Mail Bag: Questions from an A-Levels Student in the UK

Stone aI had the following exchange with a student in the UK about ‘Christian Religion in Harry Potter.’ I have the student’s permission to re-print it here but s/he prefers to remain anonymous.

Dear Sir,

I am a student studying in England and am currently taking my A-levels. As part of this corse I am taking an Extended Project, which is worth half an A-level, and have decided to base it on Christian Religion in Harry Potter.

During my research for my project I have come across your name many times and, consequently, have bought and am reading your book ‘Looking for God in Harry Potter.’ It is an incredible piece of work and I am particularly interested in how you argue for Harry Potter as a good representation of Christianity.

f38696422I was wondering if you would be able to answer or give your opinion on a few questions of mine and whether you would know of anyone else who could also give their view? I am partially interested in the film series as I want to investigate the effect of people watching the film series without realising that they are subconsciously being exposed to Christian views.

I understand that you are very busy and even if you decline to answer my questions I would like to thank you for your consideration and your books!

[Name Withheld]

1. It is undeniable that throughout the Harry Potter films Christian religion is a major theme which the viewers are being exposed to unknowingly. What is your view on this? Is it justifiable for someone who is opposed to Christian religion to be subconsciously exposed to it?

f39174246What a hoot! Is it justifiable that non-believers tell their stories with their godless and materialist beliefs that someone with traditional views may be subconsciously exposed to?


Really, the question betrays overt hostility to Christians, the thought that they live to take over people’s lives and minds surreptitiously. Please note that the English literary tradition until the end of the Great War was exclusively books by Christians for Christians for their greater life in Christ. Are we to understand that writers now are obliged to forsake the great riches of those poems, plays, and novels and all the depths of redemption, resurrection, and revelry because a few atheists don’t want to be exposed to this pathogenic, religious virus?


Too funny.


2. What is your opinion on the view that Dumbledore, Harry and Fawkes the Phoenix represent the Holy Trinity?

f38696358In the climax “miles beneath Hogwarts” in Chamber of Secrets, that certainly seems credible. But that chapter is a specific Morality Tale or Everyman Drama in which these characters are those allegorical types. I wouldn’t extrapolate from that one scene to say the correspondents work across the whole series.


3. Would you consider Voldemort to be a representation of Lucifer considering part of his soul is in the serpent Nagini and the imagery the film produces of him seems to enhance his snake-like qualitys?

I suppose. But the Dark Lord is not an allegorical stick-man. He and Harry are anti-podes about what human beings can become based on the quality of their choices. Harry pursues an immortality based on sacrificial love, Voldemort on ego and self-importance. The tit for tat Lucifer correspondence doesn’t bring that out very well.


f369124864. Do you think Harry represents the fall of humanity, as depicted in St Augustines theodicy, by containing a part of Voldamort’s soul, which is then destroyed and Harrys soul is returned to perfection and any corruption or evil temptation is removed?

The idea works, I suppose, but I struggle to think of the Hogwarts Saga as an Augustinian text. Have you read the Rev Dr Danielle Tumminio’s book, God and Harry at Yale? It discusses just this subject at some length.


5. Would you consider Harry to be an unattainably and unrealistically perfect character as he never gives in to temptation or seems to stray from the path of good?

BookshelfHuh? I’m asked regularly by Harry Haters how I can in good conscience recommend Harry’s adventures to young people because of his proclivity for breaking rules, telling lies, and being disrespectful to his teachers (and any other adult he does not like). He’s a “perfect character” only in the sense that he conforms to all the rules of both the Schoolboy Novel genre and, oddly enough, of Gothic heroines. See Harry Potter’s Bookshelf for all that.

S/he sent me a wonderfully kind thank you note for these responses (and the five Potter Pundits I urged her to contact for a more thoughtful set of answers), which were, to my surprise, what s/he wanted:

Thank you very much for your answer to my questions, they were very helpful and perfect for my project. Once again thank you so much for your time and thank you for you brilliant lectures and books that have helped me immensely.

What answers do you have to these questions? Fire away!


  1. David James says

    Great thoughts John to this student’s questions. I would hope we could get more young people to look at the Hogwarts Saga with the religious themes contained therein.

    “Is it justifiable for someone who is opposed to Christian religion to be subconsciously exposed to it?” Really!!!!???
    Are they teaching “separation” of “Church and Literature” in the UK these days John?
    We know we have that theme running in the political realm here in the USA and in some cases sadly in our public schools, but even someone asking this question is scary to say the least.

    On the Augustinian question, while Harry’s soul is certainly returned to his consciousness healed of Voldemortitis after the “sacrifice in the forest”, he does not after that event gain “perfection” in the sense of Christian sanctification or redemption. This was not JKR’s purpose in writing Harry’s journey in the first place.
    He lives on as an Auror, still dealing with problems in the Wizarding World through the Ministry of Magic, married, with children, with all the issues and worries and struggles of a parent we would presume, as we do not have much detail from JKR on Harry’s 19 years after the battle of Hogwarts. Harry I would imagine would still be working out his walk as a Christian Everyman, in a literary sense, onward through the pages of his life story. Much the same way we are living out our life story.

  2. “What a hoot!” I love you John, you can always make me laugh out loud.

  3. David Martin says

    There is an additional response which should be made to the student’s question about whether or not it is fair for someone who is opposed to Christian religion to be subconsciously exposed to it. The question indicates a misunderstanding of what it means to be part of a free society and what it means to be educated.

    When, as a citizen in a free society, we claim for ourselves such rights as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of thought, we necessarily grant those rights to others as well. We therefore must accept that we will be continually mixing with people who do not think that same way we do or hold the same values.

    Part of what it means to be an educated person in a free society is to be exposed to and become aware of many different kinds of thinking, to have some understanding of how a Marxist, or a Freudian, or a Platonist, or a pragmatist, or a feminist might think about an issue. This is also part of understanding ones fellow citizens. Often (usually?) ideas will not come to us with neat labels on them saying something such as “the following is an Objectivist belief” or “this set of ideas was originally developed by Pascal.” Ideas are just presented as ideas. An educated person in a free society learns to swim in such a sea of ideas.

    With a few small exceptions (such as warnings about the content of films, mostly for the protection of children) we accept that in a free society we will be exposed to things that are different, or strange, and perhaps even offensive. Without this understanding, we might have to put many warning labels on our books. Let us imagine…
    Warning: This history of the United States contains factual accounts of our past which may challenge or even destroy some of your currently held opinions, no matter what those opinions are. Read at your own risk.”
    This book is written from a romantic perspective. Reading it may cause you to re-think your values and goals in life.”
    The author of this book is a black man and this book is accordingly written from that perspective. Unless you are a black man yourself, you may have your viewpoint on life shifted by reading this book and experience temporary feelings of disorientation.”
    Guard your ignorance carefully. Once lost, it can never be recovered.

Speak Your Mind