Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry Potter, Evangelizer?

Well, maybe not quite "evangelizer," but definitely "Catechist's assistant." That's my judgment after completing "Deathly Hallows."
I was first alerted to the catechetical potential of this volume (and by extension, the whole series) when I read something (which I can't find just now, but it was in the final paragraphs of a page on the left hand side somewhere in the first 250 pages of the book) that could easily be used to illustrate the concept of "perfect" and "imperfect" contrition. Then there is a burial scene (no spoilers, don't worry!) involving a cross--not exactly a Christian confession of faith, since for many a cross has lost its true meaning and only stands for death, but still it's something. Then there is a Christmas Eve setting, in which people are in a church--as far as I remember, Christmases past in Harry Potter were only of the "jolly olde England" sort, with plum puddings and the like. At another burial (there's a lot of death in "Deathly Hallows"), the graveside words include the hope that the deceased is "happy now." There's even a little teasing over the blindness of fundamentalism contrasted with the clearsightedness of faithfulness. And if that were not enough, there is actual Scripture in the book, with one of the phrases being a rather central message. Most kids won't know it, but "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be" is from the Bible. And so is "the last enemy to be destroyed is death."
That's really not why I would say that Harry could be a Catechist's Helper, though.
There are also the examples of the Cardinal and moral virtues, and of the capital sins, especially pride, covetousness and anger.
But that's not all!
The central theme of the book turns out to be entirely consistent with the Gospel: "The one who seeks to save his life will lose it, and the one who loses his life will find it"; "no one has greater love than he who gives his life for his friends." (And no, that is not a spoiler; it's a tantalizer.)
To put it in terms of the Theology of the Body, "Deathly Hallows" is something of an illustration of the central theme of John Paul the Great, when he cites Vatican II: "Man can only find himself through a sincere gift of self."

So all those people out there who were afraid that Harry meant nothing but big demonic trouble, perhaps your fears helped the author to be even more boldly Christian than she knew. It's safe to come out, now. Harry Potter is on our side.


Cody said...

Sr. Anne,

My respect for you has increased greatly after reading your two blog posts on Harry Potter. I have been reading the Harry Potter books since they came out all those years ago. As I've gotten older, my ability to read faster has increased. I finished the 7th book on the Saturday it came out. The whole time I was reading, I was thinking: "Gee...that is a good message." or "Hmmm...isn't that Scripture?".

While I can see, some what, the opponents of Harry Potter using the 'witchcraft' bit against the book. However...I am 100% in support of the book. Whether Ms. Rowling intended it to be, her series has some very wonderful parallels between Harry Potter and Jesus Christ. While saying that they are exactly the same would be a bit risky in terms of theology, there are still good parallels. Perhaps not as a obvious, the Harry Potter series is a new Chronicles of Narnia.

Magic is something that appeals to everybody. If the message of Christ can be told through a boy named Harry Potter who lives with Wizards, then I say go for it. It works the same as a lion being slain upon a table in sacrifice for all. They parallels are there.

Goodness! I am soooo happy that you posted your blogs. I very much dislike discussing Harry Potter with fundamentalists and staunch Catholic who feel that Harry Potter is bad. I was discussing this just the other day with a person. My main point:

Nearly Headless Nick says, in the books, that only Witches and Wizards can become ghosts. We clearly see the Fat Friar, the Hufflepuff ghost, is...a ghost. That would mean he would have to have been a Wizard in life...and a Friar. We also see, at t he Death Day Party, a gang of gloomy nuns. This would state that they, too, were magical beings when they were alive. I don't know why nuns would be gloomy. They obviously weren't Daughters of St. Paul!

Anonymous said...

Sr. Anne,
I definetly agree with you that Harry Potter is a great series. I just finished the seventh book and have also seen those connections to Christianity. Although I didn't even catch that those phrases were from Scripture!
One passage really stuck out to me, even as a Pro-Life message. On page 440 (in my copy) Kingsley reports that wizards should not have any advantage over muggles since, "We're all humans, aren't we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving."
Also, I saw a big parallel between Voldemort and his Death Eaters (who Harry is fighting against) and Hitler and the Nazis. That is, that they wanted to create a hierarchy of 'pure-blood' rule, and that they emphasized the importance of starting training (or brain-washing in this case) at youth. I think that concept also reminds us of the importance of teaching the truth starting at a young age.
Thanks for posting this; I believe that this series is a great impetus for lots of people who wouldn't otherwise read, to get reading!
God bless,
Elizabeth Anders

Sister Anne said...

There was a very strong connection to the Nazi ideology, not just regarding racial purity, but also concerning the handicapped. Remember the discussion about Ariana being a "Squib"? It was the wizarding equivalent of a person with Down Syndrome and the way they used to be hidden away by families (and killed by the Nazis). Also, Grindelwald's prison camp was called "Nurmengard," which is very similar to Nuremburg, where the World War II war crimes trials were held. The inscription "Magic Is Might" that a certain place...resembles the German words "Work Makes Free" that were written over the gate to the Nazi prison camp at Auschwitz... Rowling was not being vague at all!

Sister Anne said...

Another (unrelated) thing I especially liked about the series was that most of the spells had Latin roots! Anyone who knows a bit of Latin got more out of the books that way. A teacher could go for days teasing out the Latin usages in the seven volumes. Greek, too: Xenophilus Lovegood's first name means "friend of strangers" in Greek.

Anonymous said...

I think that most people who believe in god who hates harry potter are like bullies, they chose a book with magic, and they devote themselves to hate it. There are billions of books out there with magic, but are they tantalized? I don't think so. Somebody should also defend Dungeons and Dragons, but that's something else...