In Defense of Albus Dumbledore: Regina Doman

Regina Doman, accomplished novelist, Harry Potter expositor among Roman Catholics, and friend of this blog, has written a ‘Defense for Albus Dumbledore’ for The Rambler, the online newspaper of Christendom College. Coming from the pen of a professional story teller and of a mother about to give birth to another member of the Harry Potter generation, it is a challenging apologia and unlike anything you’ll read in the Main Stream Media. I commend the whole piece to your attention and ask for your reflections after reading it. Here is a short clip to whet your appetite:

Whatever opinions J.K. Rowling may hold at variance with Church teaching, she consistently demonstrates a respect towards her young readers when it comes to dealing with sensitive subjects. Although she does not shy away from tackling hard subjects such as death, she is more reticent than graphic when it comes to portraying sexuality. That she included a plotline involving temptation towards the gay lifestyle is unremarkable in today’s society: what is remarkable is that she did not highlight the plotline in the book in order to preach tolerance for homosexual temptations.

She would have been applauded by the publishing establishment, the political left, and the educational system for doing so: but she did not. Instead, she left the plotline so obscure that most readers never picked up on it. And it may never have come to light, had not an adult reader asked her a direct question on the topic during a forum for adults at Carnegie Hall in October.

The comment in a preparatory aside about pornography, divorce, and contraception alone justifies the trip to The Rambler (a journal whose name has an important history). Imagine a world without those three pillars of licentiousness… As she says, a world that is no longer imaginable. Anyway, your thoughts, please, vis a vis Dumbledore and Ms. Rowling having “always thought of him as gay.”


  1. Travis Prinzi says

    I usually love what Regina has to say, and there’s some good stuff in this. I wouldn’t have taken the article in the direction she did, but I would agree with the basic thesis: if we do assume a gay Dumbledore, it’s certainly not conveyed in a very pro-gay way in the books, nor is it in stark contrast with anything the church teaches.

    I have a lot of disagreement with the article, but I fear they’d take us in a direction far away from Potter and into the realms of both the culture war and in-house fights amongst Christians, so I’ll refrain…unless this thread ends up going there, and then I’ll jump back in.

  2. I’ll take it there, Travis.

    I take exception to Ms. Doman’s main premise: that homosexuality is a life-style choice. Beyond this, I take exception to the corollary that homosexuality is a move away from the commitment and responsibilities of raising a family with a partner. I take exception as well to equating the persecution gay people bear to the cross of Christ, while at the same time reducing that persecution to “sensitivity”. And the thought of blaming gay men for the women they haven’t married and the children they haven’t raised is – ineffable.

    But this is not a comment predominantly defending gay people: I take even greater exception as to equating marriage to public crucifixion for heterosexual men.

  3. John, I thought you would want to be alerted to this slight against HP’s literary merits by a New Testament prof at Missouri State U, as written in the Wall Street Journal:

    ——begin quote——
    So is the ferment about “His Dark Materials” just Harry Potter vs. Fundamentalists redux, a clash that generates heat but no light? Probably not.

    First of all, “His Dark Materials,” unlike the Harry Potter series, is real literature and, as such, deserves serious attention. Mr. Pullman, a graduate of Oxford University with a degree in English, knows his stuff. The books are loaded with allusions to Greek mythology and philosophy, Milton, Blake and the Bible, with images ranging from the obvious (the Garden of Eden) to the obscure (the bene elim, or angelic Watchers mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4). These allusions, unlike the throwaway Latinisms of Hogwarts’ spells, drive the plot, characters and themes of Mr. Pullman’s series. Indeed, a child who investigates them would begin to gain the rudiments of a classical education.

    Moreover, again in contrast to J.K. Rowling’s books (which were criticized by some Christians for their use of magic and witchcraft), Mr. Pullman’s series is bluntly anti-Christian. In the third book, “The Amber Spyglass,” a former nun tells the two child protagonists, Lyra and Will, that “the Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all.” The church and its members do nothing but evil.
    ——end quote——

    Ouch. It’s a back-handed compliment: Rowling’s work isn’t anti-Christian, but it’s also not literature of any value. Gee, thanks!

  4. An interesting article. Like Travis & Reyhan, I don’t know that I agree with all her points. But she adds an interesting idea to the mix about the relationship of authors & their works. That is, Rowling may express the truth about something, in this case, homosexuality, without realizing that’s what she is doing. That she may subconsciously echo what the orthodox Christian churches teach rather than her culturally influenced perception of ‘gayness.’

    First time posting here. But I read most of the articles. Thanks for all the work you put into this site, John.

  5. Thank you! Arabella sent it to me last week and I’m working on a Pullman link collection that should go up later this week — if the PotterCast interview doesn’t eat up all my posting time.

    You have to love the “he went to Oxford so he’s smart –, she didn’t so she isn’t a real writer” blend of misogyny and University-hierarchy snobbery. Remember James Thomas: Ms. Rowling’s books are “too recent, too juvenile, and Too popular” to be accepted into literary canon by the likes of this WSJ columnist.

  6. Welcome aboard, revgeorge, and thank you for your kind comment. I always enjoy reading your contributions at Sword of Gryffindor!

  7. revgeorge,

    What a terrible, terrifying idea: that JKR, who consciously exhorts her readers to question authority, subconsciously teaches the same message as many religious authorities: it’s ok to be gay, but not to act on your gay instincts.

    I don’t agree, of course. The plot requires a celibate Dumbledore – having a Mrs. Dumbledore around, even if her name was Joe, would humanize Dumbledore. It’s hard to be a great man with the missus telling you not to forget to bring home a loaf of bread and we’re supposed to go out to the Snapes for dinner, dear, don’t forget to pick up a bottle of red.

    Beyond this, in this day and age, giving Dumbledore a satisfactory gay sex life would have made it the focus of the story, not the background.

    And there’s also the only point in Ms. Doman’s article that I do agree with: the younoger kiddies are better off without conjecturing about DD’s sex life. Although the double standard whereby it’s more ok to see people be tortured and die than to have satisfactory sexual relationships always gets me.

  8. Reyhan,

    We seem to disagree a lot, but as we’ve said before, nothing wrong with that. Perhaps subconsciously isn’t the best word; too psychological. But there is a way of thinking that notes that people often speak the truth more than they actually know they’re doing. This is the whole point of St. Paul’s Mars Hill sermon. He points out that the populace are seeking after the true God, even though they don’t fully know Him. He even quotes pagan poets to show that this longing for true knowledge of God is found outside the church as well. It’s just that it can only be satisfied within the church. And I know lots of people will disagree with that. But I’m not trying to start a big debate. I just thought that the way things played out, especially now that I’ve heard Jo’s interview on Pottercast, indicate that she gets it more right than she knows.

  9. John,

    Thank you for providing the link to Regina’s article. I found it quite interesting, thoughtful and provocative. I agree with most of what she says, but feel a couple of her comments are out on the proverbial limb. Whether or not we agree with any of Ms. Doman’s points or even with what the Catholic Church teaches, we should all bear in mind the intended audience of her article. I don’t think Ms. Doman means to impose her views or interpretation of Harry Potter in the light of Catholic teaching indiscriminately. The audience of The Rambler probably represents only a small portion of believers (myself included) who fully embrace church teaching, particularly in the area of sexual morality. So, especially in response to Reyhan’s comments, I would advise taking what, if anything, you consider good in what she wrote and hang onto that, rather than dwelling on those points with which you disagree. Unfortunately, with such a lack of unity among Christians regarding homosexuality, I fear as Travis does, that this discussion would degenerate into something quite unproductive. All that aside, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss some of the finer theological points raised by Ms. Doman with any of you who would be interested in a different forum. Does anyone know of such a forum that is conducted in a charitable and production fashion?

  10. Reyhan says:
    “…equating marriage to public crucifixion for heterosexual men.”

    It’s not just heterosexual men. And this idea is not a shocking one for Bible-literate Christians. We’re ALL enjoined to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. CS Lewis says something similar in The Four Loves, when he’s talking about a man’s headship in marriage. He says (I paraphrase) that the man’s matrimonial crown is either cardboard, worn for fun and playacting, with both partners realizing that it’s cardboard, or else it’s a crown of thorns. One of my pastors says that marriage is for the purpose of learning how to love, not for the purpose of BEING loved. Of course, if both people are sticking to the job of learning, the “being loved” will happen. But the responsibility of each is to do the learning.

  11. Arabella Figg says

    I found many of Doman’s comments so jarring that, like Travis, I’m going to refrain from commmenting on them here, waiting further developments. She does have an audience and speaks to them.

    I will comment on this sentence, though: “Essentially, the gay lifestyle is the easy way out.” I knew several young homosexuals, most from solid Christian homes, one from a missionary family. Has Doman seen the kind of anguished torment I’ve seen? Ellen DeGeneres nailed it when she said to the effect that no one one realizes they’re homosexual and thinks, “oh, goody, I’m gay.”

    I don’t think Dumbledore thought “oh, goody” about his crush or it’s aftermath.

    Fullatricks and Mrs. Fleasely are squabbling again…

  12. The idea is more than plausible that Doman did read her own views on homosexuality onto Jo’s comments. Because you certainly can’t exegete Dumbledore’s gayness or sexual infatuation with Grindelwald out of the text itself! And even Jo’s comments don’t really shed much light on the subject. As she said in the Pottercast interview, it wasn’t that big of a deal to her or a major consideration in the novel.

    So, maybe since it’s not a big deal to Jo, maybe we should pass it by with an ‘eh, that’s interesting. Now what’s next.’ Unfortunately, those who are running with it in the opposite direction see it as some great endorsement of homosexuality.

  13. Pax.

    Nolo contendere.

  14. The article reminded me of the post from several weeks ago on Narnia and the Wizard of Oz where it was pointed out that it is possible to read interpretations into the text that bear no relation to the author`s personal beliefs or intended meaning. While Ms. Doman`s account is certainly a plausible commentary on the Dumbledore-Grindewald relationship, it seems highly unlikely that Ms. Rowling would endorse her views on homosexuality in general.

  15. Travis Prinzi says

    I do want to clarify a point: while I think Doman’s thesis is correct, as I said above, I don’t think Rowling intended to write a message in line with the Church on this. I’d guess she thinks the church is quite wrong.

    Kathy suggested another forum for this. I’ll provide one at my theological blog:

    Discussion: In Defense of Dumbledore.

    I’ve got my initial comments up, and I welcome your questions, comments, and declarations of heresy.

  16. I think revgeorge has had the best insights regarding Doman’s take on Dumbledore so far. While I disagree with Doman’s opinion that being a homosexual is a choice, she is correct in saying that embracing that lifestyle is a choice, notwithstanding any of her speculations as to the motivations for that choice. After Dumbledore’s initial experience with indulging in his attraction to Grindelwald, he apparently chose to resist such temptations for the remainder of his life. Whether Rowling intended this to be a message in line with the Church or whether she just decided exploring Dumbledore’s sexuality had no relevance to the story, revgeorge is right, this was not a ringing endorsement of the gay lifestyle. Furthermore, Dumbledore’s apparent behaviour after the Grindelwald incident is very consistent with Church teaching regardless of whether Rowling intended it to be. In that sense Regina Doman’s defense of Dumbledore is sound.

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