A big part of the research I’ve been doing in the past decade has focused on historical Jesus research: how much of the gospel story is literature, and how much (if any) is based on firm historical fact. For my Master’s thesis in comparative literature, I tied in this research with the fictional character of Harry Potter, to demonstrate that Jesus, like Harry, may have been a cumulative adaptation of many previous mythologies.
Now that the final Harry Potter movie (Deathly Hallows Part II) has come out, of course, we know that Harry and Jesus are in fact very similar (savior, willing death, resurrection). Dozens of books written by Christian readers have championed Harry as a Christian story and clear allegory for Jesus.
Surprisingly, I’ve seen my own book, Jesus Potter Harry Christ, been mentioned/criticized as just another one of these books – when in fact my claim is the exact opposite: that Harry Potter reveals Jesus as a fictional character and refutes the historical Christ.
There’s really no excuse for this blunder, as I’ve put most of my material online, and the first four chapters of the book are available for free download. However, here is a link to my most popular articles relating to the Christian/religious controversy over the Harry Potter series, the similarities between Jesus and Harry Potter, the Christian symbolism in the Deathly Hallows movies, and the final impact of JK Rowling’s magical epoch on contemporary culture and the world at large. At the bottom of this page you’ll find the introduction and chapter one of my book, in full, so that you can get a clear idea of what I’m saying. That way, if you decide to share this page (which I hope you’ll do), you won’t make the mistake of literally judging the book from its cover.
For more information about the book itself, and links to online reviews, check out the book’s website www.jesuspotterharrychrist.com
Articles about Jesus Christ and Harry Potter
- Jesus Christ and the Deathly Hallows: Christian Symbolism in Harry Potter 7 Movie
- Harry Potter and Christian Theology: God and Harry Potter at Yale and Deathly Hallows Review
- Jesus and the Escape from the Enchanted Tomb: Harry Potter and Education Budget Cuts
- The Existence of Jesus Christ, Harry Potter and other ‘Historical’ Saviors
- Harry Potter and Osama-Obama: Myth and Reality in the War on Terror
- The Bible Sucks: How Star Wars and Harry Potter use Void as Cult-Producing Mechanism
- Jesus, Harry, Christians and Atheists: The Spiritual War for Possession of Harry Potter’s Soul.
- Jesus-Harry Potter Orthodox Icon Controversy Rocks Dallas: Harry Potter Christ Figure?
- Does JK Rowling’s “Deathly Hallows” Reveal Jesus as Literary Figure?
Spoof Articles (Just for Fun)
- Author Burns Harry Potter Books Wearing Jesus Costume at Deathly Hallows Premiere
- Daniel Radcliffe crashes Prince Williams’ royal wedding dressed as Harry Potter, Rowling mortified.
- J.K. Rowling Sues Again! Is new book Jesus Potter, Harry Christ “Fair Use”?
- Church files lawsuit against JK Rowling: “Harry Potter plagiarizes Bible”
- “Harry Potter is NOT Jesus”: New book banned by Polish Church
Below is Chapter One of the book “Jesus Potter Harry Christ”. If you’d like to read more, Click here to download the first four chapters (PDF)
Sacrificial Half Breed Warlocks: Harry Potter as Christ Figure
Warlocks are the enemies of God! And I don’t care what kind of hero they are, they’re an enemy of God and had it been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death! –Becky Fischer, Pentecostal children’s pastor, 2006
LET’S SKIP THE INTRODUCTIONS. You don’t need me to tell you that Jesus Christ and Harry are two of the most famous celebrities in the world, whose stories have been translated into dozens of languages and found international support in diverse cultures. What you may not be aware of, however, is the mysterious, complicated and intriguing relationship between them. For example, did you know that the topics “I read Harry Potter and Jesus still loves me,” “Even Jesus reads Harry Potter” and “Harry Potter will return sooner than Jesus” each have their own Facebook group, or that Wikipedia has a page dedicated to “Religious debates over the Harry Potter Series”? Much more remarkable than their respective popularity is the significant tension – and unexpected affinity – between them.
At first glance it may seem that J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard and the crucified Jesus prophet who became the Christian savior have absolutely nothing to do with each other – and yet the unease and sometimes outright animosity between the followers of these two figures suggests otherwise. Harry has been banned, burned, and abused by religious fundamentalists for over a decade. Just what is it about Harry Potter that Christians find so threatening?
On the surface, the conflict appears simple. The Bible prohibits witchcraft absolutely, on pain of death. Consequently, some Christians argue that the popularity of Harry Potter can lead children to accept that magic is OK – if used for the right reasons – and thus lure them into evil practices that lead to damnation. At the release of Rowling’s final book, however, many readers were surprised to discover parallels between Jesus and Harry that, in such apparently diverse world-views, had no right to be there. As a result, recent years have witnessed a revolution in Christian responses to Harry, with many groups, writers and religious leaders praising Rowling’s young sorcerer as ultimately Christian and a clear metaphor for Jesus Christ. A few of the similarities that have been raised include the following:
- Magic father, human mother
- Miraculous birth, foretold by prophecy
- Threatened by an evil ruler, had to go into hiding as a baby
- Power over animals, time, and matter
- Symbolized by a lion / enemy symbolized by a snake
- Descended into the underworld
- Broke seven magical seals
- Went willingly to his death
- Suffered and died (or appeared to die) willingly, was mourned
- Came back to life
- Defeated his enemy in a glorious final battle
Can this list really be applied to both Jesus Christ and Harry Potter equally? If so, where do the apparent similarities come from? More importantly, why do some Christian groups deem Harry Potter satanic, while Jesus Christ is revered as the Son of God? What key differences allow Christians to make the distinction between them? In order to answer these questions, this chapter will trace the raging controversy over the Harry Potter series, examine the Christian responses to J.K. Rowling’s character, and then explore the potential similarities themselves. I will conclude by arguing that the key variance between the two is that Harry Potter is obviously a fictional character, while Jesus Christ is almost universally accepted as a historical figure.
The character of Harry Potter popped into Joanne Rowling’s head in 1990, when she was returning by train to London after flat-hunting in Manchester. She didn’t have a pen, so for the next four hours she simply sat and thought; dreaming up the story of the scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard.[i] She started writing Philosopher’s Stone as soon as she got back to her Clapham Junction flat. The manuscript grew after she moved to Manchester, but on December 30th, 1990 Rowling’s mother passed away after a 10-year battle with multiple sclerosis. This was a traumatic event for Rowling.
9 months later, desperate to get away, Rowling took a job in Portugal teaching English. There she met and married Portuguese television journalist Jorge Arantes, and in July of 1993 their daughter Jessica Isabel Rowling Arantes was born. Soon after, however, Rowling separated from her husband, and in December 1993 Rowling and her daughter returned home to live near her sister in Edinburgh.
During this period Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression, and contemplated suicide. It was the feeling of her illness that brought her the idea of Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in the third book. Before she started teaching again she was determined to finish her book; so when her daughter was sleeping she crafted her novel in nearby cafés, surviving on state welfare support. After some initial rejection, Rowling found her agent, Christopher Little. The book was submitted to twelve publishing houses; all of which rejected the manuscript. Then in August, 1996, Christopher called to tell her that Bloomsbury, a small publishing house in London, had made an offer.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone became an overnight sensation when it hit bookstores. It was the first children’s book to make it onto the New York Times best-seller list since E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web in 1952, and was followed shortly by Rowling’s next two books, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. These three books held the top three positions on the New York Times bestseller list in 1999. On December 18th, 2001, USA Today announced that J.K. Rowling had become the best-selling author in the world, displacing mystery writer John Grisham, and in 2004, they named Rowling the most successful author of the decade, landing five of the top six spots on the list of the 100 best-selling books of the past 10 years. In 2007, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final volume of J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series, sold 11 million copies in just 24 hours, and 8.3 million copies in another week; making it the fastest selling book in history.
Bookstores and publishers have been surprised, not only by the sales, but by the passion of supporting fans, who find the books irresistible. Part of this can be chalked up to a brilliant marketing campaign, but even so, it is clear that Rowling has presented an intriguing story, with central characters that fans identify with and a rich magical world.
It would be a mistake to identify the series exclusively as children’s literature; the books have received an enthusiastic reception from adults as well, and in the seriousness of the later books it is clear that Rowling has a mature audience in mind. Horror writer Stephen King notes that the great secret of the Harry Potter series is that Rowling’s kids grew up. The books, which certainly began as children’s literature, developed into something much more sober as Rowling’s depiction of the conflict between good and evil, her characters, and her writing skills reached maturity:
These books ceased to be specifically for children halfway through the series; by Goblet of Fire, Rowling was writing for everyone, and knew it. The clearest sign of how adult the books had become by the conclusion arrives — and splendidly — in Deathly Hallows, when Mrs. Weasley sees the odious Bellatrix Lestrange trying to finish off Ginny with a Killing Curse. “NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” she cries. It’s the most shocking bitch in recent fiction; since there’s virtually no cursing (of the linguistic kind, anyway) in the Potter books, this one hits home with almost fatal force. It is totally correct in its context — perfect, really — but it is also a quintessentially adult response to a child’s peril.[ii]
The popularity of Harry Potter has also drawn the attention of academic research and popular non-fiction titles about the series. As such a universal element of contemporary culture, Harry Potter has been used to shed light on more complex social and political issues. In “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Colonialism,” Tracy Douglas seeks to place Harry Potter “within the wider context of the British literature canon’s tendency to define the foreigner against a characterization of English identity.”[iii] Gwen A. Tarbox, in “Harry Potter and the War on Terror,” argues “If the earlier books in the series were designed to engage children’s sense of wonder, it would appear that the later texts are designed to encourage children’s skepticism of the current geopolitical situation.”[iv] Nancee Lee-Allen, meanwhile, in “Understanding Prejudice Utilizing the Harry Potter Series,” claims
Harry Potter’s world is full of prejudicial ideas, though not the ones found in our world. In Harry’s world, people are not discriminated against for the color of their skin, religious affiliation, or sexual identity; it is all about blood – pure, half or muggle. Teens easily identify with characters and are able to relate to the idea of prejudice in the magic world. These books allow us to explore inner feelings about people who are different without identifying anyone as a real-world racist, which can lead to a better understanding of ourselves and begin to build respect for those who are different.[v]
Academics have also tried to isolate what gives Harry Potter its distinctive appeal. Tricia Sindel-Arrington writes, “J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are modern Gothic novels which incorporate symbols to create vivid imagery while connecting to the adolescent’s self-discovery journey.”[vi] Janet Neilson finds that “J.K. Rowling draws from global sources for inspiration for everything from spells to magical creatures. These sources are woven throughout the text to create depth and a sense of cultures beyond the one in which Harry lives.”[vii] John Granger, one of the first writers to comment on the Christian symbolism in Harry Potter, notes that Rowling “wields the tools of narrative misdirection, literary alchemy, the hero’s journey, postmodern themes and traditional symbolism to engage and entrance us well beyond suspended disbelief.”[viii]
The academic interest in the Harry Potter phenomenon has inspired over a dozen literary conferences focused on the Harry Potter series. In 2008 alone, the list of Potter conferences included Terminus in Chicago, Convention Alley in Ottawa, Portus in Dallas, and Accio in England, and even more have been held in the years since. For serious researchers, a 275-page hardcover called Scholarly Studies in Harry Potter: Applying Academic Methods to a Popular Text was released in 2005 and sold on Amazon.com for $109.95.[ix] According to Debbie Mynott, Area Children’s Librarian at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council (UK), the articles in the book “demonstrate the richness Harry Potter and his world provide for literary critics and scholars.”[x]
Harry’s quickly expanding fandom has even inspired comparisons to be made between the Potter series and the Bible, which popular culture has dubbed the “best-selling book of all time.” Although the Bible is still winning, Rowling’s novels are catching up:
According to Rowling’s agent, Christopher Little, the seven Harry Potter books have so far been translated into 67 languages, amassing the 400m figure since the publication of the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in 1997. Despite the furious pace of sales, Harry Potter will still have his work cut out to catch The Bible, which, according to the Guinness Book of Records, has sold 2.5b copies since 1815, and has been translated into 2,233 languages or dialects.[xi]
Along with its success, however, came controversy. The overwhelming popularity of the Harry Potter series might have been what first raised the suspicions of conservative Christians, who – citing the examples of magic and witchcraft in Harry Potter’s world – have declared Rowling’s fiction satanic propaganda designed to lead children into the occult. The continuing debate among Christian communities over whether children should be allowed to read the Harry Potter series has frequently been reported by the media; for example in news reports of lawsuits attempting to ban Harry Potter books from school and public libraries, or the even more startling accounts of public book burnings. Aside from evolution, Harry Potter is one of the most controversial subjects in the heated debate over what we should be teaching our children. (While these issues are predominantly constrained to U.S. politics and culture, the spread of evangelical forms of Christianity abroad have debated similar issues). On August 2, 2000, Education Week reported that
The American Library Association reports that at least 13 states witnessed attacks on the Harry Potter novels last year, making them the most challenged books of 1999. Given the enormous publicity and forecasted sales of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we can expect the attacks to escalate when schools reopen in September.[xii]
These initial responses were enflamed by a spoof article called “Harry Potter Books Spark Rise in Satanism Among Children,” posted by the satire news site the Onion on July 26, 2000. Using made-up interview statements and provocative language, it painted a frightening picture of Harry’s Satanic influence on kids.
“I used to believe in what they taught us at Sunday School,” said Ashley, conjuring up an ancient spell to summon Cerebus, the three-headed hound of hell. “But the Harry Potter books showed me that magic is real, something I can learn and use right now, and that the Bible is nothing but boring lies.”
“I think it’s absolute rubbish to protest children’s books on the grounds that they are luring children to Satan,” Rowling told a London Times reporter in a July 17 interview. “People should be praising them for that! These books guide children to an understanding that the weak, idiotic Son Of God is a living hoax who will be humiliated when the rain of fire comes, and will suck the greasy cock of the Dark Lord while we, his faithful servants, laugh and cavort in victory.”[xiii]
Although the article was meant to ridicule the fears of Christian parents protesting the Harry Potter books and poke fun of the controversy, it was unexpectedly used by Christians (either deliberately or without realizing that the Onion is a satire site) as definitive proof against the series. Soon after the article appeared, a chain letter was created and forwarded in a massive email campaign which heavily cited the passages of the Onion’s fabricated news story. By mixing truth with fiction, it proved a powerful motivator in the fight against Rowling’s young wizard.
Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2000 01:59:13 EDT
Subject: Fwd: Harry Potter Books?
This is the most evil thing I have laid my eyes on in 10 years… and no one seems to understand its threat. The Harry Potter books are THE NUMBER ONE selling children’s books in the nation today. Just look at any Barnes & Noble or Waldenbook storefront. Go to Amazon.com and read the reviews. Hear the touting by educators and even Christian teachers about how “It’s great to see the youth so eagerly embracing the reading experience!”
Harry Potter is the creation of a former UK English teacher who promotes witchcraft and Satanism. Harry is a 13 year old ‘wizard.’ Her creation openly blasphemes Jesus and God and promotes sorcery, seeking revenge upon anyone who upsets them by giving you examples (even the sources with authors and titles!) of spells, rituals, and demonic powers. It is the doorway for children to enter the Dark Side of evil. (…) My hope is that you will see fit to become involved in getting the word out about this garbage. Please FWD to every pastor, teacher, and parent you know. This author has now published FOUR BOOKS in less than 2 years of this “encyclopedia of Satanism” and is surely going to write more. I also ask all Christians to please pray for this lost woman’s soul. Pray also for the Holy Spirit to work in the young minds of those who are reading this garbage that they may be delivered from its harm. Lastly, pray for all parents to grow closer to their children, and that a bond of sharing thoughts and spiritual intimacy will grow between them.
Letters such as this one ignited outrage and inspired a deliberate movement against J.K. Rowing’s novels. In 2001, several book burnings were held with Harry Potter as the main stimulus. In early January 2002, the Christ Community Church of Alamogordo, New Mexico, became the topic of international media attention for its book burning after the pastor, Jack D. Brock, preached a sermon on the topic “The Baby Jesus Or Harry Potter?” Brock stated he considered the Harry Potter books to be “an example of our society’s growing preoccupation with the occult. The Potter books present witchcraft as a generally positive practice, while the Bible expressly condemns all occult practices.” The event became the topic of news features in both the United States and England.[xiv] Pastor Brock admitted to never having read any of the four Potter novels. In August 2003, the Jesus Non-denominational Church in Greenville, Michigan, also burned Harry Potter books. According to the report, “The pastor says stories like Harry Potter that glorify wizardry and sorcery will lead people to accept and believe in Satan.”
Evangelical Protestants were not the only ones worried that positive depictions of wizardry would mislead children. In a letter from March, 2003 Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) thanked the author of Harry Potter – Good or Evil for her “instructive” book, saying,
It is good, that you enlighten people about Harry Potter, because those are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.[xv]
Harry Potter has also been a dividing factor in many communities. For several years, J.K. Rowling’s series topped the American Library Association’s lists of most-challenged books, for reasons including “anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint and violence” (reasons cited in 2001). Attempting to educate Christians about the dangers of Harry Potter, Robert McGee of Merritt Island, Florida, released a documentary in 2001 (Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged; Making Evil Look Innocent) claiming that Rowling’s books introduce kids to human sacrifice, witchcraft and even Nazism.[xvi] School boards in Cedarville, Arkansas, and the Eastern York School district in Pennsylvania were challenged on decisions regarding whether Harry should be allowed in school libraries. In 2002, the police department of Penryn, Pennsylvania refused to direct traffic for the YMCA triathlon because Harry Potter was read to kids attending the YMCA after-school program. In a letter sent to the YMCA, the town’s police captain questioned whether it was “serving the will of God” by reading Harry to children, adding “As long as we don’t stand up, it won’t stop. It’s unfortunate that this is the way it has to be.”
Although the controversy softened with the continued success of Harry Potter and its endorsement by many mainstream religious organizations, pockets of resistance remain. In 2006 the conflict resurfaced with the documentary Jesus Camp, which shadowed a Christian camp aimed at using children to proselytize. Leader Becky Fischer’s bold comments on Harry Potter were quoted at the beginning of this chapter. Traces of the early email campaign based from the Onion article continue to condition Christian responses to Harry Potter. In July 2009 Reverend Douglas Taylor and his “Jesus Party” received media attention for protesting the opening of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”; these protests were mocked by satire site Land Rover Baptist as part of their continuing (fictious) campaign against Harry Potter:
Each night in July during the release of the Satanic film, “The Half Blood Prince,” JESUS YOUTHS will be armed with fire-extinguishers filled with compressed lamb’s blood. “Our brave Baptist youths will innocently approach theater lines and spray unsaved moviegoers with the warm blood of the Lamb. They’ll shout the name of Jesus and throw Chick Tracts into the dazed crowd,” says Pastor. “They need to run like their dickens are on fire after witnessing time is over because they are outreaching for Jesus outside of church property! And there might be some unsaved police officers about! Church vans will be waiting a quarter mile away from each theater to escort JESUS YOUTHS back to the Main Sanctuary for a de-brief with the Board of Deacons. Then it’s off to Friendly’s for 20-minutes of ice-cream fellowship.[xvii]
On October 24, 2010 the following article was posted on the blog Everyday For Life Canada:
As the Harry Potter phenomenon continues to contaminate the hearts and minds of Canadian youth, I felt it necessary to address my concerns and that of so many other like-minded Christians, who clearly understand the Harry Potter controversy, that it glorifies and propagates the occult. Make no mistake, the Harry Potter story line is about witches and wizards, the practice of divination, necromancy and sorcery. It is all presented in a glorifying way through the exciting adventures of a young boy’s life. [xviii]
What’s the big deal? Christian Responses
It is tempting to simply dismiss or discredit these reactions as fundamentally misinformed or baseless. However, there is a very real anti-Harry sentiment among conservative Christian churches – and it has a biblical foundation. Thus it is important to look more deeply into the issue and to understand what the religious debate against Harry is all about. As esteemed author Judy Blume points out, it would be a mistake to overlook the real impetus behind the protests:
The real danger is not in the books, but in laughing off those who would ban them. The protests against Harry Potter follow a tradition that has been growing since the early 1980’s and often leaves school principals trembling with fear that is then passed down to teachers and librarians. What began with the religious right has spread to the politically correct… And now the gate is open so wide that some parents believe they have the right to demand immediate removal of any book for any reason from school or classroom libraries. The list of gifted teachers and librarians who find their jobs in jeopardy for defending their students’ right to read, to imagine, to question, grows every year. (…) I knew this was coming. The only surprise is that it took so long – as long as it took for the zealots who claim they’re protecting children from evil (and evil can be found lurking everywhere these days) to discover that children actually like these books. If children are excited about a book, it must be a suspect. [xix]
At the same time, from a Christian perspective the issue is very clear: the Bible explicitly forbids witchcraft. The command “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” of Exodus 22:18, which was used to justify the persecution of women during the Inquisition and later during the Salem Witch trials, is also cited against Harry Potter. The other biblical passage quoted often in arguments against the Harry Potter series is from the book of Deuteronomy:
There must never be anyone among you who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire of sacrifice, who practices divination, who is soothsayer, augur or sorcerer, weaver of spells, consulter of ghosts of mediums, or necromancer. (Deut. 18:10-12)
While this passage clearly forbids believers to practice sorcery, ambiguity remains. Is reading about witchcraft the same as practicing it, and therefore also banned? As Connie Neal clarifies in What’s a Christian to Do with Harry Potter,
(…) reading Harry Potter is a disputable matter because we are not debating whether it is okay for Christians to practice witchcraft of spells. The Christian position on that is clear. We agree that we should never participate in or practice anything listed in Deuteronomy 18:9-14. But reading Harry Potter is not the same as practicing witchcraft or even – as some assert – promoting it. However, some can take it to mean just that. Therein lies the disputable part of these issues that Christians debate in earnest.[xx]
To a skeptical reader who doesn’t believe in magic, this controversy might seem exasperating; but the root of the issue is that Christians do believe in a super-natural world (and hence, the possibility of magic), and also that the Bible outlines appropriate responses to that world. A literal reading of the Bible makes it clear that magic, spell-casting, divination and communion with spirits are not only real, but also very dangerous. The fear is that children reading the Harry Potter books and playing around with make-believe spells and magic may end up being drawn towards more occult practices later, or even accidentally contacting real evil spirits.
Although these biblical prohibitions may be the root of the criticisms made against Harry Potter, as J.K. Rowling’s novels grew in popularity, Christians opposed to Harry Potter searched for further ways to demonstrate the potential dangers of the books for children. The following is a summary of some of the early Christian responses to the Harry Potter series. It should be noted that critics who are against the reading of the Harry Potter series have rarely read the books themselves. This means that their information about the novels comes only from 2nd or 3rd place testimonies, book jackets, literature reviews and conjecture. Moreover, many of the following responses were formulated after only the second or third Harry Potter novel, and are inadequate to deal with the Potter series as a whole.
Promotes the Idea that Magic is Just Fantasy
The belief that witches and wizards are harmless because they don’t really exist is a dangerous fallacy for Christians who believe that magic and witchcraft are real and condemned by God. This point is demonstrated admirably by the preface of Michael D. O’Brien’s Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture. O’Brien describes how he was inspired to write the book after hearing from three independent and unconnected Christian sources whose attempts to read Harry Potter caused them to experience physical nausea. He then claims that when he started publishing, he was cursed by three witches, whose spells were only broken by his faith in Jesus. The fantastic elements in his account are worth quoting in full:
The witches’ spells against me were utterly terrifying, nearly paralyzing, and only when I cried out the name of Jesus were the spells broken and pushed back. I had to keep repeating His name to preserve the defense, and woke up in a state of terror that did not dissipate in the manner of bad dreams. My wife woke up too and prayed with me, and finally we were able to go back to sleep in peace. In a similar dream the following night, the three witches returned, now accompanied by a sorcerer, and once more they cast a hideous spell against me. Again it was repelled by the holy name of Jesus and also by the prayers of the saints, especially St. Joseph. A third dream that occurred not long after was the most frightening of all. In it, I had been captured and taken to an isolated house deep in a forest. The building was filled with men and women involved in witchcraft and sorcery. They were waiting for a man who was their chief sorcerer to arrive, and I was to be the human sacrifice in the night’s ritual. When he entered the room I felt that all hope had been lost, a black dismay filled me, along with terror of a kind I had never before felt. Even then, I was able to whisper the name of Jesus. Instantly the walls fell backward onto the ground outside the house, the cords that had bound me fell from my wrists and ankles, and I ran for my life. Leaping out of the house, I was astonished to find the entire building surrounded by mighty angels, who by their holy authority had immobilized all of the sorcerers within. I leaped and danced with joy, and realized that I had been transformed into a child. Jesus appeared in the sky above and began to descend. I continued to dance in jubilation and relief, crying out greetings to him as he arrived. At which point I woke up, filled with utter joy. And that was the last of the bad dreams.[xxi]
Like O’Brien, many Christians accept the fact that an invisible spiritual warfare is constantly going on between Jesus and the forces of evil, and live in a word just as fantastic as that of Harry Potter.
Makes a Distinction Between Good Magic and Bad Magic
Fans of Harry Potter would probably agree that Harry and his companions are moral characters who use magic for good purposes, as opposed to their unethical enemies, who use magic for evil and selfish purposes. But this distinction could lead children to the conclusion that magic can be good or “safe,” depending on the moral choices made – a dangerous path for Christians who see all magic, for any purpose, as unacceptable. Alison Lentini explores this theme in her article “Harry Potter: Occult Cosmology and the Corrupted Imagination”:
For those who seek conformity with the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, “safe magic” is wishful thinking, intellectual dishonesty, and an invitation to the spiritual deviations that the Hebrew prophets bluntly referred to as “harlotry,” and the New Testament apostles forbade. As such, the “safe magic” of Harry Potter offers a message that is as morally confusing to a generation of children as the current ideology of “safe sex.”[xxii]
Introduces Children to the Occult
Wicca = Witchcraft = Satanism. Or at least that’s the connection made on many fundamentalist blogs and websites, who view the accepted modern day religion named Wicca as positive proof that New Age ideologies and the contemporary tolerance of pluralism are Satan’s ploy to capture the souls of those who wander too far into occult territory. Although Harry Potter, as a fictional character who employs magic to defeat his adversaries, is not unique in children’s literature, he is the most popular manifestation of contemporary society’s demand for magic and fantasy, and has therefore become a primarily target of criticism. The threat is voiced clearly by Alan Jacobs in “Harry Potter’s Magic,” which claims “such novels could at best encourage children to take a smilingly tolerant New Age view of witchcraft, at worst encourage the practice of witchcraft itself.”[xxiii] The overly zealous author of the website Exposing Satanism, who has placed Taoism and Buddhism under the title of “False Beliefs,” illustrates a stronger response:
The whole purpose of these books is to desensitize readers and introduce them to the occult. What a better way to introduce tolerance and acceptance of what God calls an abomination, than in children’s books? If you can get them when they are young, then you have them for life. It’s the oldest marketing scheme there is.[xxiv]
Has No Moral Compass or Ethical Authority
Another criticism raised against the Harry Potter series has been that there is no absolute moral authority. Although there are good characters and bad characters in the books, there is also a lot of moral ambiguity and no supreme authority for establishing and policing universal ethical laws. Moreover, ‘good’ characters often behave very poorly – being angry or jealous for example. Harry himself often lies and breaks the rules, is rude towards authority figures and prone to violent encounters with his enemies. This argument usually goes hand-in-hand with a defense of other, more Christian works like the C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia or Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, both of which (mostly on account that the authors were practicing Christians) are championed as appropriate books for Christian children. As writer Richard Abanes proclaims, “the books clearly present far too much moral subjectivity and patently unbiblical actions to be of any ethical value.”[xxv] Lindy Beam agrees, in an article about the appropriate Christian response to Harry Potter:
The spiritual fault of Harry Potter is not so much that it plays to dark supernatural powers, but that it doesn’t acknowledge any supernatural powers or moral authority at all. Rowling does not write from the basis of Judeo-Christian ethics. So her characters may do “the-wrong-thing-for-the-right-reason,” often lying, cheating, or breaking rules in order to save the day.[xxvi]
However, this argument becomes very weak if we agree that the criticism should be applied to every novel equally and not only to the Harry Potter series; there are very few works of literature in which the protagonist is sin-free and ethically meticulous. In response to this argument, Connie Neal points out that the Bible itself is hardly bereft from moral ambiguity itself, and cites a handful of biblical indiscretions worsened by the fact that the characters acted purely out of self interest: Abraham and Isaac lied about their wives, calling them sisters in order to escape persecution; Jacob and his mother deceived Isaac with an elaborate disguise and lied to cover the deception; Rachel stole her father’s idols, hid them, and lied about it; ten of the Patriarchs sold their brother into slavery. She concludes, “If we decide that we will only read stories to kids where those on the good side never do wrong, we would not be able to read the Bible.”[xxvii]
Uses Satanic Symbols
Still others have found Satanic symbols in the Harry Potter stories. Arguments following this kind of logic mention that the Bible often depicts Satan as being a snake (Genesis 3:1-4; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 12:9; 20:2), and that in book two of the Potter series, we discover that Harry has a gift of speaking with snakes (Chamber of Secrets 145-147). This language is called Parseltongue, and is already openly associated with the dark arts in the series. Harry, however, got this power from the truly evil character, Voldemort, and always uses it for the greater good.
Another connection is made from the lightning bolt figure on Harry’s forehead. Associating lightning with Satan based on the passage, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning” (Luke 10:18), and noting that the forehead is meant to be a place reserved for the name that God will put on those who love Him and serve Him (“And they will see His face; and His name will be on their foreheads” (Rev 22:4)) some fundamentalists have argued that to put any other mark there, especially a Satanic mark, is a mockery to God.
As we’ve seen, arguments like these, when used in conjunction with anti-Potter propaganda and riveting “proofs” of Harry’s Satanic influences, stirred up the fury of religious extremists enough to cause public demonstrations, lawsuits or book burning events. Although in today’s liberal culture of tolerance, book burning is generally frowned upon (in nearly every case more liberal members of the community protested the burnings – ashamed that their towns had become harbors for such violent and discriminatory practices), the burning of books on witchcraft is a biblically sanctioned practice. The following story is found in the Acts of the Apostles:
And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the Word of God and prevailed. (Acts 19: 18-20)
It should be pointed out, however, that the story above is a bit of ecclesiastical advertising and rather than denounce witchcraft, it actually acknowledges its power. Early Christian communities believed that Jesus Christ eclipsed all magical spells; not because they weren’t real, but because Jesus had a higher magical efficacy than the best alternative methods. This is why new converts could converge and cast their expensive books into the fire. This is not the same as burning books about magic simply because they are evil.
Positive Christian Responses
The fact that there have been a few isolated cases of Harry Potter book burning by fundamentalist religious groups should not lead us to the assumption that all Christians are anti-Potter. On the contrary, many of the most authoritative sources have given the series their support. On January 10th, 2000, for example, Christianity Today published the editorial “Why We Like Harry Potter,” which claims:
Rowling has created a world with real good and evil, and Harry is definitely on the side of light fighting the “dark powers.” Third, and this is why we recommend the books, Rowling’s series is a Book of Virtues with a preadolescent funny bone. Amid the laugh-out-loud scenes are wonderful examples of compassion, loyalty, courage, friendship, and even self-sacrifice. No wonder young readers want to be like these believable characters. That is a Christmas present we can be grateful for.[xxviii]
Christians who have read the series even find that they can be useful instruments for spreading the gospel message. John Killinger, for example, says glowingly “The Potter stories, far from being ‘wicked’ or ‘Satanic’… are in fact narratives of robust faith and morality, entirely worthy of children’s reading again and again, and even becoming world classics that will be reprinted as long as there is a civilization.”[xxix]
Christians who approve of Harry Potter have trouble accepting the argument that Narnia or the Lord of the Rings – which also feature magic, spells, warfare, mythological symbols, talking animals and half-breeds like elves and centaurs – are better material for Christian children. Indeed there is no argument that can hold against Harry Potter and not also be used against hundreds of other classic and contemporary children’s stories. Neal argues that the content of the stories, rather than the intention of the authors, must be honestly appraised; and if we ban one book based on specific criteria, all others should be judged similarly: “Must we say that Lewis’s stories promote Wicca and conclude that they are unsuitable for children and Christians? If we take this position about the Harry Potter stories, then the answer is yes.”[xxx] This argument can be extended to include most other popular fairy tales: the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz; the magic in Disney stories like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast or the Little Mermaid – many of which are allowed by Christian parents. As Marcia Hoehne argues in a letter to the editor of Christianity Today:
Rowling’s story, which she has described as an epic novel in seven parts rather than a book with six sequels, is an epic novel of good versus evil, where the heroes require help beyond natural strength, and where good wins out. Are Hogwarts’s witches more sinister than Oz’s? Than Mary Poppins? It would be refreshing if Christians would look up from the pulp fiction and animated videos long enough to educate themselves in the field of literature, so they might think through and discuss its complexities and themes as ably as the world does.[xxxi]
Supporters of Harry Potter point out that the plot revolves around a battle between good and evil, and also that Jesus Christ has at least a little in common with Harry Potter. In addition, the two stories share moral themes like love, sacrifice, honor, bravery, honesty and friendship; as well as challenging moral lessons that must be learned as the characters struggle through the plot. Harry Potter therefore, it can be argued, stems from a Judeo-Christian ethos. The willingness of non-Christians to discuss an interesting and “neutral” topic such as Harry Potter can even be used as a platform towards more in-depth conversations about spiritual themes. Chuck Colson instructs that interest in Harry Potter can be used to turn readers towards “more Christian” books:
If your kids do develop a taste for Harry Potter and his wizard friends, this interest might just open them up to an appreciation for other fantasy books with a distinctly Christian worldview. When your kids finish reading Harry Potter, give them C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. These books also feature wizards and witches and magical potions – but in addition, they inspire the imagination within a Christian framework – and prepare the hearts of readers for the real life story of Christ.[xxxii]
It is also noted that the Harry Potter series and Christianity share a certain number of esoteric symbols, such as the lion for bravery and righteousness, the snake for evil, the phoenix for rebirth, and the unicorn for purity – although the reason for these similarities is debated. Neal stresses that while Christians can interpret the symbols in Harry Potter within a biblical paradigm, these associations were not deliberately intended by Rowling:
We Christians can associate the symbol of the Lion for Gryffindor House with the Biblical symbol of Jesus (supremely good) being the “Lion of the tribe of Judah.” We can associate the snake of Slytherin House with the biblical symbol of the evil one represented as a serpent. (…) However, we must remain absolutely clear on this point: The author of Harry Potter never makes any association between Harry Potter’s fantasy world and Satan, the devil, or any other aspect of occult spiritual forces revealed in The Bible as real in our spiritual world. If we choose to create such an association, it is our own choice.[xxxiii]
Others, however, have noted the similarities and claimed that Rowling’s inspiration must have come directly from the Bible. After quoting a lengthy passage from the Book of Revelation, Killinger says, “The sweep and imagery are not that different from those employed by Rowling. In fact, there can be little doubt where Rowling got the idea of the King of Serpents for her story, whether she did so consciously or unconsciously.”[xxxiv]
The strength of the Christian arguments in support of Harry Potter, however, depend upon the ability to see Harry Potter as a Christian story built around a Christian framework. Killinger enthuses, for example, that the Potter mythos “is not only dependent on the Christian understanding of life and the universe but actually grows out of that understanding and would have been unthinkable without it.”[xxxv]
However, in this passage we can detect an extremist worldview that, while prevalent amongst a few fundamental Christian groups, is academically impermissible. This is that all love and goodness came into the world only after Jesus Christ, and no true ethics can be found before him. Therefore anything good in Harry Potter, deliberate or not, must have been influenced by Christianity.
There has been only one great plot engine for all fiction since the coming of Christ, and that is the struggle of good to overcome evil. Before Christ, in the eras of great Hellenistic and Roman literature, this was not true. There was struggle in The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneid, but it was not about the conflict between good and evil; this essential ingredient in all great Western literature (and even many of the lesser writings) is derived from Hebrew and Christian theology, and especially from the Gospels, with their portrayal of the battle between Christ and the forces of darkness.[xxxvi]
Killinger’s conclusion – that any good and evil struggle where good wins is a Christian Story – is hard to accept. Incidentally, this argument reveals a troubling inconsistency in Christian dogma: strictly speaking, in Christian theology there should be no struggle at all between good and evil: Judeo-Christian monotheistic belief makes it very clear that there is only one God, and he is omnipotent. There never was, nor can there be, any real conflict between good and evil in such a scenario. It is not possible for evil to win the battle against God. Although it can be argued that the battle is waged for the soul of each person, based around the issue of “free-will,” it is more likely that instances of light against dark imagery and the epic battles between the forces of good and evil are vestiges of Zoroastrianism, a Persian religion from which Christianity has always tried, with little success, to distance itself. It would seem that in this case Harry Potter and Christianity (against its better judgment), are both borrowing themes from older traditions. However, the theme of light and dark, good versus evil, is so universal that it would be reckless to suggest that a story based on such conflict is guilty of plagiarism.
Embracing the Harry Potter fad as a way to reach children, in 2003 Trudy Ardizzone of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church of Del Mar California created the Vacation Bible School program “Wizards and Wonders”; a kind of Harry Potter role-play with biblical substitutions. According to the online description, God “delights in any path that leads to us him,” so there’s no reason not to use Harry Potter as a fun and engaging activity:
Through drama, crafts and games, participants connect the hero’s story to Bible stories. In an engaging set of experiences, mirroring some of Harry’s, you will explore issues of identity, alliances, team work, spiritual gifts, life’s direction, temptations, moral choices, courage and faith. Two thousand years ago, Jesus taught the public through parable, metaphor, and simile. How could he make simple people grasp such vast and impossible ideas such as God, heaven, and grace? He did so by relating them to objects and experiences the people understood. The glory and majesty of our Lord and his divine plan were in no way tarnished or diminished by comparing them to humble shepherds and sheep, mustard seeds, yeast and lost coins. The task of each generation is to read the Bible through the fresh filter of its own experience. If we believe we are a people led and inspired by the Holy Spirit, we should have no problem finding new metaphors for grace, love, forgiveness, and even the divine in our contemporary world. I believe God infuses his creation with the holy and makes many diverse opportunities available for our connection and revelation. My religious imagination thinks that God delights in any path that leads us to him, even if it is in tales of lonely but courageous orphan boys, silly spells, school friendships and loyalties, magic, and evil wizards.[xxxvii]
In 2010, a congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa used Trudy’s program to run a successful Vacation Bible School with 30+ children, which was picked up by the local Iowa City newspaper and then spread through online news services.
The landscape for Christian-Potter relations significantly changed, however, after the publication of Rowling’s final book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, on July 21st, 2007. Not only did the book sell 11 million copies in the first 24 hours of release (in only three markets) – breaking all previous sales records and becoming the fastest selling book in history – it also shattered the religious opposition to Harry Potter with its inclusion of specifically Christian motifs, themes and plot events. According to Paul V.M. Flesher, director of the religious studies program at the University of Wyoming and the author of an article about Harry Potter for the Journal of Religion and Film,
At the end of the last book, we have a dying and rising Potter – he has to be killed to deliver the world from the evil personified by Voldemort. There’s a Christian pattern to this story. It’s not just good versus evil. Rowling is not being evangelistic – this is not C.S. Lewis – but she knows these stories, and it’s clear she’s fitting pieces together in a way that makes sense and she knows her readers will follow.[xxxviii]
These revelations, and the increasing support from religious leaders, have spurred the proliferation of articles like the one published in Boston Globe of August 16, 2009, called “The Book of Harry: How the Boy Wizard Won Over Religious Critics.”[xxxix] The sudden praise of J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard also allowed some religious leaders to gain an instant platform simply for approving of the boy wizard and encouraging other Christians to do the same. Mary Hess, for example, of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, writes in the journal Word & World:
Rather than decrying as wicked certain elements of the series – as far too many Christians have done – we ought to be inviting our communities into deeper appreciation of both the similarities and the contrasts between the stories and our Christian faith.[xl]
This task has been taken up with remarkable passion by numerous writers, both online and in print. Although books on the spiritual or religious symbolism in Harry Potter are not new, there has been a marked increase in interest and media coverage. A few of the available titles include:
- Harry Potter Power
- The Seeker’s Guide to Harry Potter
- Looking for God in Harry Potter
- The Hidden Key to Harry Potter
- Harry Potter and Torah
- What’s a Christian to Do with Harry Potter?
- A Charmed Life: The Spirituality of Potterworld
- Harry Potter and the Meaning of Life
- Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace Behind the Magic
- Harry Potter’s Bookshelf
- Does Harry Potter Tickle Sleeping Dragons
- How Harry Cast His Spell
- The Wisdom of Harry Potter
- The Mystery of Harry Potter
- The Gospel According To Harry Potter
One of the most recent books exploring the Christian symbolism in Rowling’s work is One Fine Potion: The Literary Magic of Harry Potter by Baylor University professor of English, Greg Garrett.[xli] Answering the question “How would C.S. Lewis respond to the Harry Potter series?” in an online interview, Garret responds,
I have no doubt that the Christian apologist part of Lewis would have celebrated the fact that there is no more powerful contemporary retelling of the gospel narrative than Rowling’s 4100 pages. (…) Now that the series is complete, we know that the shape of the finished Potter narrative is the shape of the Christian story: A prophesied savior willingly lays down his life in order to defeat the power of death, fear, and hopelessness, and usher in a beautiful new world. The qualities of love, community, sacrifice, compassion, and courage that Rowling celebrates in the novels seem to me to be the qualities Christians most need to live an authentic and faithful life, so even though no one in the books preaches, the books preach.[xlii]
What Does Rowling Have to Say?
J.K. Rowling has always been careful responding to questions about her spiritual views, maintaining that she couldn’t comment on the books’ religious content until the conclusion of book seven.[xliii] In a 2000 interview, she stated:
If I talk too freely about whether I believe in God I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.[xliv]
Not surprisingly, along with the final book of the series, which culminates in Harry’s sacrificial death, some readers have made the claim that Rowling’s early refusals to discuss religion, hinting that it would give away the ending of the story, proves that the entire series has been a conscious and deliberate recreation of the gospels. According to the editorial “Is Harry Potter the Son of God?” (2007) posted on mugglenet.com by Abigail BeauSeigneur,
The secret to Harry Potter is tied to Rowling’s Christianity. The master of the red herring has done it. She has tricked the entire world. What appears to be a book about witchcraft is a story about Jesus Christ. (…) The story of Harry Potter is, and always was, a Christian allegory – a fictionalized modern day adaptation of the life of Christ, intended to introduce his character to a new generation.[xlv]
And there is some truth to this view. Rowling could not have failed to be aware of the similarities between Harry and Jesus as she was writing. In fact, after the publication of book seven she’s admitted in several interviews that Harry Potter was, in some sense, modeled on the Christian narrative. In a 2007 interview, when asked by a young reader about Harry’s being referred to in the books as the “chosen one,” Rowling replied
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.[xlvi]
At the same time Rowling, although reported to be a regular churchgoer whose daughter Jessica was baptized into the Church of Scotland, has been careful to say that she didn’t set out to convert anyone to Christianity.
I wasn’t trying to do what CS Lewis (author of the Chronicles of Narnia) did. It is perfectly possible to live a very moral life without a belief in God, and I think it’s perfectly possible to live a life peppered with ill-doing and believe in God.[xlvii]
She reaffirmed this position during her appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show (Oct. 1, 2010), insisting that her books have no religious agenda:
I’m not pushing any belief system here; although there is a lot of Christian imagery in the books. That’s undeniable. But that’s an allusion to a belief system in which I was raised.
Comparisons between Jesus and Harry Potter
Now that we’ve established that similarities between Jesus and Harry do exist and have been recognized by academics, religious leaders and even Rowling herself, we should take a closer look at the parallels themselves before continuing. I’ve listed a few of the main items below; of course there is no end to this kind of exegesis, and acute readers will be able to find many more connections.
Both Jesus and Harry have a miraculous birth story, which includes the survival of an attempt on their lives by an evil power, who tried to kill them because of a prophecy that the child would someday challenge their rule. Jesus goes into hiding in Egypt with his parents when king Herod orders the massacre of all the young male born children in Bethlehem because of prophecy he’d heard from the Magi (Matthew 2:16-18). Harry Potter’s parents, meanwhile, weren’t lucky enough to be warned by an angel, and Lord Voldemort kills them both. However, when he tries to kill Harry, the powerful magical protection put on Harry by his mother’s love makes the killing curse backfire and hit Voldemort. Harry is taken away in secrecy by professors McGonagall and Dumbledore, and left in the house of his only living relative.
Of both Jesus and Harry, very little is known until after they are older. Rowling reveals a few episodes where, before Harry learned how to use magic properly, it accidentally caused accidents when he was angry. Likewise, although not recorded in the canonical gospels, there are apocryphal writings of Jesus as a child using his miraculous powers for less than noble reasons. In The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, for example, Jesus killed a boy for throwing a stone at him, and another for spoiling the pools of water he’d made. The parents of the town came to Joseph and said, “It is impossible for thee to live with us in this city: but if thou wishest to do so, teach thy child to bless, and not to curse: for he is killing our children, and everything that he says is certainly accomplished” (Infancy Gospel of Thomas, 4). While the biblical story of Jesus then jumps to his adult years (or year – his ministry as recorded in the Bible appears to be just one year long), Harry’s main battles are all completed as a teenager.
It may be controversial to suggest that Jesus, like Harry, is a magician; however it is no secret that the figure of Jesus was endowed with miraculous powers, and many of his feats in the Bible may seem to critics little different than party tricks. This claim was raised, for example, by the pagan philosopher Celsus (178 AD) who claimed that Jesus had learned magic in Egypt:
Jesus, on account of his poverty, was hired out to go to Egypt. While there he acquired certain [magical] powers… He returned home highly elated at possessing these powers, and on the strength of them gave himself out to be a god… It was by means of sorcery that He was able to accomplish the wonders which He performed… Let us believe that these cures, or the resurrection, or the feeding of a multitude with a few loaves… These are nothing more than the tricks of jugglers… It is by the names of certain demons, and by the use of incantations, that the Christians appear to be possessed of [miraculous] power.[xlviii]
Even in his own time, the miracles of Jesus were not particularly impressive; similar – and greater – feats of supernatural prowess were regularly associated with other mythological figures. Early converts confessed they had difficulty separating the miracles done by Jesus and the apostles from those done by the heretics and apostates. In the Pseudo-Clementine Literature, for example, Simon Magus (who was said to be, like Jesus, a disciple of John the Baptist) walks through fire, flies through the air, makes statues walk and turns stones into bread. He becomes a serpent, changes himself into gold, opens locked doors, and makes dishes bear themselves and wait on him.[xlix] The author admits “if we did not know that he does these things by magic, we ourselves should also have been deceived.”[l]
What feats did Jesus perform as evidence of his divinity? He changed water into wine (Harry could have learned to do that in “transfiguration” class), walked on water (Harry would have used the spell, “wingardium leviosa”), and multiplied fish and loaves of bread (a similar spell was put on the contents of Bellatrix’s bank vault, which Harry broke into in Book 7). The truth is that there is no miracle performed in the gospels that is in any way more astounding than the many magical feats in Harry Potter’s world. A large part of what has always made the gospel stories exciting to readers, just like the Harry Potter novels, are the elements of magic, fantasy and power.
Battles with Evil
Jesus often battles with demons that have taken possession of a person. He “calls them out” or sends them away. Harry Potter’s enemies are also sometimes disguised as or have taken over the appearance of someone else. Jesus’ power comes from the One who sent him, and his enemies are all manifestations or pawns of Satan, the deceiver. Harry Potter’s challenges are overcome through his faith in Dumbledore, who continuously teaches that Love is the greatest magic, and Potter’s enemies are mostly agents of Voldemort. Also, Jesus, while good, is given power to command demons and evil forces, who must obey him. Likewise, Harry is given the gift of Parseltongue, the rare ability to talk with snakes; thus he alone has control over “evil” or dangerous elements in the books; a power he often uses to the benefit of others.
The Power of Faith and Love
A central theme in Christianity is faith: God has a plan, and people should listen to and heed God’s call, and believe in him even when things don’t seem clear. A similar theme is found in Harry Potter, between Harry and Dumbledore. Throughout the seven novels, it becomes clear that Dumbledore has more information about the truth of things than he is willing to share, and has a definite plan in store for Harry, even though he won’t tell him what it is. Although in the beginning, Harry has enough faith and loyalty in Dumbledore to summon Fawkes, the sorting cap and Gryffindor’s sword, as things get more difficult Harry has to continuously struggle to keep his faith in Dumbledore. After the death of Dobby in Book 7, however, Harry’s faith is finally given unconditionally:
He had made his choice while he dug Dobby’s grave; he had decided to continue along the winding, dangerous path indicated for him by Albus Dumbledore, to accept that he had not been told everything that he wanted to know, but simply to trust. He had no desire to doubt him again, he did not want to hear anything that would deflect him from his purpose. (Deathly Hallows, 454)
Another important Christian theme is Love. The golden rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” is sometimes recognized as Jesus’ single greatest ethical teaching, and the simple claim that “God is Love” is not infrequently given as a definitive statement of Christian belief. Likewise, in the Harry Potter series, we learn that love is the greatest magic; it is more powerful than Voldemort’s dark skills. It is the magic that protects Harry from his enemies and guarantees his eventual victory. Dumbledore, the surrogate God-the-Father figure in the novels, promotes the idea that love is more powerful than all other magic, something that Voldemort never accepts:
“The old argument,” he said softly. “But nothing I have seen in the world has supported your famous pronouncements that love is more powerful than my kind of magic, Dumbledore.” (Halfblood Prince, 444)
Incidentally, a passage from the book of John concerning love can be used in defense of Harry Potter. “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (I John 4:7-12). In the series, Harry Potter knows love and it is this power that enables him to defeat Voldemort. Therefore, it could be argued that Harry Potter is “born of God and knows God.”
Sacrificial Death and Subsequent Resurrection
There is nothing so crucial to Christian theology, nor so sensitive to criticism, as Jesus’ sacrificial death (which is believed to break the chains of sin and save all humanity) and his subsequent resurrection (the evidence that Jesus is God’s son, savior, and that believers can likewise expect life after death.) Jesus’ physical resurrection is the epicenter of Christian faith. It is revealing that before the last book of Harry Potter was even published, several critics were already forecasting that Harry would face some sort of sacrificial death. Based on the similarities between Harry Potter and Jesus Christ, many bloggers guessed that the 7th novel would have Harry die to save the world:
But perhaps Harry will perform the ultimate sacrifice by defeating Voldemort and dying himself so everyone else will have the chance to live on. We really won’t know until the releases of Half-Blood Prince and Book 7, but it’s still fun to make predictions based on the possible foreshadowing and Biblical symbolism.[li]
His death will be a noble one, it is prophesied in the blogs, a death both sacrificial and necessary to save the world from the satanic Lord Voldemort. I agree with this line. I also expect Harry’s death to show that his character’s path is modeled on the Gospel accounts of Jesus, and, more significantly, that the link between him and wizardry-school headmaster Albus Dumbledore is patterned on the most essential relationship in the Christian Bible – that between Jesus the Son and God the Father.[lii]
As it turns out, the way in which Harry faces his death in Book 7 is more similar to the Passion of Christ than anyone could have guessed. Harry Potter fully realizes that Dumbledore intended him to die at Voldemort’s hand. Such is his love and faith in Dumbledore that Harry goes willingly to his death; hoping by his sacrifice to stop Voldemort and effectively save the world:
Finally, the truth. Lying with his face pressed into the dusty carpet of the office where he had once thought he was learning the secrets of victory, Harry understood at last that he was not supposed to survive. His job was to walk calmly into Death’s welcoming arms. Along the way, he was to dispose of Voldemort’s remaining links to life, so that when at last he flung himself across Voldemort’s path, and did not raise a wand to defend himself, the end would be clean, and the job that ought to have been done in Godric’s Hollow would be finished: neither would live, neither could survive. (Deathly Hallows, 554)
The exact nature of Christ’s resurrection is likewise a hotly contested topic – and has been throughout the history of the Church. A central tenet of Christian faith is that the term “resurrection” means the physical, bodily re-animation of a fully deceased human body. As such, the Christian tradition is unique in claiming that Jesus Christ was actually raised, in bodily form, from the dead. Any other accounts of figures dying and re-appearing differ substantially, it is argued, because they were only mythological or symbolic. The same criticism will of course be used against claims that Harry Potter resurrected. And perhaps he did not, strictly speaking. However, Book 7 includes all of the right literary requirements to designate Harry Potter as a dying and resurrecting savior of the type that has been celebrated in various traditions for thousands of years. How we interpret the differences between Jesus’ death and Harry’s cannot mask the underlying similarities.
Harry went willingly to his death, gave no resistance, and was hit by a killing curse. It was the intent of his self-sacrifice that sealed his victory over evil. He found himself in a heaven of sorts (significantly it was “King’s Cross” station) where he was able to talk to his deceased friend and guide, Dumbledore:
“But I should have died – I didn’t defend myself! I meant to let him kill me!”
“And that,” said Dumbledore, “Will, I think, have made all the difference.” (Deathly Hallows 567)
Dumbledore told him, that if he so chose, Harry would ‘go on’ to other things, leaving his body behind.
“I’ve got to go back, haven’t I?”
“That is up to you. ”
“I’ve got a choice? ”
“Oh yes.” Dumbledore smiled at him. “We are in 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.”
“And where would that take me?”
“On,” said Dumbledore simply. (Deathly Hallows 567)
We must assume that if Harry had “boarded a train,” then his physical body would never reanimate and he would be truly dead. He chose, instead, to go back and try and defeat Voldemort once and for all.
Harry was subjected to humiliation by his enemies, as Voldemort (believing Harry to be dead) celebrated his triumph by performing the “Cruciatus Curse” on Harry’s body (582). He was believed dead by all of his followers and friends, who wept for him. His body was carried in a procession by Hagrid, and displayed as a symbol of Voldemort’s triumph. Briefly, it seemed that evil had won the battle, but then Harry rose up, fought the final battle and defeated Voldemort forever. More important than the scientific nuances of the word “resurrection” are the literary themes found here: the hero appeared dead and was mourned. His followers are then later surprised that he is not actually dead, and celebrate his return. Such a literary motif would apply equally to both Harry and Jesus.
For those familiar with mythology and able to look in the gospels for universal symbols, themes and motifs rather than strictly literal accounts of history, the connections between Harry Potter and Jesus Christ can go even deeper.
One common motif in mythology is that of the “half-divine hero.” Stories and folklore from nearly all cultures explain their heroes’ supernatural strength and powers by giving them a unique parentage; usually a mortal mother and an immortal father. The mother is sometimes referred to as a virgin – but this can mean simply that, rather than becoming pregnant through intercourse with a mortal male, the infant is sired through supernatural means. Often these heroes are raised by a human father, who may not even know that his wife secretly bore the child of a god. These figures are sometimes referred to as half gods or Demi-gods. Dionysus, Hercules, Gilgamesh, Perseus and many more heroes are on this list, as well as historical figures like Alexander the Great. Any sufficiently grand personage could be given a higher status through this mythological motif. The divine parentage manifests in special abilities; or, in other versions, figures are given miraculous gifts and special items later by their divine parent.
To take a familiar example, the sorcerer Merlin was son of a mortal woman and a spirit of the air, giving him his magical ability. Jesus was born of a mortal woman and the Holy Spirit (a face of the triune God) and announced by an angel. He was raised by his father Joseph, but knew that he also had a divine father. Incidentally, some critics have argued that Rowling’s boy wizard is indebted mostly to the Merlin myths. Like Jesus and Harry, Merlin was also terrorized by a powerful ruler (named Voltigern) as a baby, due to a prophecy by his astrologers. Although Voltigern and Voldemort sound a little alike, there is no indication that Rowling got her inspiration from the Merlin story – although she may well have.
Rowling’s treatment of the Demi-god motif is innovative. Rather than having a mortal woman for a mother and a divinity or deity for a father, Harry’s mother (Lily) was a “mud-blood,” who came from a mundane, non-magical family, while his father (James) was a warlock, who came from the magical world. Harry, like his enemy Voldemort, is a half-blood: half ordinary and half magical.
Lions and Serpents
Harry Potter is associated with the lion through his placement in Gryffindor, whose symbol is a lion. His enemies are collectively and repeated identified with snakes and serpents: “Draco” Malfoy, placed in “Slytherin,” whose symbol is a snake, and Voldemort with his pet companions Nagini, a giant, venomous, hooded snake that Voldemort makes into a Horcrux, and Salazar Slytherin’s basilisk, which Harry defeats in Book 2.
Jesus is called “The Lion of Judea” and frequently identified as a lion, and Satan’s symbol has always been a serpent – probably because of the snake’s role in the temptation episode of Genesis. If these symbolic representations of good and evil were unique to Harry Potter and the Bible, we would probably conclude that Rowling had done the borrowing; the symbols are just too specific for them to be accidental attributes. However, the lion has been a symbol of divinity, righteousness, courage, and the triumph of good over evil for a very long time – at least a thousand years before the Christian era. Likewise, the snake has long been identified with evil, sin, or philosophically, with time and the cycle of death and rebirth.
A Girl, a Sword, a Snake, and a Flying Hero
A very common motif in mythology, easily recognizable in the second Harry Potter novel and also identifiable, although with more difficulty, in the Bible is the story of a hero with a powerful sword and a magical means of flight that saves a princess or maiden from the captivity of a dragon or sea-monster. Manifestations of this story include, most famously, Perseus on Pegasus the flying horse saving the chained Andromeda from being sacrificed to the sea beast, or the Christian legend of St. George the dragon slayer. It is essentially a battle scene between good and evil, although it has a much deeper esoteric significance.
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Ron’s sister Ginny is possessed by Tom Riddle (Voldemort’s teenage self) and taken deep into the belly of the caverns under Hogwarts. Harry descends into the underworld to save her, and his faith and bravery is rewarded by a magical sword, which he uses to slay a basilisk and “save the girl.” He then uses Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix capable of bearing many times its own weight, to fly himself and Ginny to safety. The same motif can also be found in the Book of Revelation, where the battle takes place in the heavens between a snake, a mother fleeing from the snake’s venom, and a mighty, armed, winged protector (usually identified as the archangel Michael).
However there is a more symbolic reading as well. Jesus Christ, by his death and resurrection, defeated his enemy, Satan (always represented as a serpent, as he was in the Garden of Eden). Jesus came to save the Church, the collective body of believers, represented collectively as a feminine entity: “The Holy Mother Church.” Although he may not have wings, he can both walk on water and ascend bodily into heaven. Jesus also had a sword – but it is well hidden in the symbol of the cross. The cross and the sword are actually identical figures, symbolically: (†). It is only the Christian interpretation of that symbol and the emphasis on the death and resurrection, rather than the struggle over the adversary, which makes the distinction. Jesus is often thought of as a pacifist, but he makes it clear that he came “not to bring peace, but the sword” (Matthew 10:34). It is perhaps Christianity’s unique inversion of classical symbolism from the sword of conflict to the cross of non-violence that is responsible for its peaceful reputation. Ironically, the symbol that has come to represent peace in modern times is an inverted cross with broken arms (☮) – although this symbol was actually designed for the Nuclear Disbarment campaign and has no overt religious meaning.
7 Seals, 7 Horcruxes
In the Book of Revelation, the plot revolves around the destruction of the seven seals that bind a sacred scroll. The seven seals must be broken to open this manuscript, which will undo the work of God’s creation and end the world. Only the Lamb is worthy to open the scroll, because he made the sacrifice that saved many people (Rev. 5-6). Similarly, Harry’s quest in Books 6 and 7 is the destruction of seven magical objects that hold a piece of Voldemort’s soul, called “Horcruxes.” All of the Horcruxes must be found and destroyed before Voldemort can be killed.
The symbolism of the number seven, however, predates Christianity and comes from classical cosmology and ancient philosophical traditions. The system of Pythagoras, for example, was very detailed: there were seven known visible planets, and each planet had a certain vibration or sound – which gave rise to the seven notes in an octave (the eighth note being a repetition of the first on a higher scale). Many Greco-Roman religions and spiritual communities believed that to get from this place (earth) to heaven (the source), you had to travel back through the seven planets or heavens.
The similarities in this case are most likely due to Rowling’s interest in alchemy (which has preserved classical symbolism, cosmology and thought more accurately than the Bible) rather than any Christian-based inspiration. In a 1998 interview, Rowling remarked:
I’ve never wanted to be a witch, but an alchemist, now that’s a different matter. To invent this wizard world, I’ve learned a ridiculous amount about alchemy. Perhaps much of it I’ll never use in the books, but I have to know in detail what magic can and cannot do in order to set the parameters and establish the stories’ logic.[liii]
According to the website Harry Potter for Seekers, which aims to “discover the many layers of spiritual symbolism hidden beneath the excitement, mystery and fascination of Harry Potter,”[liv] Rowling even consciously crafted the titles and order of the seven books along alchemical guidelines.[lv]
We might wonder whether C.S. Lewis had a similar inspiration for the organization of the seven books of his Narnia series, which ended in The Last Battle.
Is Harry Potter a Christ-Figure?
Although Rowling is obviously aware of the parallels between Jesus and Harry, it is difficult to claim that Harry is only a modern retelling of the story of Jesus Christ. Rowling not only borrows from a wide range of mythological and literary motifs, she also creates innovative characters, plot events and magical items. Hence the claim that Harry Potter is a Christ-Figure – although it can be made – is problematic.
A “Christ-Figure” is simply a literary referent used to identify a fictional character that seems to symbolize Jesus Christ in a significant way, such as through the endurance of suffering, a sacrificial death, or a (perceived) rebirth or resurrection. Many literary figures have been called Christ-figures by various researchers, including Ahab of Moby Dick, Gandalf or Frodo Baggins of The Lord of the Rings, Galahad in the Grail Quest, and McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex has even been called a Christ-figure, although his story was written centuries before Christianity. Killinger gives this brief overview on an online discussion about Harry Potter’s relationship with Jesus Christ:
A Christ figure is a literary device, a particular way of shaping an important character in a novel. He (or she) may not conform in every instance to the biblical image of Jesus, but bears enough of the traits or characteristics to suggest the relationship and send us looking for important messages in the text.[lvi]
The following are a few credible criteria for potential Christ-figures:
- Comes from an extraordinary origin
- Possesses a “secret identity” and dual nature
- Displays a distinctive appearance
- Exhibits extraordinary powers
- Generates awe and wonder
- Gathers and leads disciples
- Saves others
- Suffers a sacrificial death
- Descends into “hell”
- Rises from the dead
Harry Potter certainly meets most, if not all, of these factors. His “descent into hell” occurs during Book One. To get into the Chamber of Secrets, Harry first had to pass the three-headed dog that guards the door. In classical mythology, Cerberus, the three headed dog, guards the gates of Hell. Defeating this monster was one of the twelve feats of Heracles. As we mentioned earlier, “rising from the dead” is open to interpretation.
Given the similarities between Jesus Christ and Harry Potter, it is no surprise that Harry Potter was identified as a Christ-figure by some writers even before the final book was released:
Harry Potter . . . is a witting or unwitting Christ figure who actually battles the forces of darkness for the souls of the faithful and wins a place in readers’ hearts because he so admirably conforms to our expectations of such a redemptive figure.[lvii]
Other readers have been strongly opposed to this identification. In November of 2002, Beliefnet.com hosted an online debate on the topic, “Harry Potter, Christ Figure? Professional Harry watchers on whether J.K. Rowling’s hero is meant to resemble Christ.” Although the debate ran when only four books of the series were available, the opinions given are worth revisiting. Professor Thomas L. Martin, from Florida Atlantic University writes,
Leaving aside Harry’s “Christlikeness” for the moment, Harry Potter does conform to what (mythologist Joseph) Campbell would call the pattern of the mythic hero. Potter is marked at birth for something special, prophecies foretell the high destiny he faces, the various mentors and rivals he encounters along the way, and then, of course, the ultimate showdown with evil. These characteristics not only link him to Christ – in Campbell’s system – but also Cinderella, Odysseus, Buddha, and other heroes of other times and places.[lviii]
Professor Andrew Blake of King Alfred’s College, Winchester (UK) agrees: “My first responses to Harry Potter were that he is being written (and remember, he hasn’t yet been fully written) as a redeemer. So far, so Christ-like.”[lix]
Richard Abanes on the other hand, author of Fantasy and Your Family, argues “at best, Rowling’s novels are terribly derivative of age-old myths, legends, and stories. In fact, she habitually borrows from older (and better told, I might add) tales to flesh out her stories. Rowling’s work is really nothing but a long string of mini-derivations dressed up in 21st century garb.”[lx] Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind, contributes to the conversation by expanding this idea:
Of all the irritating literary games people play, Find-the-Jesus is one of the most wearying to me. Not every book has Christ symbolism. Let it go. People use stairs. People suffer. People have fathers. People make noble sacrifices. And, in fantastic stories, people come back from the dead. Odin did it. Osiris did it. Sherlock Holmes did it. Buffy did it. Spock did it. Hell… Voldemort died and came back. It takes more than that to make a Christ figure. You want good Jesus symbolism in a fantasy story? Go to Aslan in the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. There’s a Christ figure for you. Harry is, at best, just following a standard sacrificial hero archetype. It’s a storyline that was old before Jesus was born.[lxi]
Remarkably, both sides of the above argument rely on the same evidence to support their claims. On the one hand, those who don’t see Harry as a Christ figure argue that any apparent similarities are in fact common in mythology and literature, and J.K. Rowling was simply throwing together ancient mythological symbols that have nothing to do with Jesus – because the story was “old before Jesus was born.” Those who do see Harry as a Christ figure, on the other hand, also see Harry as a mythological composite, but in their view, this connects him to Jesus Christ, who is also in some way related to mythological tradition.
In other words, everybody agrees that Harry Potter and Jesus Christ have a lot in common but disagree about how important these similarities are or where they came from. In fact the determining factor has very little to do with Harry Potter, and everything to do with the reader’s understanding of Jesus Christ. Is Jesus absolutely unique in history, divorced from common universal mythological traditions, making all apparent similarities therefore unbinding or irrelevant? Or is he related to those mythologies, either as founder, or product?
Of course today, in light of Rowling’s own admissions on the subject and the parallels in the seventh book that have led even Christians to accept Harry as one of their own, the voices denying the similarities between Jesus and Harry have lessened. And yet the most spine-tingling question has so far been ignored: Why do these similarities exist at all? Although it is easy to accept that Rowling crafted the literary character of Harry Potter after the figure of Jesus, shouldn’t it pique our interest that Jesus – a monumental figure in modern world religion generally believed to have been historical– has so much in common with the obviously fictional fantasy world and character of Harry Potter?
Now that we’ve seen the similarities between them, can we spot the differences? The main distinction, it will be argued, is that Jesus Christ is real: Jesus has traditionally been viewed as a historical figure, while Harry is instantly recognized as fiction. But does this distinction apply to the many seemingly mythical elements in the gospels? Can Jesus’ miracles be separated from Harry’s magic tricks because they really happened – or will we allow that certain features of the gospels were exaggerated or intended to be literary. And if so, where do we stop? What protects Jesus from the claim that he is, like Harry, a fictional character?
Perhaps the real question we need to ask is not whether Harry Potter is a “Christ Figure” (similar to a historical religious savior), but rather whether Jesus Christ is a “Potter Figure” (a composition of redemptive mythological symbols and philosophies). The remainder of this book will aim at exploring this issue.
Conclusions and Summary
Similarities between Jesus Christ, Harry Potter, and countless other figures do exist; but Jesus Christ is the only figure whose followers have faith that his life and acts (including the nature-defying miracles) have a historical basis.
As long as the biblical account of Jesus is assumed to be historically valid, any apparent connection with mythology (including the modern re-writing of mythology that is Harry Potter) can be automatically discounted. However, if we can present evidence that destabilizes the claim that the Bible records historical events, the boundaries between Harry Potter and Jesus become very thin.
Critics argue that Harry Potter is only borrowing from universal mythological symbols, but if this is true, can Jesus be accused of the same? Could the similarities between Harry Potter and Jesus Christ have resulted from Christianity’s inclusion of mythological motifs, rather than Harry Potter’s inclusion of biblical ones?
In recent decades, every attempt to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is a literary figure, or that most of his deeds in the Bible are adaptations of pre-existing traditions, has been so strongly repudiated by conservative scholars that any claim to that effect is automatically discredited. As we will see in the next chapter, however, the charge that the life of Jesus has too much in common with pagan gods and mythological traditions has been leveled against Christianity repeatedly and consistently, all the way back to the very earliest periods of the church.
Just how much of the gospel accounts of Jesus are based on pre-existing mythology? Can we find the historical founder of Christianity by removing the mythology from around him? Is there reliable evidence that Jesus Christ was a historical person? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in the next chapter.
[i] www.jkrowling.com, biography
[iii] Tracy Douglas, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Colonialism,” in Phoenix Rising: Collected Papers on “Harry Potter,” 17–21 May 2007, ed. Sharon K. Goetz(Sedalia, Colorado: Narrate Conferences, 2008), 280–92.
[iv] Gwen A. Tarbox, “J. K. Rowling’s Narrative Turn: Harry Potter and ‘The War on Terror’” (paper, Phoenix Rising, New Orleans, LA, May 17–21, 2007).
[v] Nancee Lee-Allan, “Understanding Prejudice Utilizing the Harry Potter Series,” in Goetz, Phoenix Rising, 350–54.
[vi] Tricia Sindel-Arrington, “Gothic Harry: Connecting to Teens’ Self-Discovery Journeys”(paper, Phoenix Rising, New Orleans, LA, May 17–21, 2007).
[vii]Janet Neilson, “World Influences on Harry Potter from Asiatic Anti-Venoms to Zombies”(paper, Phoenix Rising, New Orleans, LA, May 17–21, 2007).
[viii]Quotedin Jaime Bates,“‘Hogwarts Professor’ to Lecture on Harry Potter and the Christian Faith,” Baylor University, news release, September 18, 2008, accessed January 9, 2011,http://www.baylor.edu/pr/news.php?action=story&story=52844.
[ix]Cynthia Whitney Hallett,Scholarly Studies in Harry Potter: Applying Academic Methods to a Popular Text (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen, 2005).
[x]Cited by M. O. Grenby, review ofScholarly Studies in Harry Potter,by C.H. Hallett, Amazon web page, accessed January 9, 2011, http://www.amazon.com/Scholarly-Studies-Harry-Potter-Literature/dp/0773460101.
[xi] Guy Dammann,“Harry Potter Breaks 400m in Sales,”The Guardian, June 18, 2008,http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/jun/18/harrypotter.news.
[xii] Jonathan Zimmerman, “Harry Potter and His Censors,” Education Week, August 2, 2000, http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2000/08/02/43zimmer.h19.html?qs=august+2+2000+harry+potter.
[xiii] “Harry Potter Books Spark Rise in Satanism Among Children,” The Onion,July 26, 2000, http://www.theonion.com/articles/harry-potter-books-spark-rise-in-satanism-among-ch,2413/.
[xiv] As seen on CNN.com and BBC.com news.
[xv]Domenic Marando, “Harry Potter: The Warnings,” Everyday For Life Canada: A Blog on Canadian Life, Family and Cultural Issues, October 28, 2010, http://everydayforlifecanada.blogspot.com/2010/10/harry-potter-warnings.html.
[xvi] Robert S. McGee and Caryl Matrisciana, Harry Potter: Witchcraft Repackaged; Making Evil Look Innocent (Menifee, CA: Jeremiah Films and Caryl Productions, 2001).
[xvii]“Emergency JESUS YOUTH Memo Regarding Release of Half-Blood Prince—July 2009,”The Landrover Baptist Church,accessed January 9, 2011, http://www.landoverbaptist.org/news1199/potter.html.
[xviii]Domenic Marando,“Harry Potter, the Occult Controversy,”Everyday For Life Canada, October 24, 2010, http://everydayforlifecanada.blogspot.com/2010/10/harry-potter-occult-controversy.html.
[xx] Connie Neal, What’s a Christian to Do with Harry Potter? (Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2001), 88. The emphasis is original.
[xxi] Michael D. O’Brien, preface to Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture (Rzeszow, Poland: Fides et Traditio, 2010); February 10, 2010, http://www.studiobrien.com/writings_on_fantasy/preface-to-harry-potter.html.
[xxii]Alison Lentini, “Harry Potter: Occult Cosmology and the Corrupted Imagination,” quoted inConnie Neal, What’s a Christian to Do, 24.
[xxiii] Alan Jacobs, “Harry Potter’s Magic,” quoted in Connie Neal, What’s a Christian to Do, 22.
[xxiv]Jon Watkins, “Harry Potter, a New Twist to Witchcraft,” Exposing Satanism,accessed April 11, 2009, http://www.exposingsatanism.org/harrypotter.htm.
[xxv] Richard Abanes, quoted in John Killinger, God, The Devil, and Harry Potter: A Christian Minister’s Defense of the Beloved Novels (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2002), 3.
[xxvi] Linda Beam, quoted inConnie Neal, What’s a Christian to Do, 165.
[xxvii] Connie Neal, What’s a Christian to Do, 172-173.
[xxviii]“Editorial: Why We Like Harry Potter,” Christianity Today, January 10, 2000, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/january10/29.37.html.
[xxix] John Killinger, God, The Devil, and Harry Potter, 11.
[xxx] Connie Neal, What’s a Christian to Do, 119.
[xxxi] Quoted in Connie Neal, What’s a Christian to Do,121.
[xxxii]Chuck Colson, “Witches and Wizards: The Harry Potter Phenomenon,” quoted in Connie Neal, What’s a Christian to Do, 16.
[xxxiii]Connie Neal, What’s a Christian to Do, 176.
[xxxiv]John Killinger, God, The Devil, and Harry Potter, 50.
[xxxv]John Killinger, God, The Devil, and Harry Potter, 11.
[xxxvi]John Killinger, God, The Devil, and Harry Potter, 35.
[xxxvii]Trudy Ardizzone, “Wizards and Wonders: Introduction and Sample Session,” accessed December 28, 2010, http://leaderresources.org/downloads/A-All_Samples/Wizards_and_Wonders.pdf.
[xxxviii]Quoted in Michael Paulson,“Harry Potter and the Admiring Faithful,” Opinion, Sunday Commentary, Dallas Morning News, August 28, 2009, http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/points/stories/DN-paulson_30edi.State.Edition1.2385323.html.
[xxxix]The article by Michael Paulson is available for purchase at http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/08/16/how_the_boy_wizard_won_over_religious_critics/?page=full. A version of the article can be viewed at the Dallas News website in the preceding note.
[xl]Mary E. Hess, “Resisting the Human Need for Enemies, or What Would Harry Potter Do?” Word and World: Theology for Christian Ministry 28/1 (2008) 47-56; quoted by Michael Paulson in the Dallas Morning News article noted above.
[xli]Greg Garrett, One Fine Potion: The Literary Magic of Harry Potter (Waco, TX: Baylor University, 2010).
[xlii]Jana Riess, “Harry Potter, Christian Hallows, and C.S. Lewis: A Q&A with Greg Garrett,” Flunking Sainthood, October 6, 2010, http://blog.beliefnet.com/flunkingsainthood/2010/10/harry-potter-christian-hallows-and-cs-lewis-a-qa-with-greg-garrett.html.
[xliii]Ernest Tucker, “No End in Sight for Pottermania,”Chicago Sun-Times, October 22, 1999, http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/1999/1099-chictimes-tucker.html.
[xliv]Max Wyman, “‘You Can Lead a Fool to a Book But You Can’t Make Them Think’: Author Has Frank Words for the Religious Right,”Vancouver Sun (British Columbia), October 26, 2000,http://www.accio-quote.org/articles/2000/1000-vancouversun-wyman.htm.
[xlv]Abigail BeauSeigneur, “Is Harry Potter the Son of God?”July 13, 2007, http://www.mugglenet.com/editorials/editorials/edit-beauseigneura01.shtml.
[xlvi]J.K. Rowling, interview, TodayShow/Dateline NBC,NBC, July 29, 2007, http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/books/postdh.
[xlvii]Auslan Cramb, “Harry Potter is ‘Christ-like’ Claims Theologian,”Telegraph, October 24, 2010,http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/harry-potter/8083870/Harry-Potter-is-Christ-like-claims-theologian.html.
[xlix]TheAnte-Nicene Fathers, Volume VIII, Pseudo-Clementine Literature, The Clementine Homilies, Homily II, Ch. XXXII, http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Ante-Nicene_Fathers/Volume_VIII/Pseudo-Clementine_Literature/The_Clementine_Homilies/Homily_II/Chapter_32.
[li] Amanda, “Biblical Symbolism in the World of Harry Potter,” November 24, 2004, http://www.mugglenet.com/editorials/editorials/edit-amandah01.shtml.
[lii]Jeff Diamant, “The Gospel According to Rowling,” Star, July 14 2007, http://www.thestar.com/Religion/article/235813.
[liii]Quoted in Hans Andréa,“Exploring the Spiritual Foundation of Harry Potter,”Harry Potter for Seekers,accessed November 4, 2009, http://harrypotterforseekers.com/alchemy/alchemy.php
[liv]Hans Andréa, http://harrypotterforseekers.com/index.php.
[lv]Hans Andréa, “Alchemy,” accessed January 11, 2011, http://www.harrypotterforseekers.com/alchemy/alchemy.php.
[lvi] John Killinger in “Harry Potter, Christ Figure?” a discussion, accessed January 11, 2011,http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Books/2002/11/Harry-Potter-Christ-Figure.aspx.
[lvii]John Killinger,God, The Devil, and Harry Potter, 14.
[lviii]Thomas L. Martin in “Harry Potter, Christ Figure?” a discussion, accessed January 11, 2011, http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Books/2002/11/Harry-Potter-Christ-Figure.aspx.
[lix]Andrew Blake in “Harry Potter, Christ Figure?”
[lx]Richard Abanes in “Harry Potter, Christ Figure?”
[lxi]Patrick Rothfuss in “Harry Potter, Christ Figure?”