When I left off in my last post, I was writing about Harry Potter. I had just finished reading the series for the first time and watching the final movie in theaters, and my Potter adrenalin was running pretty high. In the past week it has cooled of quite a bit, so hopefully I will be a bit briefer as I finish up.
There were two things left I wanted to comment on: first, the comparison many Christians make between Harry Potter and Narnia/Lord of the Rings; and second, the comparison many Christians make between Harry and Christ.
I don’t want to be critical and pick it all apart and make comparisons or anything like that. I don’t like going that deep, and you wouldn’t want to read it if I did. But just on the surface, I didn’t think Harry Potter was much like the Chronicles of Narnia at all. I mean, other than the magic and the strange creatures, I didn’t see many similarities.
I think this is because some volumes of the Chronicles of Narnia were meant to be allegorical through and through. Aslan is not only supposed to be like Christ, he IS Christ. He is very different than Harry, who, although there are some parallels, isn’t much like Christ on several occasions. I’m not trying to slam Harry at all; it’s just not who he was meant to be.
When I read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, I look at it through the lens of Scripture. I consider what the story is saying to me theologically, what it might be teaching me through new images that will better help me understand what the Bible says about Jesus. It’s just a story, but I learn from stories more easily than I learn from theology textbooks.
When I read Harry Potter, I’m reading a good story, albeit one that has very limited connections to Scripture. The Harry Potter series is much more like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. These are stories in which good and evil are clearly defined, and our hero is an undersized underdog who must make tremendous sacrifices to save the world, all the while guided by a wise old wizard with a flowing white beard. (Check out all the similarities between the two series here. It’s kind of funny.) So for the most part, I think Rowling wrote her series more in the vein of Tolkien than Lewis, and for what she was trying to accomplish, I think she did a brilliant job.
And then there is the seventh book, The Deathly Hallows. Through the first six books, Rowling’s story had seemed entirely secular. But in the final book, something is different. Scripture is quoted twice (although the characters do not know what the quotes mean.) And Harry, with his whole dying and rising again to defeat the evil guy routine, really does start to look a bit like Christ.
The night I finished the book, I was blown away with the story Rowling had told and the connections she had made to our own grand story of salvation. After thinking about it awhile though, I don’t think the similarities between Harry and Jesus are all that clear, apart from the very similar deaths and resurrections, and the effects these had for their followers.
(A friend pointed out to me that in my last post I made the mistake of saying that Harry never gave in to dark magic. He actually did on two occasions in the final book when he used two Unforgivable Curses, one time out of necessity and another time out of anger. Suffice to say that Harry was not always very Christlike. But maybe that is why he is a hero who we relate to so well.)
Again, I think the difference for me is that Aslan is meant to represent Christ through and through, while Harry pretty much just points us to Christ at the very end. But when he starts pointing, he points well.
The following quote comes from the dialogue between Harry and Voldemort in the final chapter of the final book:
“You won’t be killing anyone else tonight,” said Harry as they circled, and stared into each other’s eyes, green into red. “You won’t be able to kill any of them ever again. Don’t you get it? I was ready to die to stop you from hurting these people—”
“But you did not!”
“—I meant to, and that’s what I did. I’ve done what my mother did. They’re protected from you. Haven’t you noticed how none of the spells you put on them are binding? You can’t torture them. You can’t touch them. You don’t learn from your mistakes, Riddle, do you?”
The meaning behind these lines may be what I have been most excited about in the weeks following my Harry Potter journey, because I read that and thought, “Whoa, that’s what Jesus did!” It’s always pretty incredible to read something that helps you think about God in a new way, that helps you catch a glimpse of a side of God you had never really noticed before.
We are loved and we’ve been saved, because God in his justice decided that the only way to pay for our debt of sin was to send his own son, and I know that this is the basic Gospel message that most of us have known since we were two and a half, but Harry Potter got me excited about it all over again. Do you realize how awesome it is that death and the devil cannot touch us because we are alive in Christ?! Sure, we most likely will die someday if the Lord keeps on being patient with us, but we will be resurrected to live again, perfectly, heavenly, righteously, eternally.
I’ve read an eclectic collection of other books outside of the Harry Potter series this summer. Three of them focused on the life to come for those who are saved by the blood of Jesus, and they looked at it from three perspectives: the questioning preacher who wonders how God’s love and justice play out in eternity (Love Wins), the little boy who had a vision of heaven during an appendectomy (Heaven is for Real), and the renowned scholar who explains what our hope for the future really consists of (Surprised by Hope).
I actually thought I would end up writing a post comparing and contrasting what these writers said, but in the end, I didn’t really want to because that meant I would have to think really hard, and I am tired. But I don’t need to anyway, because what stuck out to me most of all was what Rowling said through the mouth of Harry Potter, “You’ll never be able to kill any of them again.” Can you imagine Jesus saying that to Satan? I can, and for now it has enlivened how I read the Gospel story.
In 1 Corinthians 15:42-43, Paul wrote, “So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.” That’s what I’m excited about, what I’m waiting for with anticipation: the day that we can’t be touched ever again by sickness or anger or jealousy or death. “You can’t torture them. You can’t touch them.” That is so cool. For now we wait with hope, because one enemy has already been defeated, and “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor 15:26). I’ll quote Paul once more to close, this time from 1 Corinthians 15:51-55:
“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?’”