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Readers respond

Readers offer insight, share thoughts about latest Harry Potter installment

I too have heard the conversations among nervous parents about the virtue or vice of the HP series. So I decided to read them myself. Having “caught the bug” with the first three movies, I decided to read Goblet of Fire, Order of Phoenix, and Half-Blood Prince and catch-up. My conclusion is that there are more biblical themes intertwined in this parallel fantasy world than one would first think.
Take for instance the story of Harry’s parents’ death. Dumbledore explains how Lily sacrificed herself to save Harry and did so willingly. Lily’s sacrifice protects Harry and he has to spend some time each year with his blood aunt Petunia Dursley. This kind of selfless love saved Harry from Voldemort and the death curse is reversed. So the theme surfaces that sacrificial blood saves and protects. Sacrificial love overcomes death. Hmmm, sounds very familiar. Very familiar indeed.
Hogwarts and its staff and students are attacked by the Ministry in Order of Phoenix because the Minister of Magic Fudge believes that Dumbledore is “out to take over his job.” So the Ministry sends in a legalistic, Pharisaical teacher Delores Umbridge who is used to scourge Harry (detention episodes), spy on the school, and eventually take over from Dumbledore. Compare this to the roles of the Pharisees, Sanhedrin, and Judas vis a vis Jesus and parallels are exposed. They too felt their power eroding due to the popularity of Christ. Furthermore, Fudge tries to entice Harry to “join the Ministry” and abandon Dumbledore, a worthy temptation given the times. Harry is asked this twice, I believe. Each time he reaffirms his loyalty to Dumbledore. Likewise Jesus was tempted by the Devil and thrice refused reaffirming His loyalty to God. While Israel, as son of God, was unfaithful, Christ as SON of God remains faithful. Another powerful analogy.
In fact, Voldemort uses the Ministry to do part of his bidding, unbeknownst to the Ministry. Likewise, the Jewish establishment of leaders, teachers, and elders were used by the Devil to punish and ultimately kill Christ. Only after the confrontation at the Ministry between Voldemort and his Death Eaters against the DA and Aurors, does the Minstry (ie. Minister Fudge) finally realize that truth. Similarly, the Centurion’s confession that Jesus was Christ at the crucifixion vocalizes the same realization.
Use of prophesy predicting Voldemort and Harry will battle each other. Read Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah, et all.
Snape and Malfoy betray Dumbledore and Hogwarts leading to Dumbledore’s death. Christ, too, was betrayed by one close to him, one who, despite his faults, was included in the Twelve.
There could be others but these came to mind quickly. Clearly, the use of the wizard-witch fantasy world upsets some. But I believe the author is using that world primarily as a landscape upon which a greater story is told – one that good triumphs over evil. Perhaps that’s the greatest story ever told!
Gil Vollmering
Mansfield, Texas

It is no surprise that this particular series has made its way into the discussion of our religion. It made a splash when it first arrived and it continues to color our view of what goes on in the world. I am sure that J K Rowling did not have a goal to change the world, but she knows that a good writer must have a theme, it is usually a little deeper than good vs. evil, and I appreciate the depths to which that has been brought out in the discussions on this website.
I was impressed with the article about all of the analogies of HP to the Bible and themes therein, I think that person must feel very guilty reading a book that so openly supports witchcraft, and the occult. We must be very careful for ourselves and our children as we consider the influences that even the most ordinary of things have on us. I too enjoy the series and I see the need for caution as I am sucked into that world of fantasy that supposedly has no effect on my life. We must keep a firm grip on reality and realize that this is just a story for children (although fun to read), it has very little actual value per page for our lives.
As much as we want to see Dumbledore as a Jesus analogy, he died fighting beside Harry, not saving his life. Harry is very much a classic hero, your friend will be very disappointed because Harry will never seem to deserve to win, it will just happen to him. And of course there is always the possibility that Voldemort will win, you know a wrench could always be thrown into the mix. My wife points out that the books are very humanistic, they preach the virtues of hard work (Hermione) and talent (Harry) and loyalty (Ron) will be victorious over every situation. We know that this is not the case. And I just want to make a note about your friends take on prophecy, if it is a true prophecy from God there is no choice, it will happen the way he says it will.
I hope you have enjoyed my opinions, now we should all go and burn our books before someone decides to follow the old law and stone us.
Tom Miller
As a 73-year old grandmother who has never
read a HARRY POTTER book, the comments of you three were about like my reading the Koran. This is not meant as a criticism.
Our 11-year old granddaughter is reading the last book – if she has not already finished it. Your comments will be forwarded to her mother in Minnesota I thought your comments would be along the lines of whether children should be reading these books.
Barbara Hickingbottom
North Little Rock, AR

My kids and I are big, big Harry Potter fans. We discovered them in 2000. I’d heard about the controversy surrounding them, but didn’t have an opinion of my own one way or the other since my kids hadn’t asked to read them. I figured if they ever wanted to read one I’d check one out from the library first.
My kids were close friends with our preacher’s kids, who were homeschooled. One day at their house I saw a Harry Potter book on the table and asked the preacher’s wife what her opinion of them was. She said something like, “Oh I usually don’t leave that book laying out, because a lot of people really have strong opinions against it.” She went on to say that they had been reading the books aloud for a long time, and loved them. When they heard there was a controversy about them, they were surprised to hear that some people thought the books were evil. Our kids came in during this conversation, and their kids started telling mine about how great these books were! After that, we read them and really, really loved them! They’ve been re-read many times by the three of us. When the kids were younger I’d read aloud to them. My daughter and son are now 15 and nearly 17. We have done the “stand in line at midnight” thing for the past two books, and we buy two books to share among the three of us. My husband is not a fiction reader, but he used to enjoy listening to me read them aloud to the kids, and he’s been with us to two of the three movies.
If someone doesn’t want to read the books, or think they are bad or satanic, they have a right to their opinion. I don’t look down on those who don’t like Rowling’s books, or feel smarter or more enlightened than they are. It’s really not a matter worth arguing over, one way or the other. There’s too many other things to do in the world. It’s just as bad to look down on someone for what they are NOT doing, as it is to look down on them for what they ARE doing. I myself don’t find anything in the books that is about real witchcraft or paganism. If I thought there was, we wouldn’t be reading them.
I’m also not into trying to find analogies, like “Dumbledore represents Christ” or anything like that. It’s a good enjoyable story. THe characters are interesting. I laugh when I read it – even when I re-read it! The kids and I enjoy trying to figure out what’s going to happen next.
A couple of years ago we were practicing for BIble Bowl with the youth group. The question was “In Genesis 15:17, What did Abraham see moving among the pieces of meat on the Altar.” My daughter buzzed in and very confidently said, “A smoking firepot and a blazing Goblet of FIre” Obviously, the answer was a smoking firepot and a blazing torch, but she got the Goblet of Fire answer from the 4th Harry Potter book. Even more funny, all the other kids thought she had it right! I said, “No, you’re thinking of Harry Potter.” We all laughed for a good long time over it.
Phil and Beth
I think Dumbledore’s death was a setup with Snape (note the Dumbledore PLEADS with Snape – “Severus, please . . . .” and that the Avada Kadavra curse blows him off the roof.) In the past, victims have simply stopped with a look of surprise on their face, and fallen down. NOT blown off their feet. Simply fell down. Every time. Also, Dumbledore never pleaded with anyone – not even Voldemort.
I don’t think Dumbledore is really dead. Again, because he was blown off his feet, I think it was really a different spell he used. Remember Bellatrix in book 5 said when Harry tried to curse her, that you have to REALLY LIKE KILLING, really WANT that person dead in order for it to work. Harry used the curse on her, and it didn’t hurt her at all. Possibly, Snape was using another, silent incantation (remember, they had been learning to cast spells without speaking the words all year this time). Do you remember if there was a spell that made the person appear to be dead? Seems like there was.
Snape can still go either way, as I see it. Notice that he didn’t kill Harry any of the several times he was given opportunity in that last scene, and not only that, prevented others from killing him. I think he and Dumbledore are working to move Snape back over to Voldemort’s side, to get him REALLY inside (notice that Bellatrix didn’t trust him at all, at the beginning of the book).
And RAB – Regulus Black was actually mentioned a couple of times in this book, seemingly for no real reason. Lupin mentioned Sirius’ brother didn’t last very long after Voldemort found him out. (talking about Karkaroff being found dead, he’d lasted a year after leaving Voldemort).
To those who say Christians shouldn’t read Harry Potter – I ask this: Did you watch “Star Wars”? Are you a “Lord of the Rings” fan? This is the same story. All three stories contain wizards. All contain some sort of power or force. All contain a battle of good versus evil. All contain an orphan boy pitted against an evil lord, and ultimately winning. How to overcome evil against all odds – this is the theme of the three stories. I think many people are upset by the use of the word “witch”. Jo Rowling isn’t a witch, and the incantations she uses aren’t real. Does “Avadakedavra” sound like “Abracadabra” to anyone else? REAL witches don’t like Harry Potter – because it has very little to do with what they are. It is a fairy tale.
Oh, and I forgot another important story – “The Wizard of Oz”. Plenty of witches and wizards in that one too, but we watch it every year, with our children.
For anyone who is opposed to this book, I advise you to read the first book before rendering judgment on it.
Julie Harper
Rochester, MI

I recently heard that you were asking Christian readers their opinions on the Harry Potter books. I have read all of the books 2 times and I am a huge fan. I am also a Christian. I do not believe that any of the “magical” things in the book could be true, and I do not believe that they will ever happen in the future either. I like to read the books for certain reasons. I am a very imagnitive person and it seems that the books are a fun outlet for that creativity, and it also makes me realize how imaginative the whole “sorcery” thing is. When reading, I see that these things are extremly far
fetched. I read the first book when i was a freshman in high school and I have learned much from it. I do sometimes think that it would be nice to be able to use floo powder to travel instead of riding for a car in hours, but I also have learned that I wouldn’t want to change my life even if there was magic. These books have taught me a lot and I enjoy reading them.
Madison Chandler
As a mother of five children, including three teenagers, I have to admit that I enjoy reading the Potter books just as much as my kids do. My four older children have read the books and, yes, we were some of those crazy people waiting in line at midnight to purchase the books.
Like everything else, I believe moderation is the key. If my children were learning the incantations or trying to hex each other I’d be worried, but they understand Harry Potter is a piece of fiction – just a book, nothing else. Christian parents need to make sure their children understand that some books are fun to read, but the Bible isn’t just a book. It is The Book; the living Word of God. They can leave their Harry Potter books in the car, in their locker, or even at the football stadium, but the Bible deserves our respect and, as children of God, we should revere His Word and teach our children to do the same.
I’m glad that the Potter books present the very dramatic line of Good vs Evil. Our children need to see that there is no gray area, life is black and white. We knew from the beginning that Harry is good and Voldemort is evil. Unfortunately, society and the media lead us to believe that everything can be justified. Never once does anyone excuse Voldemort’s actions because: he was born that way, his parents made him that way, or society was so hard on him he ended up that way. Tolerance isn’t a part of this relationship.
My plot thoughts: I believe that Snape had to kill Dumbledore (remember at the cave when Dumbledore said only Snape could help him). I believe he was going to die anyway and Snape did what he had to do. I don’t think he’s bad.
Paula Harrington
Calvert City, KY

I teach 11th and 12th grade English at Jackson Christian School, and I am also a Christian Chronicle subscriber. I saw this plea in last month’s edition and I immediately thought of my students. Avid Harry Potter readers, as well as active Christians, they are keenly interested in all the buzz that surrounds this very popular series. I gave them the copy of the little article and encouraged them to email you their opinions, thoughts, and reactions to how this series has changed their lives for the better. Personally, I have only begun to read the very first book, but in my opinion, this series will be a part of literary history. I think it’s essential that we as Christians comment on the world around us. Thank you for inviting us to be a part of this discussion.
Katharine Snell
Jackson, TN

I would like to recommend that you check out Richard Abanes’ work, Harry Potter and The Bible, published by Horizon Books, copyright 2001, ISBN: 0-88965-201-5.
To explain why I would recommend this book, I cannot word my thoughts better than Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary, who pens the foreword of the book, quoted below:
“Abanes, a well-published experts in cults and the occult, meticulously inspects the Potter books and reveals their close connection to nearly every facet of the occult – alchemy, astrology, spells, mediumship and other pagan practices. He demonstrates that these books desensitize children and others to the forbidden and dangerous world of pagan magic (Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Galatians 5:20; Revelation 22:15). In fact, many self-proclaimed pagan groups sing the praises of Rowling’s books, and some young people have reported their desire to become witches after reading of their spell-casting hero, Harry Potter.
This is serious business. We would do well to remember Jesus’ sobering words: “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:5-6).
Fortunately, Abanes is not content merely to chronicle spiritual error and its perils. He provides a solid biblical perspective on the occult and explains how followers of Jesus Christ should wisely resist this encroachment of darkness into our increasingly paganized culture. Lovers of Christ can walk in the Spirit’s wisdom and strength, even as they tackle the many spiritual counterfeits that assail our culture (1 John 4:4). Nor does Abanes condemn all fantasy literature, as his chapter on the writings of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien make clear. He gives a hard-hitting but well-balanced assessment on all counts.
This is an important book for … [all] … who want to discern the spirit of the times, walk in the light, repel the darkness and take a well-informed stand for God’s truth in our day.”
As editors of a well-respected Christian publication, I plead with you not to just print out my letter and catalog it as a response, but to take a moment to find this work by Richard Abanes and consider its merits and implications.
Lori Roberts
Starkville, MS

I enjoyed the book very much. I read the book almost as fast as I could so that I could make a comment on your website. It’s the first Potter book I’ve actually read for myself (the other books I’ve been able to follow by listening to the unabridged reading, which by the way were great too).
About the Harry Potter series in general and the potential issues that people have with the books, I think that anything that cause people to enjoy themselves in a positive way can’t be all that bad. After all Ecclesiastes says a man can do no better than eat and drink and enjoy his life. Also, my wife is a high school teacher and her thoughts are similar. She thinks that anything to get a kid to read is a good thing.
As far as the 6th story in the series goes, I’m holding out for Snape’s redemption. I’ve even thought that possibly Dumbeldore knew that something like this would happen; that he knew Snape had vowed to protect Draco and so that somehow Snape killing Dumbledore was maybe even part of a plan, or at least something the two of them were not suprised by.
But then again, after finding out that Sirius was thrown through whatever door it was that killed him in the previous installment, I found myself waiting for almost the rest of the story for him to come back out of a portal or fireplace or something like that. Or for the characters to somehow say “just kidding, he’s alive and well, just trapped until we can rescue him.” And so, based on my reaction to Sirius’ death, it is quite possibly true that Snape never was on Dumbledore’s side after all.
I like the idea too of the author including things like Sirius’ death and Snape’s horrible treatment/resentment of Potter. I don’t think it’s unwise at all for the author to let death and loss be a big part of the story. In my own life, I was 15 when I first was exposed to a big loss.
I had a great aunt that died and it tore me apart (even though I wasn’t close to her). But I think that it was the idea of death and someone being that GONE that was so traumatic for me. For Harry loss has been a huge part of his life and yet he fights on and continues to give his heart to his friends and to kill Voldemort.
Thanks for the comments on the website and for a chance to go over the book myself by commenting on it.
Brett Ellingson
I agree that Harry cannot fight the battle alone. Another powerful archetype in hero lore is the “hunting group of companions”, and such as they are, Harry has gathered them in Hermione, Ron, and the DA. No matter when Harry has faced manifestations of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, he has not emerged victorious entirely on his own merit. This theme of reliance on a community of like-minded people is one of the more positive messages of the books, in my estimation. I am of the opinion that we haven’t seen the last of Dumbledore, for why was it that Snape had to be the one to kill him? Throughout all the novels, Dumbledore has professed utter belief and trust in Snape’s character when the rest of us wanted him gone from Hogwarts! That tells me that something is afoot, a greater kind of “magic” (rather CS Lewis-esque?), and that it’s part of the grand scheme to conquor Voldemort’s evil.
There is a fascinating question of Harry being chosen or made … for the prophecy could have applied to Neville. It was Voldemort’s reaction that “chose” Harry rather than some sort of fatedness. All this could serve to bring doubt in Harry’s mind; thus, his group of companions becomes all the more vital. I think Rowling has woven intricate multi-faceted narrative that surfaces fascinating questions.
Thanks for the discussion!
Jennifer Hamilton, PhD
Academic Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
Rochester College

I am a 61-year old grandmother who has always loved to read and find new and interesting authors and stories. I was the first one in my family to discover Harry Potter just as he was getting introduced in the United States. I have read all the books. Some of my grandchildren have read them dozens of times.
I believe that as long as we make sure that we, our children, and grandchildren understand this is just a story, we can emphasize the positive attributes of the characters and the story. I also love “Star Wars” and “The Lord of the Rings.” Although as a small child, I was frightened by the witch in “The Wizard of Oz.” I do love the story today.
I am reminded of the craze from several years ago about kids playing “Wizards and Warriors” and also comic books have always been leading us to the path of destruction.
Some of these stories, movies, etc, can help parents/grandparents get spiritual conversations going with their children/grandchildren. A great jumping board for lots of great teaching using these stories that the children love so much – a way of helping children understand about how evil works in the world and what we must do to fight it.
As for Snape, I have a soft spot for him (he was tormented by Harry’s father – a reason for him to hate Harry). But I want him to be redeemed somehow. We have seen too many books and movies where main characters die only to come back to life.
And, has anyone out there read Eragon and Eldest by Christopher Paolini? What do you think of this story of dragons, elves, etc.?
Howe, Texas

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