Final Harry Potter wars? Part I
[From Terry Mattingly's weekly column "On Religion"]
Harry Potter and his best friend Hermione Granger arrived in the magical town of Godric’s Hollow on a snowy Christmas Eve.
Carols drifted out of the village church as they searched its
graveyard for the resting place of Lily and James Potter, who were
murdered by the dark Lord Voldemort. First, they found the headstone
honoring the family of Albus Dumbledore, the late headmaster of the
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The inscription said:
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Then the Potter headstone proclaimed: “The last enemy that shall be
destroyed is death.” Harry was mystified. Was this about defeating the
evil Death Eaters?
“It doesn’t mean defeating death in the way the Death Eaters mean
it, Harry,” said Hermione, gently. “It means … you know … living beyond
death. Living after death.”
For millions of religious believers who embrace Harry Potter, this
pivotal scene in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” — book seven in
J.K. Rowling’s giant fantasy puzzle — offers new evidence that the
author is, in fact, a Church of Scotland communicant whose faith has
helped shape her work.
The first inscription is from St. Matthew’s Gospel and the second —
stating the book’s theme — is a passage in St. Paul’s first letter to
the Corinthians about the meaning of Christ’s resurrection. Is this
part of what Dumbledore had called an all-powerful “deep magic” built
on sacrificial love?
Nevertheless, for millions of Rowling critics the presence of
scripture in this final book will not cancel a decade’s worth of
wizardry, magic and what they believe is vague, New Age spirituality.
And besides, Potter clearly didn’t recognize the unattributed Bible
Religious battles commenced soon after Rowling released “Harry
Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” It didn’t help that “Philosopher’s
Stone” — a term from medieval alchemy — was replaced with “Sorcerer’s
Stone” in U.S. editions. After the sale of 325 million-plus books
worldwide, there are now at least three camps of Potter critics in
these theological debates and three prominent camps of Potter
defenders. The critics include:
* Some who insist these books are secular or subtly anti-religious.
Writing in Time, Lev Grossman has argued that Rowling shares more in
common with atheists like Christopher Hitchens than with J.R.R. Tolkien
or C.S. Lewis, whose books were rooted in Christian faith.