Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Gospel in Gryffindor Robes

When I read the last chapter of book seven of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows it was with a great deal of melancholy. I will sorely miss Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Luna and the rest.

Critics have attempted to minimize J. K. Rowling’s series as being much ado about nothing or, at least, very little. They point out she merely used the trappings of British boarding schools and symbols common to British culture to create her fantasy world. They decry the lack of Tolkien’s or Lewis’ beautiful prose.

They miss the point.

The Gospel of John is rich in symbolisms and layers. Its depths are endless and its writing, wondrous. As beautiful and rich as the Gospel of John may be, the Gospel of Mark is not diminished by it.

I submit the analogy applies when comparing Tolkien, Lewis and Rowlings. Compared to the Narnia series or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series seems to be just children’s stories, but they are so much more. Tolkien and Lewis wrote in the context of British academia. They lived in a world of intellectuals, in a genteel environment. Rowlings began her series living as a single mom in London on the cusp of and into the 21st century. As Tolkien and Lewis wrote what they knew, so did Rowlings. Her series speaks to her age.

Rowlings was reluctant to speak of her religious beliefs before the series concluded because she feared the plotline would be easily deduced thereby. A professing Christian, she has incorporated biblical symbolism and references throughout her series, most prominently in her hero, the messianic Harry Potter.

Were J. K. Rowlings and I to sit down and discuss theology, we would differ on many things great and small, but this doesn’t negate my appreciation for the biblical thread she has woven into the Potter series. I have theological differences with Lewis and Tolkien as well.

The lessons learned, principles taught and courage exemplified by her characters are marvelous. Books could be written (and several have been) on the biblical symbolisms and stories incorporated into the series: Luna prompting Harry to see with the eyes of faith; Neville abandoning fear and finding courage; Hermione, the empiricist, who comes to embrace things beyond science; Ron, the Peter character, who falters and fails, but always returns to his friend; and Harry, who shows no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.

I am already looking forward to revisiting the story of the Boy Who Lived.

1 comment:

Coral said...

I have an athiest friend who refused to read Harry Potter because of its biblical themes, which always made me laugh when people said the books were pro-witchcraft. Covenant Seminary's Jerram Barrs has an excellent lecture series on Harry Potter and the Triumph of Sacrificial Love. I have heard him speak on it, and it was brilliant.