Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me, by Andrew Peterson

July 14, 2011

Authors/Bloggers

J.K. Rowling was working hard, telling a great story, lighting up my imagination like few authors ever have, and she was being demonized by the church…

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by Andrew Peterson in The Rabbit Room

It is hard to believe that such an inauspicious book launched the greatest publishing phenomena since the Bible. (400 Million copies and growing).

I’m a fan of the Harry Potter books. There. I said it. Whenever I visit a bookstore I can’t resist a walk through the Young Readers section, where my heart flutters at cover illustrations of dragons and detectives and ghosts and kids dashing across fantastic landscapes. I’ve always loved those stories, and many times I take the books from the shelves and, with chills running up and down my arms, thumb through them. Sometimes I even smell them. (There. I said that, too.)

Years ago, on one of my trips through the kids’ section I noticed a book called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. It looked cool, and the jacket indicated that it had won a few awards. A year or so later I saw the second book, this one on display.

By the time I spotted Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban on the shelves the buzz was loud enough that I decided to buy the first book. I read it, and although it had some great moments, I wasn’t hooked. But at the time I was writing On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and was learning so much so quickly about writing, I already knew North! Or Be Eaten would be a better book. I desperately hoped my readers would stick with me through my first faltering attempt at fiction because I had a much bigger story to tell.

 So I decided to give this “J.K. Rowling” person the benefit of the doubt, as I hoped my readers would do for me. I read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and liked it better than the first book. I began to get glimpses of the scope of this story, sensed a gigantic framework beneath its surface, and bought Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as soon as it released. That was the book that did it.

Rowling was no longer messing around. She convinced me with that book that she could tell a story, that Harry, Ron, and Hermione were characters I cared about, and I realized that she had created a world I adored. I’m as enchanted by Hogwarts as Rivendell. At the end of each book, when Harry found himself stuck again at the Dursleys, I grieved with him, because his time there was like my time waiting for the next story, waiting for Hagrid to show up and sweep me away into a magical world again.

Perhaps the most beloved characters in English literature since the fellowship of the ring

Opening the first page of a new Harry Potter book was like boarding the Hogwarts Express. I’m being totally serious. Well, after reading book three, I was one of the first in line to buy each new one.

Then one day about ten years ago, when I was on tour with a singer/songwriter named Fernando Ortega, I spent a few hours at a Barnes & Noble in Oregon (I think) and a guy in a bowtie was giving an author talk to a smattering of people. I slipped into the back row and listened as he lauded the virtues of the Harry Potter books, and even—gasp!—went so far as to argue that they were distinctly Christian in theme.

The Final HP Movie marks the end of an era (and Harry too?)

I was fascinated, especially in light of the rumblings and grumblings I’d heard about the books from Christians. It helped me to understand why my spirit seemed to tingle when I read the books. That day I met John Granger, bought his book The Hidden Key to Harry Potter, and was even more hooked than I was before. He pointed out so many interesting themes, archetypes, alchemical nuances, and even direct quotes from Rowling herself about the Christian content in the books that I became more frustrated and mystified than ever by the outcry from Christians against the books.

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As weird as it sounds, I felt bad for Rowling. She was working hard, telling a great story, lighting up my imagination like few authors ever have (I’ll let you guess which), and she was being demonized by the church I love–the church of which she was supposedly a part. I kept wishing there was a way I could send her a message…

Continue Reading

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Andrew Peterson, proprietor of the Rabbit Room, and the singer-songwriter behind more than ten albums and is the author of the Christy award-winning Wingfeather Saga.
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7 Responses to “Harry Potter, Jesus, and Me, by Andrew Peterson”

  1. garydstratton Says:

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    Gary David Stratton: It's why we waited until our kids were old enough for abstract thought before they read HP. That way they were cognitively equipped to grasp the analogy to the spiritual world without getting caught up in the literal use of magic. …At least I hope so, no attraction to witchcraft so far, only a passion to do right, love sacrificially, and rely upon the supernatural resources of prayer God has entrusted to us.

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  2. garydstratton Says:

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    Kyle: That was the only point I meant to make…well played/said.

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  3. garydstratton Says:

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    Gary David Stratton That doesn't make the use of 'magic' wrong, so much as it makes it dangerous. It helps us grasp the reality of the unseen "Ideal/Spiritual" world human beings have always intuited to be the foundation of our existence in the physical world, but it does so in a way that could unintentionally point some readers/viewers to explore the dark arts instead of the light of God.

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  4. garydstratton Says:

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    Gary David Stratton: I tend to lean toward Christine's perspective on this one, however I do think that the choice to use "magic" of any kind is a complicated one. CS Lewis and presumably Rowling use it because it s handy cultural devise for pointing to the reality of an unseen world (like 'The Force"" in Star Wars). However, it is hard to avoid the accompanying cultural baggage that magic is the human manipulation of spiritual forces (the kind of thing the Judeo-Christian tradition identifies with demonic forces), as opposed to the humble supplication for God to intervene on our behalf found in the Jewish and Christian scriptures.

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  5. garydstratton Says:

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    Christine: It has always annoyed me when people who don't bat an eye at the magic in say, "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe"or even "Star Wars" get all bent out of shape about a modern day fairy tale like Potter. Personally, I find "Christian" shows like "The 700 Club" to be far more troubling. Witchcraft is one of those things that I don't think is all that appealing to kids as an actual thing to do. They may play at it the way they do as Superheroes or Jedi Masters, but it's not real. I think JK Rowling's tales are wonderful, entertaining and moral stories that are thoroughly consistent with a Christian world view.

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  6. garydstratton Says:

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    Janet: A beautiful post. Thanks for linking.

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  7. garydstratton Says:

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    Kyle: Good article and I agree that the church is inconsistent in what it deems dangerous. The only complaint I have I guess (and take it for what it is, I'm not interested in an argument) is that the books while giving good lessons and a great picture of Christian principles, friendship, etc. teach it under an artistic umbrella that is built from the ground up with something the bible is clear is wrong…and that's witchcraft. Teaching great lessons under the guise of witchcraft as the backbone of the world and the people in it can be confusing for kids I think. But that's me…I think kids old enough to understand that witchcraft is forbidden and can separate the art/story from some of the spiritual elements can come out with something great as they could with CS Lewis stuff or others…good article.

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