimed to be right about EVERYTHING! Geez… Can you blame the guy for ENJOYING himself by reading deeply into the books? Why, Richard, don’t you mention all the stuff he got RIGHT? Did you even read his excellent book “Unlocking Harry Potter”? I’ve read that book, and “Looking for God in Harry Potter,” and I find it odd that you take John’s fun, playful theories about characters’ names and post them on your blog, but somehow leave out his deep, serious thoughts about literary alchemy and Christian symbolism. Seems pretty funny that you use John’s weakest arguements to prove that he’s wrong, when his strongest, deepest arguments prove that he was often spot on! John Granger is a brilliant man who has increased my faith in Christ and has touched the hearts of his many readers. You and your fundamentalist buddies are turning our beautiful religion of Christianity into a disgusting joke. It appears to me that Mr. Granger is a very gracious man, because he could have easily torn you apart in counter-arguements. But John shouldn’t waste his time on you anyways… Why argue with a stubborn man like you, Richard, when he can instead spend his time bringing millions of readers closer to Christ? You hate Harry Potter. We get it. But John Granger, J.K. Rowling, and the millions of Christians out there who haven’t been influenced by your poisonous lies are amazed that one can be so blinded by his own glaring pride.

  23. One of the reasons why JRRT and CSL are accepted as Christian fiction writers is that their other writing lays out their faith foundations for their novels. I believe the Harry haters may change their minds if JKR starts writing essays on Christian apologetics or is asked to translate a book of the Bible for a new (and officially recognized) translation. On the other hand, in our world of tabloid press and postmodern suspicion, we can always find room to doubt anyone’s good intentions, good will, good work, good heart, good faith. Perhaps there is no hope for JKR to ever convince everyone that she is a Christian writer, even if she does choose to make herself explicitly known. I don’t know about JRRT, but CSL was certainly no saint in his youth (like Dumbledore), and the fact of his redemption only lends credibility to his work. Harry is no saint in his youth either. Maybe JKR has not been a saint. I certainly haven’t. Throwing stones at the sinners will leave us all battered and bruised. One thing I’ve learned from Snape is that very unpleasant people often have a hidden reason for being unpleasant. This fact may not reduce accountability, but it may increase empathy.

  24. I just read Richard Abanes’ response. All I could think of after reading it was the dwarfs in the stable at the end of The Last Battle.

    I could say more, but then I would begin to sound like Mr Arbanes.

  25. Travis Prinzi says

    If Narnia were released book by book over the past 10 years, fundamentalist Harry Haters would be Narnia Haters.

    For Book 1 (LWW), they would have decried the use of magic, the description of Aslan’s resurrection as “deeper magic,” (magic is evil, you see), and the sacrifice of Aslan for only Edmund (Lewis denies universal human sin, they would say).

    For Book 2, they would have absolutely had kittens over the Pevensie’s explanation that they had called on Pomona to cast spells over the apple orchard, Cornelius’ being a good wizard, and the big drinking party at the end with the Roman god, Bacchus.

    After whining about problems as the series was released, book by book, they’d have absolutely lost their heads when Lewis allowed a believer in “Tash,” the foreign god, to enter heaven, solely on the basis of the Carlormene’s self-sacrifice (Salvation by works! Salvation apart from Christ!)

    They would have dug up Lewis’s personal life details, and they would have found a good list of sins, including the eventual marriage to a divorced woman.

    And it would have been every bit as sad as what these folks are doing to J.K. Rowling.

  26. jerrybowyer says

    Richard’s answer is amazing. He’s not really interested in the topic he just wrote a couple of books about it!?!?!

    Yes, there are dying saviour gods in pagan lit. How many do it in the vicinity of a place called King’s Cross? How many are written by members of Christian churches who profess to be Christians? How many quote the scriptures in those stories?
    CSL dealt with this 50 years ago anyway, those dying and rising fertility gods were in fact echoes of the gospel in advance. In fact, it was only when Tolkien and another friend suggested this idea to Lewis that he finally did convert.

    John, forget them, they won’t change their minds, but they’re finally willing to change the subject. Train all your neurons on using HP as a gateway to lead kids into the Great Conversation of Western Civ.

  27. Travis Prinzi says

    jerrybowyer, I know, it really is amazing, isn’t it? I drafted a really lengthy response to him at his site and decided not to post it, because I know for a fact it will get us nowhere. It’s “sad,” to use his oft-repeated phrase (funny that I don’t really get a sense that he’s “sad” at all). It is incredibly odd that after writing two books against the series and frequently complaining that he – and only he – has actually “gone to Rowling herself” to get the full story, that he claims there is only one quote in which Rowling speaks of her Christian faith (when, in reality, there are several) and refuses to go to Book 7 (or, I would assume, any of Rowling’s subsequent commentary about the books) from this point forward. He’s given up on the subject. Except that one reference to him caused a few tirades.

    You can’t have it both ways. Either what Rowling says matters, in which case: her statements about the Christian content of Book 7 matter and the actual content of Book 7 matters, OR what Rowling says doesn’t matter and we can come to our own conclusions about the Harry Potter series without reading the final installment. Hermione said most wizards don’t have an ounce of logic. Perhaps he’s a wizard after all?

    Since he claims that he’s the one who has “gone to Rowling,” yet doesn’t even know how many times she’s spoken about her faith and refuses to read the final volume, wherein Rowling said that her Christian faith would be obvious, it seems his entire argument rests on two things: (1) Rowling sinned, and (2) John was wrong about some of his analysis. Since Rowling herself has never said anything contradicting Christian content in the books, and since she has made several positive statements in regards to Christian content, it’s hard to see how his going to Rowling herself has gotten him anywhere at all.

    I actually hope he doesn’t bother reading Book 7. It will be maddening to have him do so, because he’s already decided (prior to reading it!) that it’s not Christian in any way. And, he’s on public record as saying such, which means his conclusions post-reading will be quite invalidated, given that the entire world could see he already made up his mind.

    And by the way, neither Tolkien nor Lewis quoted Scripture in LotR or Narnia, to my recollection. And it would be hard to say that Tolkien is more deliberate about Christian content than Rowling. Lewis might still trump Rowling on blatant Christian references, but Tolkien does not. And one also wonders why Rowling’s made-up magical world is any worse than the Norse mythology (not Christian!) on which Tolkien built his world, and the melting pot of pagan mythologies which find a multiplicity of references in Lewis.

    *sigh* Here I’ve said I wouldn’t keep posting on this, and I continue to post. Better get back to work on my presentations.

  28. I’m not even convinced that the case for dying and rising pagan “saviors” is all that strong… at least so I gather from the Christian Thinktank apologetics site I mentioned.

    Cyclical fertility gods, maybe… but I hope somebody DOES try to make a case for teenage Harry Potter as a representation of a King of the Crops who has to die due to… declining fertility. I could certainly use the laugh.

    No, Harry was created in the world in which those tombstones in Godric’s Hollow speak of what’s real.

  29. Mr. Abanes says: I haven’t written anything about Deathly Hallows because, basically, I don’t care enough about the issue any more to read it. I have moved on to other things as of long, long ago.

    In other words: I capitalized on the chance to cater to the Harry haters in Christendom when the time was ripe, and now it would be inconvenient to discover that my position is untenable? Or rather, irrelevant to discover such, since my only real motive in writing was that I smelled a salable controversy, and the time has passed?

    I’m in the book business, so when I read the first HP, it was nothing but the first book of a planned series. It was pre-hype, and pre-much publicity. Having not yet been instructed by the evangelical/conservative/pentecostal subculture what to think, I thought three things (1) This is going to be a huge commercial hit, (2) This is going to be huge spiritually, and (3) the church is going to hate it. I was bowled over by the Scriptural parallels. I couldn’t say a word along these lines to anyone at church, of course. A few books into the series, I discovered Connie Neal’s work and was overjoyed, though I agree that she brings a relativist stance. When I discovered John’s work I was even more excited, and learned a great deal about how deep the symbolism really runs. It actually was a loneliness-reliever to find out that other “real” Christians didn’t buy the religiously correct position. (I read Mr. Abanes’ book, too, and found it far weaker than either of the above, although I’d never attempt any specific comparisons/examples without a reread.)

    Here’s something I really haven’t heard anyone say; if someone has, I’ve so far missed it: The church simply doesn’t like the supernatural. Like Pharisees and teachers of the law, the vast majority seek to know the Lord through the Bible only. The Bible is indeed the inerrant word of God and all authentic God-experiences must match up with it. But the scribes and Pharisees, for all their study, didn’t know him when he walked in. Similarly, if anything supernatural manifests today, the church says, “That’s the devil!” And I really think that’s a major cause of so many Christians dismissing HP without so much as taking a peek. They say and believe they are denouncing witchcraft, but I contend that if they examine themselves a little closer, they don’t want or trust the supernatural in any form, period. They only want to read the first-century accounts from a historically comfortable distance.

    But people who are longing for a real God have already deserted the church, finding it dry, judgmental (and that, too often, without objectively examining the object being judged), irrelevant, and having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. They are not going to look to agenda-driven “Christian fiction” as offering anything but the party line. They’re inured against it. What people long for, a real relationship with God, power, visitations, and all (too controversial to be published by the Christian press), is going to have to be smuggled into the so-called mainstream, in fiction. There is no other way. Story bypasses people’s defenses and goes straight to the heart (I always direct any who doubt that to 2 Sam. 12). And better still if the church denounces it, because then readers will not be warned off by a religious stamp of approval. JK Rowling has succeeded in spades in smuggling the gospel right past the church to a world that is hungry for a real encounter with God.

  30. MrsDarcy says

    Mr. Abanes, that you could bring up a personal circumstance in her life of which you don’t approve as some kind of ‘evidence’ of her not being a Christian makes me think you don’t understand what Christianity is. You cannot really believe that people who’ve had affairs can’t be Christian!

    And further, that you can be hit square between the eyes with a such a deep and rich literary presentation of the gospel and not recognize it, also makes me wonder if you ought to go back to Sunday School and start over.

    Ms. Rowling has done what needed badly to be done–she has brought our faith back to the culture and has done it by bypassing the church. This is the only way it could get out there, because as far as our culture sees, the church is nothing but a bunch of legalistic, narrow-minded scolds and is no longer credible and no longer trustworthy. They have let their Gospel message so badly deteriorate that not only does it look like nothing more than fearful condemnation of everything that is different, but they don’t even know their own literary and theological heritage anymore. Even if the church wanted to teach our faith to the culture, it wouldn’t have anything to teach.

    Ms. Rowling picked up where we have failed. Nothing could be a clearer indictment of our failure than this morality play we’ve been engaging in. Ms. Rowling is standing with arms outstretched offering absolute gems to the world, and the church is on the sidelines tsk-tsk’ing and finger wagging and attacking her for doing it. If you were a seeker, to whom would you be drawn?

  31. Travis Prinzi says

    elsie, I recall that merlin (or was it pauli?) of mugglematters argued some time ago that one of the key problems in the conservative Christian analysis of the Potter series is the anti-sacramentalism of American conservative Christianity. I think he’s right on the mark. It’s what gives them such an abysmal understanding of the symbolism present in the series. “Symbols can mean anything,” they say in response, “so we can’t really use so-called Christian symbols to argue for Christian meaning.”

    Well, that’s convenient. Dismiss out of hand anything that fits the Christian reading, and cling to trivialities that supposedly go against it.

    But I think the mugglematters guys were right on this. There is an inherent anti-sacramentalism in the conservative, culture-war version of Americanized Christianity, and without a sacramental understanding of life, understanding things like the Harry Potter series is quite difficult.

  32. alina says: While everyone is blathering on about witchcraft in Harry Potter, I’ll just let the blatantly atheistic movie, The Golden Compass, sneak in right under the Christian Radar.”

    Yes, yes, yes! This is right on. Years ago (I’m dating myself here) many well-meaning Christians tried to limit kids’ access to Judy Blume by checking out all her books en masse from several public libraries. I asked the Lord, “What’s going on here? Why target Judy Blume and leave others who are really far more controversial (the late Norma Klein, for example) on the shelves unmolested?” The answer came rather quickly: It’s because Blume is ultra-famous, and few people know enough about children’s books to target any but household names. And the devil is pulling sleight of hand against Christians (ironic, don’t you think?), and chortling the whole time.

    When the onslaught came against JKR, I asked, “Lord, what is the devil trying to slip under the radar unnoticed?” Again, I found the answer quickly: Philip’s Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Though a complicated series, its major thrust is to establish “the republic of God.”

  33. Elmtree01 says

    what disturbs me in all the antiRowling stuff, is it contains detraction at best and slander at worst.
    If someone has a problem with the books- fine. I might disagree (at least with some points) but I’ll respect the view and be willing to discuss or even debate it.

    But some of this goes over that line, and paints the Author as dark… which is a very serious matter. And could well be a sin in itself. Truth is important, and sometimes hard to discern, but we ought to be sure the facts are correct (as best we can be) before attacking another’s character (and even then, attacking another’s character is to be avoided).
    Rowling has been slandered and I’m impressed she’s shown such restraint in her responses to some of the accusations.

  34. aussieseeker71 says

    I’m confused about something. Travis, when you say that Abanes has “gone to Rowling herself”, do mean that he has had a personal one to one conversation with her?

    By the way, I probably didn’t need to add my 2 cents on the matter (in regards to my last post). Everyone else has pretty much said what I wanted to say, only better.

    Also, I haven’t read any of Abanes books. But from the excerpts I have read, and the information that I have gathered in interviews and reviewers, it seems to me that he approach the books with an agenda to “look for anything to do with the occult.” I may be wrong. But that’s how it comes across.

  35. Rowling has been slandered and I’m impressed she’s shown such restraint in her responses to some of the accusations.

    I strongly agree, Elmtree. Many of you probably remember the email that swept the country in the summer of 2001. It blasted HP and JKR based on fictional, satirical “comments” made in the satirical newspaper The Onion. When a member of my church, who had received the email, showed it to me, I took her concerns seriously yet had little trouble discerning that the quotes didn’t ring true, and sure enough, a little research proved them to be fictional, with no attempt by The Onion to present them as real. What is breathtakingly sad is that many Christians took these at face value, and with no ability to discern and not even a shred of truth-seeking, used them to spread outright lies about JKR all over the Internet. Sin? Not just “could well be.” And when proved wrong, and sinful, did the church at large apologize and repent? Nope. And was JKR far more gracious to her vicious (not too strong a word) attackers than they were to her? She sure was. At the time, that was another huge clue to me (besides the books themselves) that Ms. R was the genuine article.

  36. meredith says

    Harry Potter is great fiction. So is His Dark Materials. Both were series that touched me deeply emotionally and also made me think critically about their content. Exactly what I want out of a book (even if they are “children’s books”).

    Yes, Harry Potter can be read as Christian allegory but other interpretations are open as well (it is a post-modern classic, right John?). There’s no “right” or “wrong” answer. (Although not a Christian myself, I am certainly not going to deny the clear allusions to Christianity; however, the book is still powerful and enjoyable even if one does not share the author’s religious beliefs.)

    However, some fundamentalists will always focus on the witchcraft elements and therefore see HP as “evil.” This seems ridiculous to me and obviously to many of the responders here as well. I think it is ridiculous to label a book as “good” or “evil” at all. Upon reading through the comments however, it seems like some would still like to be able to label literature as “good” or “evil,” but because they love HP, they are fervently seeking a way to make sure it lands in the “good” pile. Well, it doesn’t work that way. If you truly believe that His Dark Materials is the work of the devil, then I think you have to be prepared to accept that the devil is similarly using HP to spread witchcraft by using a Christian author and an “evil” story wrapped in Christian allegory. You don’t get to have it both ways.

  37. Ms. Rowling is a professed Christian writing within an almost exclusively Christian tradition and draws from that tradition using Christian symbols, themes, and story-points to write an edifying, postmodern, Christian drama.

    Mr. Pullman is a professed atheist writing within the same tradition with the agenda of doing the opposite (hence the UnLewis begins his story in a wardrobe — but has the church play the bad guys throughout).

    I’m not sure where either book can be called a “work of the devil;” their human authors are pretty well known! I am pretty certain, on the other hand, that each author has made clear which side of the believer/non-believer side they are on, both in their works and public comments.

    Readers are free to read both, read neither, read either one, and enjoy/despise them both for whatever reasons they want. But no one is free to say (without being called on it, at least) that the books are what the reader wants them to be, regardless of the author’s stated position and the books themselves (intentio auctoris sometimes being different than intentio operis).

    Ms. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, especially post Deathly Hallows, will be very hard to group alongside Mr. Pullman’s books rather than Mr. Lewis’ or Ms. Gouge’s, unless we’re just making a pile of books that were catalogued arbitrarily as “children’s literature.” If you qualify books as “good” because they are written at a certain level of, let’s say, magisterial English, then Mr. Pullman is a better writer than Ms. Rowling, who might even be called a “bad writer” (though I wouldn’t say that, especially post Deathly Hallows). If edifying and uplifting content of a Christian vein is your measure of worth, then just the opposite is true.

    And I expect there are many other measures. If many readers — let’s say “millions and millions” — prefer Ms. Rowling’s fantasies to Mr. Pullman’s, my guess it is because they enjoy books that “instruct while delighting” in the moral virtues rather than postmodern individualism and anti-religious sentiments. As Eliade argued, entertainments in a secular culture serve a mythological oe religious function to those immunized to faith experiences; I would only add that the most popular stories are those that speak the prevalent (if relatively dormant) language of religious images and symbols of the secular culture in question. Hence Potter Mania. Hence Pullman Obscurity, relatively speaking.

    But to each his or her own, right?

  38. Carrie B says

    I may be naive here, but I make a motion to let go of the Harry-haters and consider what to do for the non-believing Harry-lovers. I suppose we can’t do more for them than JKR herself has done; she’s done the smuggling. Here’s what I’ve wondered since I first read John’s Keys to Harry Potter–could we be waking the sleeping dragons by exposing the Christian nature of HP? I have such mixed feelings here. Should we say, “LOOK! They’re about Jesus!” (great fun for us!) or should we leave it alone and let God work on readers’ hearts and minds as they allow him to? Will anyone pay attention to us anyway? If JKR has worked so hard to disguise the essence of the gospel, should we expose her intentions? Has anyone wondered this? I’d like to see what others think.

  39. nelsonholly says

    Further to Pullman and his amazing trilogy — he professes himself an athiest, I read it in a long (online?) essay or something of that sort by Pullman himself (>2 yr ago).

    But … I have to contend that his books are not a-theist books. They have the smell and taste of holiness all through them. Rowling’s fiction is workmanlike, Pullman’s is stunning, like a very large and complex Faberge egg.

    I know a few athiests personally, and they have much the same flavour. It’s not atheists, but the snide, the greedy, the mammon worshippers and other unrooted folk who lack the taste of holiness.

    ~two cents~

  40. Travis Prinzi says

    aussieseeker71, no – I was quoting his own way of describing his belief that he’s accurately and thoroughly read the relevant J.K. Rowling interviews and quotes.

  41. dadandersen says

    Sidebar – I’m interested in anyones comments about J.K.’s recent interview with NBC. Paticularly where she talks about her “struggle to keep believing” (or something like that.)

  42. aussieseeker71 says

    Carrie, I think you are on to something, and I must admit that I often wrestle with similar issues.

    One of the things that I am learning about as I grow in my Christian faith, is that we must not only “contend for the faith”, but also learn to “contextualize the truths of our faith” into certain cultures. The latter is something I very much struggle with, because I grew up in a church environment (as many Christians did) where much of our evangelism was limited to programs or tracts that was in the restraints of a Christian subculture. And while I am now trying to personally break away from those restraints, I am finding it difficult to contextualize my faith in an intelligent and articulate way, rather in that “hey, I’m going to attempt to be cool and relevant” kind of way that just ends up coming across sounding cheesy or desperate.

    As for contextualizing the Christian faith with non-believing Harry Potter fans, I don’t know. Perhaps the best place to start is to find that common ground, and then gradually work from there.

  43. _____________________________________
    Carrie B Says:

    July 29th, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    Here’s what I’ve wondered since I first read John’s Keys to Harry Potter–could we be waking the sleeping dragons by exposing the Christian nature of HP? I have such mixed feelings here. Should we say, “LOOK! They’re about Jesus!” (great fun for us!) or should we leave it alone and let God work on readers’ hearts and minds as they allow him to? Will anyone pay attention to us anyway? If JKR has worked so hard to disguise the essence of the gospel, should we expose her intentions? Has anyone wondered this? I’d like to see what others think.


    My vote is not to tickle the sleeping dragons. I truly believe that Ms. Rowling’s art (and that of some other not-who-you’d-think-of creative artists) is meant, or sent, if you prefer, to begin infiltrating the hearts, the emotions of people whose intellects are in many cases thoroughly defended against the Gospel. Generally defended with really bad arguments, of course, or with bad experiences of religion at first or second or third-hand. If all that comes of reading HP is an unspoken and unexamined feeling of empathetic sorrow at the spectacle of sacrificial death, and joy when that sacrifice proves to be salvific. If we point out the parallels too assiduously, then the response is likely to be, “Oh, Rowling is just preaching then,” and then that heart too will be armored against Harry & Co.

  44. korg20000bc says

    After reading Pullman’s stories I felt dirty, tainted, depressed and hopeless. Well written? Sure! Good reading? Not unless you already have an anti-religious agenda. Rowling’s writing left me uplifted, encouraged and wanting more! Surely that’s “Fruit” that Abanes missed in his cursory glance over the Rowling orchard.


  45. korg20000bc says

    Abanes objections seem to come almost straight from that “The Onion” satirical artical.

    …especially his gripe that the books are revenge focssed.


  46. labrialumn says

    Depends on what you mean by fundamentalist. I believe in the Apostle’s Creed and the inerrancy of Scripture – and that the Harry Potter series is Christian literature.

    There is a culture war, we didn’t start it, but the Laura Mallory’s of the world -are on the wrong side-. They are on the side of the banality of evil. Of the obliteration of the West. There is more of Isengard than Rivendell about them.

    Travis, there -were- Narnia haters not that long ago. It has nothing to do with their believing God’s word. It is due to their paltry education in the American school system.

    Has anyone put together that Godric’s Hollow is a wizarding community, and that they have a church(!) And the pull that Harry felt towards going into the sanctuary where the Nativity was being celebrated. He was baptised, even if the Dursley’s didn’t teach him the Faith, God still had a claim on him.

    Carrie, I think we should use the HP books for what they are. There will be times when discussing the Faith with someone outside it, where the analogy in the HP books will be a useful illustration to explain things. The power of substitutionary death used to be a major hurdle, a thing not comprehensible. Now there are 10s of millions of youth who do understand that, who can understand the Cross, that stumbling block to the Jews and to the Gentiles alike.

    Or to ask them “where is that place that Dumbledore spoke of, “where the blood that was shed to save you, yet lives” and that “if you go there often enough so that you can call it home, you will be kept safe from the dark lord.?” Where is that place, indeed?

    JKR may well be living in an adulterous “marriage.” That is all to common a thing among fundamentalists and evangelicals, due to the abandonment of the Biblical and Church teaching on marriage that had held for most of 2,000 years. Does Abanes (trying hard not to call him the name of a character from a Britcom that fits oh so well) consistently teach what the Bible does about marriage? Is his preaching of the Law even-handed? Or is he picking out JKR in a way suspicious considering his bearing of false witness against her in general? His vile books disgust me. Has he no fear of God? Or is he truly that unlearned?

    C. S. Lewis himself entered into such an adulterous “marriage.” It broke Tolkien’s heart.

    Shakespeare’s plays are full of sexual innuendo, yet they represent some of the soundest, most profound presentations of Christian anthropology in the English language.

    We could go on. The idea that Christian authors must be resurrected saints living among us for their works to be off the index librarum prohibitorum clashes rather strongly with the Biblical practice of “robbing the Egyptians.”

  47. korg20000bc says

    Your point about contextualising you faith is extremely important. I’m reminded of Paul’s address to the Areopagus in Acts17:16 onwards. He doesn’t say “Men of Athens! You worship many false gods and you’re condemned for that.” He makes a point of explaining who their “unknown god” was.

    So, instead of condemning other beliefs we should seek to present the gospel in a way that other’s beliefs assist with out explanation. That’s pretty difficult but surely must be the best way.


  48. As far as JKR’s comments about the “struggle to keep believing”, I consider that she is being honest about the nature of faith and its outworking in our lives. It is difficult to will to keep on believing in times of struggle and despair. It is difficult to keep on believing in times of well-being and propsterity. In short, it is the will to believe and the conscious practice of that belief that is difficult to maintain in the pressure cooker of life.

    One’s faith can be a tremendous solace and comfort as well as a thorn in the flesh. Loss of a parent and facing death is a trying time. One must face the reality of “Do I really believe this?” and not in a facile way. Same goes for a divorce and the attendant struggle with faith and faithfulness. And child-rearing will get you to doubt everthing but original sin, incredibly mixed with joy and hope and sadness and trial.

    The temptations of success are the same, believe it or not. Except they tend to be the obverse of the coin. One begins to imagine that all one’s prosperity and kudos are due to one’s self and efforts. The mountain top has the same life as the valley, but pride can be a real downfall. One may leave behind one’s faith and think it’s no longer necessary.

    In short, JKR has stated openly that being Christian and having faith is not a panacea for being alive in a world of relationships and politics and living people. It has ever been thus. It is particularly difficult for Western Christians because of the assaults on the faith posed by materialism and modernism and postmodernism, as well as the struggle with ease and sloth. The cultural mileu mitigates against faith of any sort and particularly Christian faith – which is often posed as the big bugaboo responsible for all problems in society and the world. The repeated failures of WWI and WWII and communist regimes in various European and Eastern European states have had tremendous costs in human lives and potentials. And the subsequent dreary attachment to the human as the measure of the divine makes it hard to believe that God even cares.

    Paul is addressing this type of issue when he advises to work out your own salvation in fear and trembling, filling up the remainder of Jesus’ sacrifice. No easy path there! And even the Lord drew back from some of the requirements: “Father, if possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will but Thy will be done.” If so the Master, why not the disciple?

    Easy believism or “cheap grace” does not do the trick at all. Faith is costly. JKR certainly paints this picture in the HP series: it is our choices that make us, not our abilities; choose what is right rather than what is easy; do what you know to be right no matter the costs or consequences to yourself.

    Believers indeed struggle to keep on believing. Mystics in the Faith discuss the inevitability of the dark night of the soul in every Christian tradition. CS Lewis has Screwtape address the issue to Wormwood, noting that it is so hard for humans to persevere and that time itself is our ally in the battle. The long dull years of middle age are excellent campaigning weather, says the Undersecretary, of temptation.

    JKR has no temptation but such as is common to being human. She, and we, are assured that we do not stand unaided in this struggle. But God is faithful Who will make a way of escape from temptations and trials. We all still have to choose it – again and again and again. That’s why we pray for strength and daily bread and deliverance.

    May the God of all grace fill JKR and us with the strength and power of believing through Jesus Christ Our Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit and bring us to His heavenly Kingdom and the life of the Blessed Trinity.

  49. ________________________
    dadandersen Says:

    July 29th, 2007 at 7:49 pm
    Sidebar – I’m interested in anyones comments about J.K.’s recent interview with NBC. Paticularly where she talks about her “struggle to keep believing” (or something like that.)


    My comment is that only someone who does believe struggles like that. We’ve been comparing JKR’s work to the Narnia stories, but I think we need to put that remark into the context of other works by Lewis, like “The Problem of Pain” and “A Grief Observed.” A superficial and unsympathetic reader of Lewis could come to the conclusion that in the twenty years between these books, Lewis’ faith had gone backward, from cogent reasoning to stunned bewilderment. And Lewis himself saw the potential for the second book to undermine his other work; he published it under a pseudonym. Rowling has experienced bereavement in her personal life, by virtue of being a famous and written-to person she’s inevitably aware of other peoples’ griefs (I remember a mention of her writing to a terminally ill young fan), and she’s married to a surgeon. A sensitive and warmhearted person who’s aware of these kinds of things is going to have to struggle and choose to keep on believing. That’s why it’s called “faith.”

  50. charismom says

    John, I just add my heartfelt thanks to the chorus of many – your hard work is so appreciated!!

    I wanted to say that I have lately been impressed by how God seems to use the most unlikely things to draw people to Himself. Recently I read a fascinating book describing a woman’s journey from a pseudo-Christian cult into genuine Christianity. One of the things that amazed me most about her story was the totally unexpected things God used to open her mind and her heart to the truth of His grace. He actually used a member of another pseudo-Christian cult to get her questioning her own “Scriptures” and take a real, honest look at the Bible. Now, if I were God (ha-ha!) I would never choose to use someone so doctrinally corrupt, who believed in a false Christ, to teach her. But He did do just that, among other things, and gently led her to the truth over a period of several years. Funny, He seems to have a way of using imperfect people (David, Moses, Peter) – even pagans (Pharaoh, Cyrus…) – to accomplish His will.

    So… how much MORE can the Lord find ways to use the Harry Potter books, which seem to me to be hints or fragrances of the truth permeating the culture in spite of itself!! When I read the inscriptions on the tombstones in DH, I had a literal thrill of joy run right through me. There is no doubt in my mind that God will use this work for His own purposes in ways we may never even know or understand.

    As far as our role as Christians is concerned, we certainly should challenge the evil present in the culture and not blindly accept all it offers, but when the culture hands us such a treasure as Harry Potter, we should do our prayerful best make good use of it!

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