With all of the current buzz about Harry Potter, as The Cursed Child has just been released and Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them is coming out soon, I figured that there will be no better time (excuse) to ramble about why Harry Potter is so important. Dear Lord, it is important.
A week ago, the children’s library that I work at was doing its yearly Harry Potter showing with our makeshift Ollivander’s where the kids could create their own wands. Needless to say, I was excited about it. Even though I knew I was going to have to focus on my own duties, I also knew that it would be extremely difficult to do so when Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone is playing just a few feet away from me. I was right. I was putting away books on the other side of the room when the music started playing. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you know exactly what music I’m talking about. You’re probably singing it right now. No, you’re definitely singing it right now.
Let me tell you that as pathetic as this may sound, I was genuinely an inch from being brought to tears the instant I heard it. I stopped, a book held in mid-air, and just reveled in the familiar tune. That sound has always been a sign of pure joy and excitement. It’s something that my siblings and I sang obnoxiously throughout our entire childhood, something I play when I want my spirits lifted, something I heard when I got to visit The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter in Orlando, something I tried so hard to learn on my flute in my band nerd days. And as soon as I heard it that day in the library, I was instantly flooded with memories of all of those things as I am every time I hear it.
Harry Potter is about so much more than a few movies or books. It’s about a generation of kids and adults alike who are bound by characters that, even if they weren’t young when they were released, they still grew up with in some way. A lot of us watch the movies at least once a year, and it’s an event for our families and/or friends. A lot of us have read all the books and re-read them multiple times. It’s so beautiful that what started with a book written on napkins in a diner by a woman who could hardly afford to eat, has now become a defining part of an entire generation. If there was ever evidence that words have power, this is it.
Growing up in a Christian household and later deciding that I myself am a Christian, I have heard countless occurrences of parents not allowing their children to watch the series because they consider it to be witchcraft. To that, I say read Looking For God In Harry Potter by John Granger. You will do a complete flip, going from not allowing your children to watch the movies to encouraging that they do, as the author of the book did with his kids. Is it by technicality witchcraft? Sure, they wave wands and say spells. However, it is not the true form of witchcraft that is often times depicted in fantasy movies where they are satanic beings who are inherently evil and corrupt people. This is meant to be fun. Whimsical. Simply, a story. At least at first, but I’ll get to that in a moment. I can even compare it to other “Christian” books/films such as The Chronicle’s Of Narnia and The Lord Of The Rings in which magic is also present. As much as I say that Harry Potter in its entirety is not a children’s series, that is it’s target audience. Children play pretend with fake guns, but does that mean they will grow up to be murderers? Absolutely not. They don’t treat their little plastic guns with the same thought as they would a real one, especially when they grow up. It’s a game to them meaning nothing more than an adventure. Children do the same with wands. They love the idea of magic because, to them, magic isn’t the same as sorcery. Magic is synonymous with Disney World and dreams coming true.
Harry Potter taught me valuable lessons that I hold today that also align with the bible. God is everywhere in Harry Potter, and if more Christians would give it a chance, they would see that. As I previously stated, Looking For God In Harry Potter goes in depth with multiple characters and stories, but I’m going to focus on the obvious: Dumbledore and Voldemort.
Dumbledore is the leader. He is the guider. He is the most powerful and wisest wizard the world had known and ever will know. Voldemort is the deceiver. He is the killer. He is dangerous and powerful and many follow him, but he is not the most powerful. Sounding familiar yet?
There is a point at which, yes, Dumbledore dies. And let me tell you, it is gut wrenching. He is betrayed by one of his closest friends, though he already knows it ahead of time and even tells this friend about it and why it must happen. After his death, it is not just a few people who are hurt by it, the entire wizarding world is in shambles over the tragedy. Only the Death Eaters (also consider that name for a moment: ones who consume death, over life), the ones who follow Voldemort, are not in mourning. The scene in which the Hogwarts staff and students raise their illuminated wands to the sky shows that he was the light, and he will live on. No, he does not raise from the dead, but that is not the last we see of dear Dumbledore. Harry sees Dumbledore later in a dream-like state after becoming unconscious, where Dumbledore comforts him and offers advice, such as, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” Dumbledore remains present, as a guide to Harry when he needed it the most, even after a physical death. In the final book/movie, Dumbledore’s Army faces Voldemort’s army. Dumbledore’s Army suffers many casualties, but they defeat Voldemort and his men in the end. Also, there is a scene in there where Voldemort forces his way into every person’s mind at once. Everyone squirms or screams or cries and cannot make it stop. Some question whether they should just give in to him. Most realize that he is the epitome of evil and they will do everything they can to resist and stop him. Does this not sound like a representation of the way that the real, actual devil is?
The books and movies start out childlike and whimsical. There is no doubt that the target audience is children. Bad things still happen, but everything seems much more black and white: most things are good, but sometimes bad things happen. However, as the story progresses and the characters age, the entire world seems to become darker. They start to see it for what it truly is. This, in my opinion, is a nod to the bible. The bible is not G-rated in any way, but it’s honest. It’s true. Not everything is pretty. The world is not all rainbows and unicorns and wizards happily casting cute spells all day. This is a story of good versus evil in one of the most complicated but true ways I have ever seen. As children, we know that Jesus loves us and yeah, some bad things happened and will happen, but we see the world as beautiful and fun most of the time. As we grow older, we see more hatred and evil and all the things that make the world and it’s inhabitants broken.
Harry Potter is a story in which God “…can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light” (Dumbledore). There is so much light in these stories if we would just open our eyes to it. And that’s the beauty of it. It isn’t explicit. J.K. Rowling doesn’t hand God to us on a silver platter. Instead, she challenges us to find Him. God can be found even in the darkest of places if we know how to look for Him. The world is not split so evenly into “secular” and “Christian.” God is in every inch of this world because He created it. We may have messed it up a bit, but it’s still a gift to us from Him. There is evil present, of course, but good will prevail.
Let’s challenge kids, and ourselves, to seek God everywhere. When I was fourteen, I saw God in Harry Potter. I caught my first glimpse without anyone telling me about it beforehand. It was then that I felt a hunger for more. I wanted to discover every way in which I could find more of Him in this series that I held dearly to my heart. It made it that much better. That much more exciting. The hunger I had eventually spilled over into every other part of my life and now I’m in a place where God is a constant thought in my mind and I am constantly seeing Him everywhere. I look for him in everything I see, everything I do, everyone I meet. I don’t only see Him in church and in the bible. He is everywhere.
Let me know what you think!