Harry Potter and Contemporary Christians
Much has been written, and with plenty of passion, about the Harry Potter series, and the appearance of the seventh and final volume will certainly generate a new series of critical reviews. While I don't propose to compete with persons much better prepared than I to examine the prose, I would like to share some thoughts related to our lives, some reflections based on my reading of these books.
Of course I have read the entire series, and have read many commentaries on the books. There are all kinds of opinions and perspectives. Secular commentators will be pleased to find, in this final volume, some of their favorite themes, such as racial discrimination (between ordinary people and witches, or between people and elves), women's liberation, animal rights (?!), and so on.
Those critics who come from a Christian perspective will again object to the way the author introduces her young readers to a strange world, without God, dominated instead by black magic and violence. These accusations are not without merit. From the very first chapter we witness a horrible assassination, a precursor to the horrors which will follow; Christmas is not mentioned except as an occasion to decorate houses in red and green and to eat more than necessary; the characters have no transcendental dimension, everything is reduced to the visible world (plus or minus the various kinds of ghouls). Even if just on the basis of the number of victims, this is not a book for children.
But there is another aspect which I would like to examine, which in my opinion gives meaning to this book and explains its success: however ugly may be the world in which Harry Potter lives, it is not that different from ours. If we forget for a moment the props (magic wands, brooms, and cauldrons), we can all find ourselves in this world. In our world, too, Christmas is suffocated by parties (deh, "the holiday season") and consumer campaigns with the message "buy, buy, buy". In our world, too, we unfortunately live among assassinations (which the press rushes to bring to our attention), betrayals, and lies. We too are prone to run into the likes of a Peter Pettigrew, small both in stature and soul, as his name discloses, who nervously rubs his hands and forces a laugh, all the while his heart scheming of betrayal-another incarnation of Judas! We too hear the poisonous voice of a Rita Skeeter, the reporter who chooses to see a contorted reality and whose delight is to defame Harry's good name. And we too collide with an icy Lord of Darkness, whose cadaverous soul is continually plotting in the background, feeding off the fear he inspires even in those closest to him….
Who among us has never asked himself at least once if it is better to choose suffering in freedom and truth, or to live peacefully in slavery? Our parents lived the bondage of communism, and each of them answered this question as well as he or she could. We ourselves have made a choice to come to the "land of freedom", and perhaps a bit naively thought that this was all we had to do in order to live free. But we begin to see that freedom isn't gained through a certificate or a passport. To have freedom, you must sacrifice something of yourself.
Harry Potter takes on this sacrifice-without hate, without any desire to destroy anyone, only with the determination to protect the weak and oppressed. It is admirable the way Harry chooses to carry on this fight against evil without allowing himself to be infected by its methods. In fact, he sometimes becomes frustrating for his friends and predictable for his enemies in that he refuses to the end to cast deathly spells, and instead makes a pile of mistakes which permit his torturers to torment him even more cruelly.
Face to face with an absurd destiny, Harry goes forward heroically, innocently, head held high, as a sacrificial lamb, and paradoxically, to victory. A more Christian witness than this can not be found. Every one of us can be a Harry Potter.