There are many things that might be said about the Harry Potter phenomenon. I’d like to draw attention to one of the more ridiculous–the collective refusal of reviewers to actually review the book. To review a book you must talk about it; you must discuss its major plot points and twists. Ah, but in the special case of Harry Potter, such things are dubbed “spoilers,” and the conventional wisdom, as typified by one blogger, is that to mention these unmentionables is “bad form.”
Can one discuss The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe without mentioning Aslan’s sacrifice? Can one discuss The Lord of the Rings without mentioning Frodo’s desire at the end to keep the ring, and the role of Gollum in bringing about its destruction? Can one discuss Moby Dick without mentioning that the whale gets Ahab in the end?
So any discussion of the Harry Potter books, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in particular, must discuss the critical point that Harry does indeed turn out to be a “horcrux” (unknown to Voldemort), and that he must offer himself willingly in sacrifice, and be killed, before he can come back from the dead and defeat Voldemort. It’s the patristic Christus victor theme redivivus.
In light of this–and only in light of this–can we have a serious discussion of whether J. K. Rowling is endorsing witchcraft and paganism (as some Christian critics claim) or whether she writes as someone with a Christian worldview, indebted to other Christian fantasists such as C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.
A Time magazine article, though, suggests that she leaves out an important character, who is included in the works of Lewis and Tolkien: God.
What does Harry have instead of God? Rowling’s answer, at once glib and profound, is that Harry’s power comes from love. This charming notion represents a cultural sea change. In the new millennium, magic comes not from God or nature or anything grander or more mystical than a mere human emotion. In choosing Rowling as the reigning dreamer of our era, we have chosen a writer who dreams of a secular, bureaucratized, all-too-human sorcery, in which psychology and technology have superseded the sacred.
But is love just a human emotion for Rowling, or does she have the Bible in mind (“God is love”)? Is it by accident that Harry and Hermione go to Godric’s Hollow (Harry’s birthplace) and enter a churchyard on Christmas Eve, and that the graves have Biblical quotes (“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” and “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”)? And what of her use throughout the series of the phoenix–a bird that, in legend, dies and rises, and so was a symbol of Christ since the Patristic period? (More on that here).
The gauntlet is thus thrown down. The comments box is open.