Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #26: Struggling to Believe – The Dateline/TODAY Interviews

Ms. Rowling gave a lengthy interview to Dateline/TODAY and it focused on her “letting-go” of Harry-writing as her raison-detre. There have been interesting revelations on plot points and expansions on the intentionally spare Epilogue but very little about the meaning of the books, per se, or their political and spiritual content. Milk before meat, I guess, but the reporter’s insistence on keeping the conversation about Ms. Rowling’s celebrity was surprising. Incredibly, it was the children on the Dateline/TODAY program who raised the level of conversation from the personal to the literary:

Young voice: Voldemort’s killing of Muggle-borns, it sounds a lot like ethnic cleansing. How much of the series is a political metaphor?
J.K. Rowling: Well, it is a political metaphor. But … I didn’t sit down and think, “I want to recreate Nazi Germany,” in the– in the wizarding world. Because– although there are– quite consciously overtones of Nazi Germany, there are also associations with other political situations. So I can’t really single one out.

Young voice: Harry’s also referred to as the chosen one. So are there religious–
J.K. Rowling: Well, there– there clearly is a religious– undertone. And– it’s always been difficult to talk about that because until we reached Book Seven, views of what happens after death and so on, it would give away a lot of what was coming. So … yes, my belief and my struggling with religious belief and so on I think is quite apparent in this book.

Meredith Vieira: And what is the struggle?
J.K. Rowling: Well my struggle really is to keep believing.
Meredith Vieira: To keep believing?
J.K. Rowling: Yes.

This echoed Ms. Rowling’s comments in The Scotsman to Stephen McGinty in January, 2006. In an article titled ‘Life After Harry,’ he reported:

Rowling, who has three houses in Edinburgh, Perth and London, says she still found it “freakish” to find herself in a position where her PA could arrange for her to meet anyone in the world. She decided, however, not to pick up the phone to the Pope after he was critical of her novels “subtle seductions” which, he claimed, could “distort Christianity”. The author, who is an Episcopalian Christian, says of the complaints of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, that: “I can remember reading about it and thinking, surely there are more important things for him to worry about than my books – world peace, war in the Middle East.” In the interview she compares her own faith to that of Catholic author, Graham Greene: “Like Greene, my faith is sometimes about if my faith will return. It’s important to me.”

I look forward to reading your comments about Ms. Rowling’s public profession that she is a Christian but her faith is not that of a saint, an apologist, or an evangelical. Is this simple sobriety? Humility? Or a desire not to be pigeon-holed as a Christian writer because of the strong “religious undertones” of the Harry Potter finale?


  1. Inked wrote yesterday:

    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.

  2. excellent post.

    additionally, I wish I could remember where I found it, but I did find an article regarding the pope’s ‘comments’ which proved he hadn’t actually criticised the books at all– an aid, while he was still a cardinal, responded to a letter from an anti-Harry writer who published against saying it was good to view books critically– something Rowling herself says. I’ll try to dig up the link again- but the Holy Father hasn’t actually commented, a Harry-hater just made it look that way to suit his/her purposes.


  3. Travis Prinzi says

    For a very good look at the place of doubt in the Christian life, see I Have My Doubts by Michael Spencer

  4. Nzie:

    Is this the post you’re looking for?

    Curious John

  5. I would imagine that, given her enormous popularity, and the enormous distrust and misperception people have toward Christianity, Rowling would want to choose her words carefully. Whether that is what she is doing here, of course, is unknown. We can guess, and I think the commentor above (Inked) does a terriffic job.

    I think one thing important to remember is that, regardless of whether she has lost her faith, retained it, or is barely hanging onto it, the religious parallels and symbology in the books remains. The “Life After Harry” article calls her an Episcopalian, which opens her up to all kinds of debate concerning her personal theological beliefs. My question, I suppose, is how much do her specific personal beliefs impact our understanding of the novels? There are those who accuse C.S. Lewis of having a distorted theological belief, yet his works are no less significant.

    As far as trying to determine the sincerity of her faith, I am not sure I know enough to form an opinion. I believe her to be a person of faith, but what exactly does she mean by “Like Greene, my faith is sometimes about if my faith will return. It’s important to me.”? I’ve never read Greene, but I assume that if I had I might have an inkling, but for now, I am at a little bit of a loss. Again, the religious symbology is unmistakable – this is something she takes seriously. She certainly doesn’t strike me as a flake. If anything, she is an honest seeker, as Inked quoted Paul above, working out her own salvation with fear and trembling.

  6. hambrick91 says

    She’s said all along that these books were born, at least in part, as a response to her grief over her mother’s early passing and how she came to terms with it.

    I have had a similar experience. My own mother died 4 years ago at the age of 53 of complications from an MS-related disease. I’ve been a strong, committed Christian since a young age, but I struggled with my faith off and on for several months after she died. I struggled to the point that I was actually frightened of much I was struggling. And then at some point I came to peace with it. I KNEW my mother was in heaven and all God’s promises were real. Somehow I internalized on a heart-level what I’d always known to be true at a head-level.

    So, perhaps this is my own experience coloring how I see her comments. But to me, knowing she says the books are in part how she dealt with her grief, hearing her say she struggles with her faith makes perfect, honest sense to me. She says her faith is important enough for her to keep wanting to hang on to it. To me, this in no way diminishes her Christian faith, it authenticates it. At least in my book.

  7. I think JKR’s public profession of Christianity with little more elaboration than that may be a combination of “mere Christianity”; plus the last point, not wanting to be pigeonholed as a “Christian writer”; plus the idea that she has smuggled the gospel/said what she plans to say in the books, and why dismantle that now?

    On point 1: I am a writer who is a Christian (CS Lewis said we need more “writers who are Christians” than “Christian writers”). I don’t pretend I will achieve what JKR has or have that kind of fame, but I think I know what I would do if great public attention were placed on my Christianity: I would freely admit that I believe the basic gospel, because I would never deny Christ, but I would play down my particular denomination/tradition and not allow a lot of questions designed to pick apart my doctrine or find out whether I speak a certain dialect of Christian lingo. That’s divisive. I completely understand the need to answer such questions carefully. “Mere Christianity” should be enough, and should be the most unifying answer to give. If it isn’t enough, then those for whom it isn’t are leaning toward the divisive already.

    2: Not wanting to be pigeonholed as a “Christian writer” is not the same thing as denying the faith. Unfortunately, what most of the church considers “Christian fiction” is agenda-driven, message-laden, tension-lacking, religiously correct, poorly written anti-fiction that doesn’t explore but instead forces conclusions onto its “stories” from the outset. Gag me. I don’t want the “Christian writer” label, and I’m not alone. But continuing with the CSL theme, I’ll gladly be “a writer who is a Christian.” Apparently, JKR, who is a writer and an admitted Christian, isn’t averse to this either. However, I’d feel a bit peculiar about being pounced on by vociferous Christians in order to prove or disprove this or that point. Maybe she does too?

    3. Some writer said, I forget who, “If you want to know me, read my books.” Why are people leaping on JKR to “bare all” now, as if she hasn’t already? DH could hardly be clearer. Why do we commend her for smuggling the gospel, and now clamor for her to own up to the fact that this is what she did? It makes no sense to me.

    As far as struggling to believe, which could also be conjectured as the reason for some of her comments, I’ve done some research on historical Christians who struggled with belief, and I know some present-day Christians who do. The Bible says this is possible: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” In my experience, I’ve found that Christians who struggle to believe, besides possibly being faced with very tough circumstances at the time (most of us are familiar with feelings of “Does God even care?”), are struggling to OWN their faith. Have you ever wondered if you believe what you believe only because you happened to be raised in your particular denomination? Are you Calvinist or Arminian only because you were taught one or the other? Are you mid-trib, pre-trib, post-trib based on the denomination you landed with when you were born again? Do you believe or disbelieve in transubstantiation based on church teaching? Lots of Christians merely go along with their group’s teachings on such things. They don’t struggle; they just accept. Those who want the truth struggle to learn what that truth is, knowing that a break with what they’ve always considered true could be the result. The strugglers stand to become stronger Christians for the struggle, knowing why they believe what they do and being able to defend it.

  8. I think Rowling has said enough publicly and shown enough in her works, for people to take her at her word that she is “a Christian” and that her religious beliefs have indeed shaped her writing.

    But I don’t think she has said enough publicly or shown enough in her works, for anyone who doesn’t know her personally, to be sure exactly what she means by the term “Christian” or what the content of her faith is.

    Is she an orthodox (small “O”) Christian? Is she a more theologically liberal Christian like many (though by no means all) in the western Anglican churches (Episcopal Church in the USA, Church of England, Church of Scotland and Ireland)? Unless and until she says more about her personal beliefs re. the uniqueness of Christ, the authority of scripture, etc. there just isn’t enough info to go on.

    For the time being I’m inclined to take her at her word but avoid leaping to conclusions not yet merited by the evidence. Her reticence in talking about the specifics of her faith is a little reminiscent of Madeleine L’engle, who always took great pains to point out that she was a writer who happened to be a Christian, not a “Christian writer.” It could be humility – and probably is in part. It could be a dislike of theological litmus tests. It could be any of a number of different things, some of which I would be comfortable with and some of which I wouldn’t. Again, there isn’t enough real data to go on to say what’s behind it, IMO.

  9. Travis–
    Thank you for that link. That is a very powerful essay.
    And perhaps the reason Rowling speaks so little of her faith is that it would be, as the essay says, “like undressing in public.” I tend to feel the same way. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have my own faith dissected by others the way hers undoubtedly would be had she said much more. I think the books ought to be windows into our own beliefs, not hers.

    Are you saying you believe that Rowling may not be a Christian, or is it just that you don’t believe she is a Christian on your terms? I don’t actually think that’s for us to say, is it? We should take our brethren at their word; we can’t judge what’s inside them.

    On the issue of doubt: I remember in Surprised by Joy, C.S.Lewis wrote that he experienced moments when Christianity seemed unlikely, but that when he was an atheist, he experience moments when Christianity seemed horribly probable.
    To quote another (not explicitly Christian) writer, Zenna Henderson, “Which is better–to hunger and be fed, or to be fed so continuously that you never know hunger?” It is the hunger for God, I believe, that sometimes fuels the struggle.

  10. I think it recognizes a couple of things. First, faith is a hard thing to hold on to, especially in the face of a secular world. Part of Rowling’s faith (if her books are any indication) seems clearly wrapped up in the belief that life continues after death and that she will see her loved ones, especially her mother. Such a belief can be constantly chipped away by a surrounding materialistic world that interprets any possible reassurance as irrational or error.

    I also imagine it could be in her mind that she doesn’t want to put herself forward as a model Christian. Not only does that raise the stakes and the scrutiny, it ties the fact of what she believes with the facts of how she lives. There are a good number of folks who make a living attacking Christianity by attacking Christians, hoping to show that if some Christians are not perfect people that Christianity must be a false system. She may be (wisely) lowering her vulnerability on that score. Besides, given how subtle she’s been over the course of these books, why be blatant now?

    (Editorial note for John: it was a Dateline, not Nightline, interview.)

  11. I take Jo at her word regarding her struggle to believe. I don’t think she is necessarily trying to deflect attention from her Christian beliefs; rather, she is drawing attention to the fact that her “struggling with religious belief… is quite apparent in this book.”

    Immediately upon hearing this quote, I began asking myself where we saw her struggles to believe represented in the novel. I think that, in some ways, Harry represents Jo while Dumbledore represents God. Throughout this novel, Harry struggles to trust Dumbledore while that devilish Rita Skeeter continually plants seeds of doubt.

    “’Don’t believe a word of it!” said Doge at once. ‘Not a word, Harry! Let nothing tarnish your memories of Albus Dumbledore!’

    Harry looked into Doge’s earnest, pained face and felt, not reassured, but frustrated. Did Doge really think it was that easy, that Harry could simply *choose* to believe? Didn’t Doge understand Harry’s need to be sure, to know *everything*?”
    –Deathly Hallows, pg 152-3, US edition

    “’Harry, do you really think you’ll get the truth from a malicious old woman like Muriel, or from Rita Skeeter? How can you believe them? You knew Dumbledore!’

    ‘I thought I did,’ he muttered.

    ‘But you know how much truth there was in everything Rita wrote about you! Doge is right, how can you let these people tarnish your memories of Dumbledore?’

    He looked away, trying not to betray the resentment he felt. There it was again: Choose what to believe. He wanted the truth. Why was everybody so determined that he should not get it?’”
    –Deathly Hallows, pg 185, US edition

    “Choose what to believe.” This choice was an enormous battle for Harry. We watch Harry’s beliefs in Dumbledore oscillate and evolve over the duration of the novel. Before the final showdown, Harry is once again Dumbledore’s man, through and through. And then Harry communes with Dumbledore in the world between worlds.

  12. Trish, I’m not saying either of those exactly.

    Background info: what I write is borne out of personal experience after becoming disillusioned for a time with American evangelical Christianity and making a several-year sojourn into the Episcopal church (USA). I met loads and loads of very nice, very sincere people in the Episcopal church whose beliefs were far from what the historic church would recognize as orthodox Christianity. I found that I had simply exchanged one form of (what I perceived as) stifling fundamentalism for another. In the Episcopal church I attended, the truth that God is love had been stood on its head and in practice it was “Love is god.” The abstract principle of “love” trumped everything. Woe to anyone who treated the Bible as authoritative on matters of morality or salvation, for example. So for example, someone in leadership could live with a still-married woman (married to a man other than him, that is) and keep his leadership position in the church because they were both following the highest principle of “Love” and that trumped any fundamentalistic, narrow reading of isolated texts in the Bible that seem to say such behavior (if continued unrepentantly) disqualifies one from church leadership. Jesus isn’t “THE way” he is “A way” or “My way.” He isn’t THE son of God, but merely “A” son of God, like the rest of us, in whom the “Christ spirit” was particularly strong. All of that going by the name “Christian.” And you could spend a good deal of time talking and fellowshipping with people, talking about how marvelous Jesus is and exploring a shared love for Narnia and Middle earth (among many other things) before you found out that this was what they meant when they said “Christian.” Our local bishop was and still is on the board of directors of the area’s larges abortion provider – something I couldn’t reconcile with Christian belief (though I’m not meaning to start a debate on that topic). I still have many dear friends in that church and the larger denominaton, some of whose beliefs are as described above, but I finally couldn’t stay there myself. And despite my love for those people I can’t tell them that I believe theirs are “Christian” beliefs. The fact that Rowling is in a sister church to the Episcopal Church (USA) may color my cautious reaction to her words.

    Lewis made it very clear (in early chapters of Mere Christianity and elsewhere) that at a minimum, calling oneself a Christian means that you believe certain things are true – the basic credal content of the faith that Lewis called “mere Christianity.” When you deny those things are true yet call yourself a Christian, you are being inaccurate. It would be like saying “I don’t believe Allah is the only god, and I don’t believe Mohammed is his final and best prophet – but I’m a Muslim!” I’m sorry, no you aren’t, no matter how loudly you call yourself one.

    With that as background, I am NOT saying that JKR is “that kind” of Christian or any other kind, or that she isn’t really a Christian. What I’m saying is that she has been ambiguous enough in describing her own faith that she could be either. And until she’s more explicit I’m not going to jump up and down yelling “Yay! She’s one of us!” And if she is never more explicit that is fine with me, too. That’s her prerogative.

    Not being sure whether Rowling’s faith is orthodox doesn’t keep me from loving the books or seeing the great parallels to the bigger story, the gospel story that Tolkien called the “True Myth” and Lewis called “Myth become fact.” My appreciation of the stories as great literature doesn’t hinge on whether JKR is a trinitarian Christian or not, any more than my loving Star Wars as a kid and getting moral lessons from it depended on whether George Lucas was a believer. It would be great to learn that Rowling is a Christian within the umbrella that Lewis called “mere Christianity.” But if not, I’ll keep on reading Harry Potter.

    Like you and others, I actually find Rowling’s admission of doubts to be in her favor. Few people of faith reach her age without encountering some serious doubt along the way – and many of them daily. I do think other Christians should take her at her word when she says she’s a Christian – to a point. But for me it’s still “proceed with caution” rather than “she is a Christian writer just like C.S. Lewis.”

  13. I don’t know all that Jo meant by her comment, but I must say that I was grateful to hear it. The number one thing I loved about DH was the powerful way it portrayed through Harry the journey to a mature faith. I think of Harry’s internal struggle as he dug Dobby’s grave, “‘You gave Ron the deluminator. You understood him….You gave him a way back…And you understood Wormtail too…You knew there was a bit of regret there, somewhere…And if you knew them…What did you know about me, Dumbledore?'” (page 483, US ed.) And I think of how he later walked into the forest with fear, sorrow, and limited understanding, yet with enough faith to do what he was called to do. How much in my own life I desire to get to the place where I can obey even when I don’t understand and my emotions scream for self-protection. I am reminded of Abraham (Romans 4:20-21) who did not allow distrust to make him waver, but grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God because He believed God would fulfill His promises. I am thankful for Jo’s struggles to believe, for the wonderful story that has grown out of those struggles has been a great encouragement to me, and I would guess to many others.

  14. Arabella Figg says

    Good grief! Poor Jo Rowling can’t say anthing that isn’t mauled over by packs of those hungry to find a profound and definitive point of view. It’s a wonder she even gives public interviews. Having to finesse every word–how would we like it?

    I consider Rowling a “James” Christian–her faith produces fruitful works–exemplary books that shine with Christian meaning. Outside of these books, she doesn’t owe anyone anything else. Why can’t people just take her at her word without having to diagram and dissect every sentence? She chooses belief, even in dark times, and who is anyone to judge whether her faith fits within “correct parameters?”

    Elise, I llke what you wrote about Christian fiction. As a writer who is a Christian, I deplore fiction as tract and especially badly-written pigeonholed stuff. And you love Zenna Henderson– yes! A favorite author of mine and also one who sneaked past watchful dragons. I have all her work.

    Little Flako and Screacher want attention…no!

  15. Very wise and very understanding reflections to read in this post so far, from the very first one by inked and onwards!

    The idea to struggle for the faith is very Biblical, and as Martin Luther once said: To fight one’s way through scruples (German: Anfechtungen) is a very sound thing for a believer.
    As a teenager (… some 200 years ago …) I gradually learnt to shift my focus from the (subjective) question of my own faith to the (more objektive) questions: In whom do I believe? Which led me to the answer: I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
    I think there is a pointer in that (more objective) direction in the faith matureing prosesses of Harry in chapter 35 «Kings’ Cross»:
    Dumbledore says that their whereabouts at King’s Cross «is, as they say, your party». And later: «We are at King’s Cross, you say? I think that if you decided not to go back, you would be able to … let’s say … board a train.» (Which in context obviously means: A train taking you onwards to the eternal life after death).
    The set-up for this is in chapter 16 «Godric’s Hollow», at the grave of Lily and James, when Hermione explains to Harry the differens between Death Eater ideology on death and Pauline teaching on death: «It means .. you know .. living beyond death. Living after death.» And Harry struggling with this idea in the next paragraph.
    In chapter 35 Harry har strugled through that question and accepts life after death as part of his belief. And I can’t stop thinking that what JKR wants us to see here is that it is because of the King on the Cross we are allowed to believe in life after death. That name MUST carry an enormous amount of meaning!

    Odd (Sverre Hove, Bergen, Norway)

  16. Author Leigh McLeroy wrote a terriffic piece for Common Grounds Online entitled “Thank God for Harry” that I think strikes a healthy balance between seeing Christian Truth in Rowling’s works, while at the same time realizing that they are not allegories and the Truth found in them isn’t dependant on whether Rowling is “a saint, an apologist or an evangelical.” The article is linked at Sword of Gryffindor. Here’s a direct link and a couple of paragraphs quoted from it.

    “Now that I have finished the book, I’ve allowed myself to sample the discussions that are “apparating” right and left in the media, particularly the blogosphere, and finding that “deconstructing Harry” is a favorite pastime of many.

    Is J. K. Rowling a believer, Christian readers want to know? Were the three hallows – the resurrection stone, the elder’s wand and the invisibility cape – symbolic of the three temptations of Christ? Is Harry a Christ-figure? Could Hermione be Mary Magdelene? Does the fact that Harry arrives in King’s Cross to sort out his fate in the presence of fallen Dumbledore mean anything? “Come on, King’s Cross, get it?” And what about those Bible verses on the tombstones of Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore, and James and Lily Potter?

    That these discussions are proliferating faster than the treasures in Gringott’s deepest vault is, hopefully, a tribute to Rowling’s masterful storytelling and the power of the story itself – not an attempt to “baptize” Harry Potter and cram him into a neat, evangelical box. Because that would do a disservice to the writer, the story, and every reader of it, now, and in the years to come. ”
    McLeroy makes the point that Rowling and Harry don’t fit in a nice, tight evangelical box, and don’t need to in order for the story to be deeply meaningful and full of Truth – even for evangelicals. I think she’s right, and people both pro and con Harry have made the mistake of trying to squeeze them into one – or blaming them for not fitting.

    On the one hand you have people like Richard Abanes, who seems disapproving of Rowling because in his opinion she and Harry don’t fit in that box. On the other hand, you have some who are convinced that they do fit in that box, and have worked out elaborate interpretations of various characters and plot elements, trying to squeeze them ever further and more solidly in. I agree with McLeroy and think both sides should chill.

    Tolkien had an apt comment when asked if one of his characters, who had some Christlike qualities, was meant to represent Jesus. He scorned and denied the idea that the character was meant to represent or teach anything about Jesus – reiterating that he disliked allegory. He went on to say that the character was an instance of a virtuous and good person and as such, he was of course “like” Christ in some ways, to the extent that his actions were virtuous and good. Who else would he be like?

    This comment is a ways afield from the original question re. Rowling’s admission that she sometimes has doubts yet believes in spite of them. The statement by her is really the most moving thing that she’s said about her own personal faith, IMO. Like much of the world she created, it has a ring of Truth about it. I would be interested to hear her elaborate a little more (like Tolkien, Lewis and L’Engle all did to varying degrees) on the content and object of her faith. If her faith is as central to her writing as many believe, I think that would be a natural thing for her to do at some point. But if she doesn’t and wants to keep her specific beliefs private then I’ll take her at her word that she’s a Christian and leave it at that.

  17. NYCindividualblog says

    I don’t mind the fact that she struggles with believing. I think that is in human nature. However, I was disappointed that she did not take this time to proclaim Christ as her savior.

  18. Good stuff.

    I just want to clarify an error in the transcript, since I watched the video as well. While one of the children (albeit a teenager) did ask the political question, it was really reporter Meredith Vieira, not a child (as implied by the “young voice”), who asked the question about religious undertones.

  19. Coppinger Bailey says

    “I believe; help my unbelief.” Mark 9-24

    I watched the interview Sunday on Dateline, and when I heard Ms. Rowling’s response to that particular question, that scripture immediately popped into my mind. It is one that I pray quite often when I am feeling lost or challenged.

    When I went to look up the particular reference, I read the context of the passage. Jesus (with Peter, James, & John) is visiting a town & Jesus is appalled at the lack of belief that surrounds him. A man asks for Jesus’ help in casting out a spirit that has possessed his son since childhood. In the midst of his plea for help, the father says “I believe, help my unbelief.” Jesus casts out the unwanted spirit from the son, rebuking the spirit and commanding that it never return. The son appears dead to those around him until Jesus grasps his had and lifts him up, back to life.

    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts in this thread. I learn so much from everyone. I am sorry that Karl had such an experience with the Episcopal Church. It has not been my own, but I appreciate the honest criticism.

  20. _____________________
    NYCindividualblog Says:

    August 1st, 2007 at 6:44 am
    I don’t mind the fact that she struggles with believing. I think that is in human nature. However, I was disappointed that she did not take this time to proclaim Christ as her savior.

    It may be that in her mind, by identifying herself as a Christian, she IS proclaiming Christ as her savior.

  21. I posted something of this on the Narrative Misdirection thread, (before I read the interview, BTW) but it works here better.
    Amid all the discussion about whether a clearly flawed Dumbledore can be a God- or Christ-figure, I’d like to suggest that Dumbledore could instead, or additionally, represent the church as an institution. Clearly, in Harry’s eyes, Dumbledore goes from the “flawless-father-figure-who-is-always-right” to a more human figure, particularly after the death of Sirius, when Harry, for the first time gets angry with Dumbledore and questions his judgments and motives. Rita Skeeter’s book reflects many modern-day tendencies of secular society, perhaps especially academics?) to cut down the established church: it’s corrupt, it’s hypocritical, it’s built on a biased and falsified history, it hasn’t really given us all the good things it take credit for (”12 uses of dragon’s blood? Someone else had already discovered 8 of them!”)
    Note that these accusations, like Rita’s, are not necessarily entirely without merit, although Rita’s motivation for revealing them is entirely to boost her own importance and sell books, not out of any real desire to uncover the truth and that, given a choice, she’ll go with the juiciest rumor “Ariana was a Squib!” rather than the best supported facts. There’s a grain of truth in what she says, and Harry has to discern what it is and acknowledge it’s ugly reality, before he can choose to accept Dumbledore’s guidance.
    I think it’s significant that Harry’s deconstruction of Dumbledore takes place at the end of his education, when he’s done with his OWLS and working on his NEWTS. Certainly college is the time a lot of young adults encounter scholarship that leads them to question the basic tenets of heir faith; it’s also the time people are most likely to disociate from church involvement. You can even hear some typical questioning from Snape: when he gets angry over the fact that Harry’s being raised “like a pig for slaughter.” Why isn’t the Church outraged at that very idea? Why is it willing to consider that a viable option? How many believers have struggled to make sense of that same basic tenet: a God who allows and even wills the sacrifice of His Son.
    But, in the end, Harry realizes that Dumbledore, imperfect, flawed and sinful as he is, does have the basic plan of salvation right, not because he chose it to be that way, but because that is the way that it is. Yes, he has made mistakes on the way, even ones that are bigger than average. It’s not hard to point to mistakes established churches have made, either, whether they be codemning Galileo or endorsing slavery. Dumbledore does eventually recognize repent of wrongdoings, corrects what he can and tries to make fewer mistakes in the future. He remains flawed, and there are still gaps in his understanding, but in the end he points Harry in the correct direction, and Harry chooses to take it.
    If Rowling has herself struggled with her faith, yet choosen to call herself a Christian despite her realization that neither the church or its human leaders are without fault, this interprtation makes sense.

  22. If you do a Google Earth search for 12 Grimmauld Place, you find it really exists. Not only that, but it’s quite close to King’s Cross… Is there any significance?

  23. Not that I know of!


  24. The more you get around the harder it gets to believe. I have been traveling full-time for almost 2 years and seen more corruption and injustice than I could have ever imagined existed. In addition I have learned in part what it is like to be famous. I am part of a celtic medieval band, we play songs based on bible stories, and they way we are treated by the church has been shocking. We are either completely demonized and treated like Abanes treats J.K. Rowling, in writing as well as in personal encounters, or we are idolized and expected to live up to unrealistic standards as “the only celtic medieval Christian band” around.

    In light of these experiences it has become harder and harder to have faith, in the church most of all, but also in God himself who does nothing or little to intervene against injustice and the constant abuse of his name. At times it seems impossible to believe at all, but then we are somehow always drawn back.

    The overly simplistic reductionistic faith systems of evangelical christianity do little to attract intellectuals and the more we learn the less we can adhere to the neatly constructed theological systems. Faith is a hard thing to hold on to, especially in the face of a Christian world, not a secular world. In the secular realm we fare quite well…

  25. dudders57 says

    I really dont see where it is of supreme importance what JKR’s specific beliefs are or what she should reveal to the press. Afterall our Lord admonished us to “…not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine,lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” (Mat.7v6) And to me that is what the press is best at.
    I myself struggle daily in my walk and faith, but I also look to Christ as the author and finisher of my faith and not to myself as if I could do anything. Just my two cents worth.

  26. Arabella Figg says

    As to specific questions John asked at the beginning of this thread. The terms he uses have changed over time:

    “Saint,” from set-apart believer in Christ, means believer set above others, as in the Catholic tradition.” Apologist” means, like C.S. Lewis, a professional defender of the faith. “Evangelical” means culturally conservative. “Christian writer” means (good writer or not) funneling the reader through a specific faith mindset to categorical answers.

    We need to eschew such limiting reductionism; we express Christian witness through individual faith, gifts, talents and styles, and definitely struggle and doubt. Rowling has let her heart speak through her books and done a remarkable job in conveying the best of the Christian story.

    St. Francis of Asissi said, “Preach the Gospel always, but only use words if necessary.” This applies equally to storytelling; a good, timeless story that provokes thought from a Christian worldview, using elements of “the great story” to “baptize the imagination,” will reach millions as opposed to only those who frequent Christian bookstores.

    Oops, gotta to–Minerva McHawkhairball wants to play…

  27. Arabella – on the note of reaching millions, including those who steer clear of Christian bookstores and Evangelical subculture, we can testify to that reality from first-hand experience. Not that our music reaches millions – I wish – but the only critique we experience comes from the church. Even songs in which the Christian message is hard to miss meet the approval of “non-Christian” audiences.

    I have two sisters who consider themselves Christians and two who call themselves witches. The greatest enthusiasm comes from the witches who feel like the poetry of our songs resonates with their soul and who seek us out again and again to discuss spirituality. By contrast, one of the Christian sisters refuses to speak to us because of doctrinal differences and our financial hardship.

    A wonderful resource for understanding faith struggles today is Alam Jamieson’s “A Churchless Faith” – that book has helped me understand my only journey more than anything else.

    On a different note, we are working on a heptalogy called The Chrysalis Legend. It is barely in it’s infancy stage and we recognize that our experience and education is so minimal that we are doomed to turn it into something pathetically cheesy, like so many other “Christian” attempts at art. We’re hoping it will be a collaboration of artists and scholars.

    It is birthed out of our struggle to believe as well as our fascination with the epic and the glimpses we have caught of Tolkien’s vision of the story that begins and ends in joy, that is the eucatastrophe of history. I have spent much time reading the discussion on this page and value your opinions, especially John & Arabella. Phil Keaggy agreed to work with us musically, would any of you consider joining in our struggle and our vision?

  28. Arabella Figg says

    Phil Keaggy, wow! Serious project here. I’m going to think about it. Thank you for your kind words (lumping me with John, I’m overwhelmed!)

    Your four sisters’ plight (and I do view it as a plight) is reflected in the Gospels. The ones who were spiritually hungry and drawn to Jesus were those outside the religiously correct circle of Pharisaic thought and discrimination. But all needed Jesus and he reached out to both. I pray you’ll continue to have good, meaningful answers, and patient love for all your sisters. It could be your “witch” sisters, with their spiritual hunger, are closer to the kingdom of God in their seeking than your Christian sisters who live within it, yet don’t reflect its principles. Would that they show the love of their master.

    Odon, I encourage you to keep on keeping on. There are other incredible Christian musicians who no longer find a home in the overruling contemporary Christian music industry which has become marketplace- rather than content-driven–singer/songwriter Bob Bennett, for example, one of the most poetic, reflective, gifted musicians of our time. Check out his home page.

    Another thing. We modern Christians have basically dumped our Christian heritage and history. It’s as if Christianity only arose during the 20th century. We never study the eras before us. Yet there are rich historical traditions untapped, which would seem foreign and odd because we’re unfamiliar with them. Would that we would see all Christians “in an unbroken line” each experiencing “Jesus in our time,” as Bennett writes.

    Madame LaScrawny wants a scratch…

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