::Spoiler Alert::
Though I’m guessing that most of you who are going to read them
have already!

The first Harry Potter book, The Sorcerer’s Stone, was released in 1997, when my son Taylor was 7 years old. I bought the first book and we read the first five or so chapters aloud before I began to hear the siren calls that the book was demonic, full of witchcraft, and ought to be renounced by christians. I obeyed the cry of James Dobson and others to keep the book safely from my children—–until last Monday. I’m also ashamed to say that I likely criticized J.K. Rowling during the last twelve years without knowing much about her and certainly without reading the series or watcing the movies for myself—all the while, secretly wondering if I was misguided in my uneducated summation of her work. In retrospect, I don’t think that was a very academic or even a very christian thing to do. I’ve had to do a similar sort of eye-opening on many subjects since I’ve become Lutheran, so I’m accustomed to the routine of relearning, of challenging old dogma that once ruled the day in my life.

So, after twelve years in exile, I resurrected the first book and the little girls and I are reading it ravenously. Perfect for the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays. I’m not sure what first kindled my interest in Harry Potter again but I think it has something to do with the fact that I’m taking my 17 year old to see New Moon tonight—-another series of books with themes that some have called ‘questionable’ for christians. You can listen to a distintively christian review of the Twilight Series at Issues Etc, which I highly recommend, but that’ll have to be another post for another day.
Imagine my surprise when I find this series of interviews between Todd Wilken and Dr. Rick Stuckwisch on the Harry Potter books; both of whom are Lutheran pastors I highly respect. And whether or not you’ve read the books or renounced them from your lives, I think you’d find the interviews enlightening. First, J.K. Rowling is not only an extremely well-educated and brilliant writer, but she is a christian. She has openly admitted to the christological themes in the books and not unlike C.S. Lewis, has purposely set out to be subtle with these themes so that the books would have a broader reach and appeal—possibly to engage those who would otherwise be repulsed by a book with overtly christian ideas. Furthermore, she has been harshly criticized for using magic {which she uses as a literary device—akin to the use of technology in the Star Trek series} by the same christians who gladly let their kids read Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and Tolkeins’ Lord of the Rings; both of which are full of ‘miracles’ and magic.
And given her christian heritage, it shouldn’t surprise us that in the 7th and last book {the number of completion in the Bible} Harry dies, giving himself up out of love and mercy for others—-then rises again—-not unlike Aslan in the Narnia series. It also seems that even without the themes of mercy and self-sacrifice, the story is compelling in its’ own right—-a story of an orphan boy who grows up in a world full of good and evil and his journey in learning to navigate his often treacherous circumstances.
As I thought about all the hype surrounding these books, especially ten years ago, I found it sadly ironic that had I chosen to continue with the series at the time, I might have found more theological truth in them than I found on any given Sunday at the church I attended. {I’ve since changed churches}. At the very same time that I was so critical of Harry Potter, I tolerated regular preaching and teaching that more often than not, was much more pop psychology than it was Christ-centered theology. I condemned Harry Potter—who turns out to be somewhat of a Christ-type character while sitting by unaffected, watching the oprafication of my church take place. “7 Steps to a Better You” or “40 Days of Purpose” is not the gospel. If I had been as critical of the handling of God’s Word as I was of Rowlings’ handling of magic, I might have spared myself some years of agony. But then the themes of the scripture that run so clearly through our lives, and often so clearly in good literature, are unchanging. We struggle for truth. We wage war—-often at the wrong enemy. In the end, it is only in dying that we are raised to life. The true enemy is defeated. Not with swords. Or magic. Or by ‘my best life now’.
But by the vicarious atonement of Another.
Redemption is really the only story of mankind. {to paraphrase C.S. Lewis}
And perhaps we should rejoice wherever we find it.
* I saw these owl cupcakes online after doing a google search and just used chocolate cupcakes decorated with oreos for eyes, pecans covered in chocolate icing for ears and candy corn for nose. The Hogwarts students often have owls for ‘pets’.

48 comments on “The Theology of Harry Potter”

  1. I appreciate this thoughtful post. I think it's easier sometimes for us as christians to just choose not to think, not to examine these things and understand the themes-to get intellectually lazy and just get spoon-fed what christian leader tell us without checking them against (1) the bible and (2)our own critical thinking. Since I just had my first kid last year I didn't have to make any decisions regarding the series.

    The funny thing is: I just started reading the series last week, too! I've decided her writing is engaging and draws me in enough to make it my treadmill reading (i have to have something light to read when i exercise or I'll notice how painful it is and quit!). Plus I want to read it before my kid does…but i like how you are reading it with your kids. Her writing reminds me of madeline l'engle's, who i love.

    Thanks for those links, and for the info about her!

  2. This post pretty much summarizes why I avoid organized religion altogether, as do most of the people I know. It seems to be more about power and mind control than loving our fellow creatures and celebrating the good in ourselves.

    The way I figure it, no church can survive without its members giving it money, so it has a vested interest in keeping members to give it money … for that reason I prefer to trust my own connection with God than any church or its leaders.

    I loved the Harry Potter books and believe that reading them out loud with my son (now 9) taught him more about right, wrong, good and evil than taking him to any church could do.

  3. Anytime there is a huge Christian outcry against something (book, movie, etc.) I rent it, buy it or check it out. I adamantly refuse to be swayed by the masses. Plus I think it's hysterical that in the very loud protests they are giving free advertising.

  4. Thank you , thank you , thank you. As a high school English teacher (AP English, 32 years, now retired), I have spent most of my reading life encouraging others to determine where/how a work of literature 'fits' into their lives, experiences, and beliefs.

    Once that conversation started, then the fun really began as we kicked it up a notch by critically thinking beyond the literal and how things seem.

    At that point all students ,young and old, get to say 'Wow this really speaks to me", or "No, this isn't for me".

    What you have described in this post is the view of a REAL teacher, home or otherwise.

    To take this one step further, I have always questioned the 'unquestioning' fear and anger these popular literary series create.

    Isn't that automatic, negative response a contradiction in Christian terms ?

    Thanks Edie-


    White Spray Paint

  5. I'm a Christian. And I love Harry Potter! And I love this post! Very well-written. I'm glad you've decided to give ol' Harry another chance. You won't be sorry!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I just finished reading the last Harry Potter and loved it because of the parallels of Harry's death to that of Christ. I didn't know that Rowling was a Christian, but reading the final book made me wonder, because of those obvious parallels.

    I'm glad you are enjoying them – after I finished the last one I made my husband start from the very beginning and read them. Love this post!

  7. I don't know if she'll check back to read this but to Kalleigh, I think some groups of people in {little c} churches are somewhat corrupt BUT being in a body of believers who live life together and do GIVE of all they have to their community is 100% biblical {if you recognize that as authority}. Check out Acts 2. Having a personal relationship w/ God is obviously vital to being part of the body in that way. While it sounds like you may have gotten burned by a "church" in the past the {big C}Church truly is made up of people who have hearts sold out to Christ and are called to 1. love God with all their heart and 2. love their neighbor, doesn't mean that they are flawless but also doesn't mean they are out to be manipulative. We are sinners saved by grace trying to love people the way that Christ calls us to.

    I hope this doesn't sound snotty in any way. It just broke my heart to read that you had written off any form of community centered around God/Jesus because of the fault of those you had encountered in the past.

    With Love-

  8. Hi Edie! I personally don't read these books because I don't get into them, just not my thing, I like funny books and biograpghies. My brother however has read the Harry Potter and Twilight series. I have watched some of the movies from both series and just didn't get interested in it. Although this post has enlightened about J K Rowling, I always love reading and learning about the authors. As far as judging goes, yes we as Christians do tend to judge quite often, I'm guilty myself. Last Fall my church did a church wide bible study based on the book Simply Christian, I got alot out of that study and learned alot more of the bible. As far as "organized religion" goes as Kalleigh stated, it states in the bible that you should tithe a 10th of your income because it belongs to God. There are churches out there that are all about power and that ruins it for everyone. I don't see Christianity as a organized religion but rather a personal relationship with God. Thanks Edie for this post, hope you have a fanulous weekend!
    ~Molly P

  9. I don't know that I would consider Harry Potter to be a "Christ-like" character. 40 Days of Purpose wasn't meant to be gospel. It was to give people encouragement to seek out God's will for their life. That we are all here for a reason and that reason is all part of God's eternal plan. Me personally I don't think I would compare vampires to Harry Potter.

  10. Those cupcakes are soooo cute! Maybe you can arrange to make them for a pre-movie party when #7 comes out next year and I can arrange to show up…and eat some! ๐Ÿ˜€

    This pop culture/faith intersection is something I have also struggled with. I was raised in a Christian home and count myself so very blessed to walk with God every day (I am a member of a Baptist church, but grew up and still consider myself non-denominational. An aside: I am VERY blessed to be in a church where we are challenged to walk the talk through loving God and loving people. Its refreshing to meet people in the church who care about living their everyday lives like Christ did.)

    My parents were very protective of what we saw and heard and I definitely understand why and support it. I even felt somewhat guilty about reading and loving the Harry Potter series (I got into it my freshman year in college). But as you pointed out we need to make sure we are actively engaging in life listening to God with each step as opposed to blindly accepting what other Christians say.

    And for me one example of that was reading these books. And at the right age I would love to share them with my own future children. Of course, I would want to talk to my kids about the themes etc. to make sure they realize what's of God and what isn't, but that's what parents are supposed to do anyway, right? Serve as guides who ready their children to walk with God and think and navigate the world through him, not through other people. If we and they know to hold everything up to the light of God's word (the Bible) to judge its veracity then neither we nor they will be led astray simply through reading young adult fiction!

    Great thoughtful post.

  11. Even without all the parallels in the points you've pointed out, I found the book to be a fun, engaging read that was no more wicked than the violence we see super heros output every day.

    Christians around me totally disagree of course. However, is it ignorance, or is it choice to view something for what it is? A simple fun fantasy read?

    Halloween can be evil or the simplistic pure joy of collecting candy. We all chose how we view it. Makes you wonder who's 'right' vs. 'wrong.'

    And does it even really matter?


  12. Alright Edie , you and I officially have a lot in common with you. I too like HP and have hidden it. But I never have a check in my spirit so why can't I trust my discernment?
    Man pleasing is a real problem:(

  13. All I know is that as Christians we try our very hardest to make the right decisions and live a life pleasing to GOD!!! You know, as a mother, it is extremely important to shield your babies from the world and help protect their eyes and ears from things that could possibly negatively influence their perception of God and reality… Seems like that is what you were doing and ARE doing… Also, just because someone is a Christian does not mean the things that they, in this instance, write are always on the "up and up"… you know… It's OKAY to "boycot" something for your own reasons ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Love the reference to Madeleine L'Engle, another author who used magic and science fiction and fantasy to point out truths large and small… and who went on to write on theology subjects in her later life. I'm a mom of four whose oldest two (11 and 9) are HP fans. I did read the series before they did. But I feel as though we have to keep it a "secret" from our church friends. I even take heat from my mother about "opening up" dangerous worlds with these books. Thanks for this post.

  15. I so love your post. We are Christians as well and are lovers of Harry Potter and Twilight. I often wondered why some Christian bookstores carried Narnia & Lord of the Rings but frowned upon Harry Potter. Our children through our instruction what is "real" and what is fiction. Although I didn't boycott Harry over the past years. I didn't advertise it to my Christian friends either. Thank your for sharing.

  16. Good for you! Oh, good for you!

    Keep your eyes and your heart open, and you will have your socks knocked off by this series. Yes, J.K.Rowlings writes subtly on these themes, but boy are they there. Prepare to have your heart pierced and your soul revived.

    And, oh, I am so proud of you for standing up to say that pop psychology is not the gospel. Not even pop psychology that comes from Christian sources.

    Amen, sister.

  17. As always, well written and thought provoking:-)

    Whether regarding church beliefs or books to read, we, as Christians, should be personally studying God's Word and seeing how it lines up with what we want to read (in this discussion) or believe. Rather than listen to the world, be it the church community or popular thought, we must be individually accountable for what we choose to bring into our minds and families.

    As a mother I try to be non-reactive in my choices, yet I also feel a very real responsibilty to guard my young daughters minds from anything presenting evil in an attractive light… there is a difference in writing about "magic" and that of glorifying evil- or making it seem like "good evil". Oxymorons seem to run ramoant in teen literature these days! (I haven't read either of these series out of a lack of interest, so I can't speak specifically, but this is how I make decisions for our family in all pop culture issues.)

    Thanks for sharing your views- it is always interesting to see how others perceive these concepts.

  18. Excellent post. As a fringe believer, I've never understood the outcry around Rowling's books. It is fantasy, and it does not glorify the "dark" side in any way. It is important for children to exercise their imaginations, and I equate enjoying fantasy fiction with little girls playing princess or dressing up as fairies. All are wonderful parts of childhood to be treasured.

    While reading HP, I personally did not see him as a Christ-like character. I can see how you get there, but it doesn't smack you in the face so much as Aslan does in Narnia. Interesting perspective for sure.

  19. I haven't yet read the Harry Potter books but I have them all and intend to…I was disappointed to find out the ending on your blog though…you might put a *spoiler* alert before continuing on the discussion… ๐Ÿ™

  20. Greetings fellow Lutheran!! I read all 7 of the Harry Potter books in the last 6 months and LOVED them!! I have seen all of the movies, but admit that I would not let my oldest watch them or read them for several years when she was younger-mainly due to other "Christian" thoughts about it! She finally saw the first one, then she and my husband have since read all of them at bedtime.
    We had a parent at our Church school ask to have these books removed from our library. I really liked what our Pastor responded with- if we remove these because of witchcraft, then we will also have to remove all of the Narnia series, the Wizard of Oz… and others! We kept the books! I love how the Lutheran religon is so grounded. Guess that's why I have been one almost my whole life!
    Great Post!!!

  21. What an excellent post. My daughter love Twilight and has been criticized openly by most christians we know. The coop we participated in last year was just absolutely out of control with its demonizing of this series. I had to hear many times about how I was allowing her to fill her heart and mind with demonic images. It was truly appalled at what some said to me about this. We went to the movies as a family and I did not think that there was anything wrong with it.

    I think I will no longer just take someone else's word for it but check things out for myself. Harry Potter will be next on our reading list.

    Thank you for the links to Issues. I am enjoying listening to their view.


  22. I am a Christian and I don't judge anyone who reads these books! I think it should be based on personal conviction, which is different for everyone! So to say someone is stupid or non-christian for reading them isn't very educated and also the other way around if someone chooses not to read them… so what, isn't this their right since we do live in a free country?!

    Personally for me I don't really care for the books, I also don't really get into these types of books, hence why I haven't even touched a twilight book… no interest!

  23. Anything written by a near-destitute, unemployed single mother definately hails the author in my opinion.Thank you, JK for being an inspiration and for all the good you do through your charitable works. Scotland is grateful!

  24. I have enjoyed reading your blog for a couple months now. I love how you make Christ a part of your every day life, which is why I keep reading. I was curious to hear Pastor Wilkins interview on Twilight. I found it interesting that he said that Stephenie Meyer was not Christian, but Mormon. I am a Mormon and I am a Christian. I believe that Christ is the Son of God. I read my Bible (King James version) along with my Book of Mormon. I try to live a Christlike life and believe that it is by His grace that we are saved. What exactly is a Christian in the Lutheran definition?

  25. love it, edie!
    and the owls… we made similar monkeys for my monkey one year… used a vanilla wafer for the big lip of the monkey, and little reeces cups for the ears… came out cute, but not as cute as those owls!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Thanks for the post. I let my kids read Harry Potter from the beginning and I loved them too. I am a committed Christian and I have never had a problem with them, I saw the religious themes right away. My husband and I never listened to the naysayers,(friends, family, "church" people). I wish they could be as open to change as you are because they are missing some good reads and valuable lessons.

  27. I haven't read the HP books and haven't let my children read them yet either. BUT–We don't get hysterical over it or make a huge deal, condemning others or namecalling. We just tell our children that witchcraft is something we (and according to scripture, God) want them to steer clear of (especially at this point in their spiritual development). The main difference I've seen between the hype around the HP books and the Narnia books, for example, is that when the HP books hit popularity, the market was also flooded with all sorts of books and kits and toys on witchcraft and how to cast spells and hexes and all that. A mature Christian could probably read the HP books from an entertainment or even theological standpoint and have no ill-effect, but what I observed were children with little or no spiritual background devouring the books and anything else related in that section of the bookstore, so they were immersing themselves in books on witchcraft, spells, and the like–and that is dangerous for their souls. Just as marijuana is considered a "gateway" into harder drugs and addiction, I consider HP a gateway into witchcraft and the occult. That's why I can't support it. Do a quick search on http://www.biblegateway.com to see what God says about witchcraft. Friends have argued–but HP does "good" witchcraft–I don't see that God makes any differentiation between good and bad witchcraft. I believe that we risk leading our children into dangerous areas when we condone or encourage books like this.
    And I'll just add that I'm not regurgitating something from Dobson or anyone else–I'm just pouring forth what I've received in my process of discernment.

  28. I appreciate your honesty. I, at this point, feel much like Samantha in the previous comment. I am trying not to introduct my daughter to witch craft at all because our belief in the Bible. But at the same time we have family interested in the books and movies. We don't condemn just try to explain with love. I never realized how much witch craft was in all those old Disney movies. At this point we are being selective. Thanks for the link re: Twilight books. I am interested in reading that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. We all judge everything, every day. We judge from someone's shoes, motive, words, style and everything else. Both Christians and non-Christians judge every day. That's just a human thing. The trick is to do it with love and just let go of what is not important. You never really know what goes on in anyone's mind.

    What I found ironic about your post is that you were critical in a post about not being critical.

  30. Thank you everyone for such insightful and thoughtful comments. I really enjoyed/appreciate/learned from the discussion. I realize that I often react 'enthusiastically' (ie overreact) to certain things in my past. Especially my church past. There were so many things good about it and i am thankful for those. But when you feel as if you've been led out of false teaching, you want to share it. I wish I could do it with more grace sometimes. A few thoughts:

    1. On the one hand, organized religion is deeply flawed because it's made up of poor miserable sinners like me. But that Church is also the beautiful spotless bride of Christ, made beautiful and spotless by His righteousness—not ours. We are all hypocrites in a sense. We all fail to live up to the very thing we claim to hold dear. That's what makes christianity what it is—–a group of believers who trust only in the sinless life of Another and who daily confess their inability to live to keep His law or live up to His standards. We confess openly our 'hypocrisy' and trust only in Christ. And we gather together each week with others that we know are in the same miserable condition and we receive His gifts together–of His Word and Sacrament and along with those the forgiveness of sins.

    2. '40 days of purpose wasn't meant to be the gospel'—-I think that could be precisely the problem. If our program/sermon series/bible study etc. 'works' without the gospel then I wonder if that ceases to be truly christian teaching? Is it just some good advice for moral living? And although there's nothing wrong with that and there can even be some really good advice there, it's not the message of the church. The message of the church is the gospel—'for it is the power of God unto salvation'. I think it can be subtle but I think that this is the crux of the false teaching that pervades our culture. We gets lots of good ideas for living a better life–but we are starved for the gospel.

    3. I appreciate the spirit of this discussion. We can disagree and debate the issues and at the end of he day–be thankful for each other, for our differences, for what each one brings to the table.
    The written word has its' limitations. We can't hear tone of voice and see body language. Sometimes when I re-read posts like this, I feel the need to 'soften' it a little—and yet I'm not a good enough writer to know how to do that and still convey what I think are the essential points I'm trying to make. I pray that you will forgive me when I communicate poorly and know that although I strive to write this blog in a spirit of humility and grace, I often fail miserably. Kyrie Elieson.

  31. The biggest pet peeves i have with my fellow Christians is 1) holing up in a Christian huddle and 2) intellectual dishonesty. If you are going to have a conviction against the Potter magic, I don't see how you can watch Lord of the Rings. Just don't (I love them both). My view: I know who my Redeemer is; I know what I believe, which does evolve to some degree. I am curious about the world, and God gave me a brain to be so. I am not going to huddle up and be christian-politically correct–Jesus didn't hole up. He was out there with sinners…sorry, you have me ranting. Loved your post. JK is a heroine of mine–just look at her life! C

  32. Edie,

    If you are an LCMS Lutheran, you can go to LCMS.org and get answers to questions on other religons. You can get lots of other great information there too!!

  33. I'm going to link to your post for my friend, we were just having this conversation the other day. As Christians since childhood we both have pondered this issue and have been on the fence somewhat.
    I do wonder, though…..how many Christians who pore over books such as the Harry Potter or Twilight series, have never read their Bible cover to cover?

  34. I loved your honest post.

    My older boys, 10-11 have read HP books 1-3. I decided to wait until they were a bit older to let them read more, just because HP will be aging in the books to0, along with them. I think the books are great, not deep lit, but perfectly fine, imaginative books that pull my kids in and prompt their imaginations.

    Also, I thought you might like this post by Philosopher Mom:


  35. We have not let our kids read these yet, and our oldest is 13. The main reason for that decision has been that our children are very visual, and prone to intense nightmares (and daydreams) based on whatever they're reading. It's why we're so careful with ANY literature/movie. After reading the first HP book and seeing the movie, I knew I would be up multiple times on multiple nights with scared children. =^)

    But, I have friends who've let their kids read them all right from the start and have been *from what I can tell* fine. As with most cultural-based decisions, each family should pray and seek wisdom on what is right for THEM. Because we're all different! What is fine for one family (Miley Cirus) may not be for another.

    There are absolute Truths, but how/what we consume can be relative to each family. That's why we should seek the Holy Spirit in everything!

    I appreciate this post a lot. I'm still in my, what was it, smitten faze? =^) Love your blog. You're super adorable. And, my whole life is one of Grace.

  36. Terrific discussion..1. I believe good should triumph over evil. 2. Everyone needs to choose good in their own lives. 3. Love triumphs over hate and power These are the beliefs taught in the HP books which I find completely compatable with my Christian faith. My religion has always been New Testament rather than Old Testament based (i.e. God is Love). A new pastor in the small rural church my mother goes to was railing against the Harry Potter books and insisted that only his interpretation was correct. There was no reading and then thoughtful discussion, just condemnation based on heresay. This is not religion but a cult of personality. My present church and minister encourages what he calls "godly and goodly" discussion. PS The good women of my mothers church forced a vote on the removal of the "pastor" after he said women have no place reading the scripture at the pulpit ..this was only man's place.

  37. Hello Edie,
    It’s been a while!
    I wanted to let you know that I am about to begin book 5 and I have officially gone “public”. I wrote a blog entry on Harry Potter I would love for you to read. I spoke of you briefly but didn’t name you or link you. Hope that’s OK.
    Let me know what you think.
    Hope you are having a great summer. I will be out of town 3 weeks of what is left of the summer, not sure we can work out classes, but if you realy want me to teach some let me know…


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