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God, The Devil, and Harry Potter: A Christian Minister's Defense of the Beloved Novels
     

God, The Devil, and Harry Potter: A Christian Minister's Defense of the Beloved Novels

4.5 11
by John Killinger
 

“The Potter stories, far from being ‘wicked’ or ‘Satanic,’ ... are in fact narratives of robust faith and morality ...

“What Ms. Rowling has furnished us, besides what the Brits call ‘a good read,’ and a whopping good one, ... is a modern interpretation of the gospel, the wonderful news that ‘God was

Overview

“The Potter stories, far from being ‘wicked’ or ‘Satanic,’ ... are in fact narratives of robust faith and morality ...

“What Ms. Rowling has furnished us, besides what the Brits call ‘a good read,’ and a whopping good one, ... is a modern interpretation of the gospel, the wonderful news that ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself’ and making sure that the goodness of creation would never be obliterated by the forces of darkness and evil.”

Since their first publication, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels have brought joy to children and adults alike. Many conservative Christians in the United States, however, have decried the books as wicked, as preaching witchcraft and the occult, and as glamorizing dishonesty. A minister in New Mexico held a “holy bonfire” on the Sunday after Christmas 2001, at which he publicly torched the Potter books, declaring them “an abomination to God and to me.”

John Killinger, a Congregationalist minister and an academic in the field of contemporary literature, beautifully demolishes the objections of right-wing Christians to this bestselling children’s series. He compellingly argues that, far from corrupting children’s morals, the Potter stories actually influence young readers to follow the teachings of Jesus. He cites passage after passage to illustrate how the world of Harry Potter would be inconceivable apart from the strictures of Judeo-Christian theology and the way human existence should be approached by every follower of Jesus. Additionally, he reflects on the possibility that Harry Potter, like Dostoevsky’s Prince Myshkin and others, is a witting or unwitting Christ figure who actually battles the forces of darkness for the souls of the faithful.

All through this extraordinarily well-written, compelling, and very entertaining little book, the author points out that stories like this are worth more than any sermon toward producing people who truly follow the lessons of Jesus.

Editorial Reviews

Many Christian fundamentalists have accused Harry Potter and his creator, J. K. Rowling, of promoting witchcraft and the Devil. John Killinger, a Congregationalist minister, heartily refutes that argument, claiming that there are many parallels between Harry and Jesus.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312308698
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
10/23/2002
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.54(w) x 9.92(h) x 0.85(d)

Read an Excerpt

Mysterious Births and Miraculous Childhoods, Chapter 1

It was logical for the producers to select Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as the first of J. K. Rowling's books to make into a movie, for it is the first of the novels and the one in which we are introduced to Harry as a baby, a foundling, actually, around whose delivery to his foster home occur several portentous and supernatural happenings. There is a downpour of shooting stars. Owls begin flying everywhere in the daytime, so that even the weather forecasters are talking about it. Inhabitants of the wizard world are standing around in little gatherings on street corners and outside pubs, so that the Muggles--the ordinary citizens--spotting them in their brilliantly colored cloaks wonder if it isn't "some stupid new fashion" or "some silly stunt." And one of the Hogwarts professors, Minerva McGonagall, parades around outside the Dursley home as a cat, who from time to time is seen studying a map to be sure she is at the right place.

Harry's parents have just been killed by Lord Voldemort, the dark wizard, whose name sounds a little like that of Vortigern, the evil king in the Arthurian legends who planned to kill Merlin, and may mean "the Flight of Death" (from the French voler, "to fly") or "the Will of Death" (from the Latin volo, "to will or be willing"). But Harry has miraculously survived. In fact, the Avada Kedavra, or Killing Curse, Voldemort pronounced on him actually backfired on the Dark Lord himself, nearly annihilating him, so that the good wizards of the world rejoice in the hope that he is gone for good.

Anyone familiar with the narratives surrounding the birth of Christ must surely feel a tingling of the skin at this point, recalling not only the acts of sympathetic magic in the universe when he was born but the wicked attempt to exterminate him and the godly presence he represented. While the angels heralded his arrival (like the mysterious appearance, in Harry's case, of the owls), the wicked King Herod sought the location of his birthplace, and, failing to secure it from the magi who discovered it by following a star, dispatched his soldiers to slay every Jewish male under two years of age. It was to escape this infanticide that the angel supposedly warned Jesus' father in a dream to "take the child and flee into Egypt."

The theme is, of course, not confined to early Christian legend. Moses, the leader of the ancient Hebrews, was also hidden at birth to save him from the wrath of an enemy. And as for Harry's power to resist Voldemort even at the age of one, there is a story about the Greek god Apollo in which he slays the giant Tityus for attacking Leto immediately after he is born, and another in which he kills a large serpent with bow and arrows while still in his mother's arms. Harry is said to bear a peculiar reminder of his encounter with Voldemort--a jagged scar on his forehead similar to a bolt of lightning. At various times in Harry's life it will glow with an unearthly radiance and cause him excruciating pain when Voldemort is near or is contemplating some terribly evil deed. This is a nice touch, possibly more reminiscent of Batman films than anything in ancient mythology--Batman and Robin often had devices that warned them of the approach of crooks. It serves to identify Harry both as an extremely special person and as a survivor of his initial meeting with the powerful Dark Lord.

The mark of course becomes integral to Harry's character, the way Robert Graves in The Greek Myths says Odysseus' being gored by a boar when he was a young man led to his essential character. The Roman name for Odysseus, Ulysses, means "wounded thigh." And Marie-Louise von Franz begins her important work Individuation in Fairy Tales with the ancient Spanish narrative of "The White Parrot," which was originally Indian, then Persian, and tells about twin children, a boy and a girl, each born with a star on his or her forehead.

It is interesting that Rowling made Harry Potter's mark a lightning bolt. When the Torah describes the initial encounter between Moses and the divine, Moses asks God for his name so that he may cite it to the Egyptian pharaoh. God says it is Yahweh, which in most biblical versions is translated "I am who I am." Yahweh is actually represented in the Hebrew text by the tetragram YHWH, as traditional Hebrew uses no vowels. Among ancient Jews, it was an extraordinarily holy name, one never to be employed lightly. According to legend, it was spoken only once a year, on the high holy day of Yom Kippur, the Feast of the Atonement, and then only by the ritually purified high priest when he entered the Holy of Holies. And the thing that makes Rowling's choice of the lightning bolt for Harry's special mark from the encounter with Voldemort is that some Hebrew scholars believe the name YHWH originally meant a flash of lightning!

Family Connections

As in the case of Jesus, Harry's strongest connection to the supernatural comes from his mother's side. At least, it is her strong maternal love that saves him from Voldemort's power. His father is of course a blood wizard as well. But Harry's being taken by Dumbledore, McGonagall, and Hagrid to grow up in the Muggle household of the Dursleys is a potent reminder of his humanity as well, his relationship with ordinary mortals, or, in Christian terms, his incarnation in human flesh.

The Dursleys are caricaturish human beings. I suspect, in fact, that J. K. Rowling found the inspiration for Petunia Dursley, the sister of Harry's deceased mother, in the popular British TV comedy figure Hyacinth Bucket, the pretentious middle-class social climber who always insists that her name is actually pronounced boo-KAY and reminds people that her sister Violet lives in a mansion "with a Mercedes, a sauna, and room for a pony." Like Hyacinth, who tries desperately to conceal her relationship to her less affluent sisters Daisy and Rose, and especially to Daisy's neanderthalian husband, Onslow, Petunia (whose name is also "flowerful") doesn't want anybody to know about her controversial sister Lily (again, the name of a flower) and her husband, James, or that the skinny little boy with the unruly dark hair, so unlike her precious, chubby, blond-haired son, Dudley, is in any way related to her and her family. The Dursleys, we are told, "had everything they wanted"; but they also had a secret they didn't want anybody to know, and that secret was Petunia's relation to a witch. The Dursleys and Potters hadn't seen each other in several years, and Petunia Dursley simply pretended to everyone that she didn't have a sister. Like Hyacinth Bucket, who shudders whenever she sees her sister Daisy and her family arriving in their backfiring old car, the Dursleys "shuddered to think what the neighbors would say if the Potters arrived in the street."1 The Dursleys knew that the Potters had a young son, though they hadn't seen him, and this was another reason they wished to keep the Potters away: "they didn't want Dudley mixing with a child like that."2

When Harry shows up on the Dursleys' front stoop, they have to take him in because he is family. But he is treated like Cinderella, and given a closet under the stairway for his room. While his cousin Dudley gets birthday parties and incredible arrays of presents--at one birthday he counts only thirty-six presents and complains that he received thirty-eight the year before--Harry is barely tolerated in the Dursley household and is treated with undisguised contempt by both Dudley and his parents.

In spite of pious attitudes toward Jesus and the holy family, it should be recalled that he and his earthly family were not always on the best of terms. The one instance in which the Gospels speak of him as a youth occurs when he was taken to the temple at the age of twelve, probably for his bar mitzvah. It contains a chiding from his mother for an inconvenience he occasioned his parents. The parents had gone a day's journey away from Jerusalem when they discovered that their son was not in the caravan. Returning to Jerusalem and searching for three days, they eventually found him in the temple talking to the rabbis. His mother said, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety."3

Later, all three synoptic Gospels record an occasion when Jesus' mother and brothers came to a place where he was teaching, desiring to see him, and were left standing outside. Jesus reportedly said, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Then, pointing to his disciples, he answered his own question: "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."4 It was a curious response, perhaps signaling a greater distance between him and his family than we usually imagine. Some scholars point to a preceding verse in the Markan passage as a possible explanation. There is a suggestion there that people were saying Jesus had "an unclean spirit"--that he was possessed by a demon and was ill or mad. Having heard this, his mother and siblings might have come to fetch him home, and he possibly knew their motive in coming.

(Popular thought about Jesus and his mother is undoubtedly strengthened by the report in the Fourth Gospel that when Jesus was being crucified he consigned her to the care of John, the youngest apostle, saying that John was to consider her as his mother and she was to think of John as her son,5 and also by many well-known artistic images of the pieta, or the grieving mother tenderly cradling her crucified son. But the Fourth Gospel is hardly the most reliable for historic detail, as much of it was contrived for rhetorical or theological reasons, and the pietas are obviously the products of later artistic imaginations.)

In addition to Harry's living with the Dursleys, there is, in the course of the Potter novels, another important reminder of his "earthly" connections. It has to do with the Sorting Hat's almost putting him into Slytherin House when he enters Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The hat hesitates, then places him in Gryffindor House only because Harry has begged not to be put in Slytherin. Slytherin was founded by Salazar Slytherin (Rowling may have called him Salazar because Antonio de Oliveira Salazar was the name of the unpopular dictator of Portugal from 1932 to 1968, and she lived for a while in Portugal as a teacher), a dark wizard who spoke Parseltongue, or serpent language. It was also the house to which Voldemort belonged when he was a student at Hogwarts named Tom Riddle. Later, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry reflects on his having almost landed in Slytherin, and on the fact that he too speaks Parseltongue, like Voldemort. He even comes to the realization that his encounter with Voldemort when he was a baby left "a bit" of the Dark Lord in him. Dumbledore tells him, though, that he is "very different" from Voldemort because of the choices he has made about his life. It is our choosing that determines who we become.

When the young Jesus of Nazareth was baptized at the River Jordan by John the Baptist, it will be recalled, he was driven by the Spirit of God into the wilderness, where he spoke with the devil and endured three temptations to fall down and worship the evil one. Each time, he chose not to do so. Similarly, Harry converses with Voldemort in serpent language and rejects the Dark Lord's rule over his life. Jesus' choices determined his destiny as a redemptive figure and his eventual death on the cross. Harry's choices will lead him into direct conflict with Voldemort's purposes and, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, to the experience of the dreaded Cruciatus Curse, obviously so named because it causes its unfortunate victim to undergo a torment like that of a person being crucified.

The symbol of Gryffindor House is a lion. It is an image packed with many meanings, including the fact that the lion was the symbol of the tribe of Judah, to which Jesus belonged, and also of England. Richard the First of England, noted for his Christian faith and courage, was called Richard the Lion-Hearted. And in C. S. Lewis' Narnia tales, the Christ figure is the Great Lion, Aslan, son of the Emperor Beyond the Sea. The emblem of Slytherin House, on the other hand, is the serpent, the traditional enemy of Judaism and Christianity. It is also the symbol of the Dark Lord, whose mark is a skull sprouting a tongue like a serpent, and whose "pet," in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, is the dreaded basilisk.

Harry Potter, like Jesus, has a foot in two realms. While he represents the lion, the noblest of beasts, he is also somehow related to the serpent, the lowliest of beasts and the enemy of all. But the allegiance he chooses--and Rowling gives great emphasis to the matter of choice--is to the lion, not the serpent. Like Jesus, he refuses to bow his knee to evil, and steadfastly pursues the higher path to righteousness and compassion. He is of the earth, earthy. But he is also destined for nobler things.

The Cinderella Motif

It is perhaps the Cinderella motif itself--the beautiful person in disguise who will one day triumph over his or her surroundings--that immediately endears Harry Potter to J. K. Rowling's readers. As Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall discuss the death of Harry's parents while they wait outside the Dursleys' house for Hagrid to show up with the baby, they provide liberal hints of Harry's illustrious future. "He'll be famous--a legend," says Professor McGonagall, "--I wouldn't be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter Day in the future."6 And later, when Hagrid has arrived and the baby is left on the doorstep, Rowling says, "Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous."7

Professor McGonagall also unwittingly provides a clue to Harry's identity when she expresses astonishment at Albus Dumbledore's report that Voldemort was unable to kill Harry. "It's just astounding," she says, "but how in the name of heaven did Harry survive?"8 It is all, of course, in the name of heaven--like the newborn Christ, Harry represents a supernal power at work in the world to defeat the spiritual wickedness that seeks to control everything.

Harry dwells beneath the stairway for the present, as Christ lived in a peasant home in Galilee. But one day the world will know, and, when it does, he will become the stuff of myth and legends!

Rowling may not have intended it, but her pairing of Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall at the Dursley home to see the baby safely deposited there is reminiscent of the aged couple in Luke's Gospel, Simeon and Anna, who see the baby Jesus when he is brought for presentation at the temple:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

"Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel."

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eight-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came [forward], and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.9

When Dumbledore has carried the sleeping infant to the Dursleys' doorstep and laid him there, he, Professor McGonagall, and Hagrid stand looking at him for a minute. "Well," Dumbledore says finally, "that's that. We've no business staying here. We may as well go and join the celebrations."10 Celebrations indeed! The sway of the Dark Lord is believed to be at an end. His little nemesis is sleeping peacefully. It seems a lot like the first Christmas Eve!

When the others have gone, Dumbledore produces his silver Put-Outer, with which he earlier doused the street lamps on Privet Drive, and clicks the lights back on again. Then he murmurs, "Good luck, Harry," swishes his cloak around him, and is gone.

It isn't quite a Nunc dimittis. But it doesn't miss by far!

Childish Powers

While the canonical Gospels are judiciously silent about Christ's doing miraculous things as a child--the miracles take place only in the world around him, in the appearance of angels and in the baby's surviving the threat of King Herod--there is no shortage in other places of legendary tales about his displays of childish powers. A. N. Wilson, in Jesus: A Life, refers to apocryphal Gospels that had him proclaiming his godhead, predicting the future of the world, and discoursing on the mysteries of creation--all while still in the cradle! He supposedly had the capacity to blink his eyes and bring the world to a stop, just as he had been present at the creation of everything.11

According to the Gospel of Thomas, a fourth-century Coptic Gospel, Jesus was two years old when he and his family arrived in Egypt. As they were passing through a field of corn or wheat and his childish hand reached out, he plucked some grain and chewed it. After that, the field yielded a number of bushels of wheat equal to the number of grains he had eaten. During the year that the holy family resided in Egypt, the infant Christ came upon some boys playing with a basin of water. He took a dried, salted fish, placed it in the basin, and ordered the salt to be expelled. The fish instantly came to life and swam about in the basin, striking fear into the other children, who ran home to tell their parents.

There is in the apocryphal book of James a famous story about Jesus when he was five. He made some clay sparrows as playthings on the Sabbath, and several of the adults, including Jesus' earthly father, Joseph, reprimanded him for making something on the day of rest. The child nonchalantly waved his arms and sent the sparrows flying into the air, telling them they would not meet death at anyone's hands.

Other stories in the Gospel of Thomas have the Savior-child making people blind or deaf for his amusement, or in some cases even killing them, only to restore them at his whim. Wilson mentions an Arabic Gospel that tells of a time when some children ran away, refusing to play with Jesus. He chased after them, and came into a woman's house where they were hiding in the cellar. He heard them moving about and asked the woman if they were in the cellar. She lied, saying no, those were only some goats. He replied, "Let the goats out." And when he opened the door to the cellar, she saw with horror that he had transformed the children into goats! Later, when the children's parents begged Mary and Joseph to get their son to restore their little ones, he happily did, and asked them once more to play with him. This time they were only too glad to do so!12

Rowling attributes similar magical qualities to young Harry Potter. Once, when Petunia Dursley cut off most of his unruly hair, leaving only enough "to hide that horrible scar," Dudley laughed at Harry's near baldness, and Harry went to bed dreading school the next day, knowing the children would tease him mercilessly. But when he got up the following morning, his hair was exactly as it had been before his aunt cut it off!

When his Aunt Petunia attempted to put one of Dudley's old sweaters on him, which he found revolting, it grew smaller and smaller until she couldn't get it over his head, and she decided it must have shrunk in the wash. Another time, when Dudley's gang at school had been chasing Harry, Harry tried to leap over some trash cans to hide, and inexplicably found himself sitting atop the chimney over the school kitchen. Like Superman, he had been able to "leap tall buildings with a single bound"!

But Rowling's favorite story, and the one played up in the movie of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, is the one about Harry in the reptile house at the zoo. It was on Dudley's birthday, and the Dursleys were taking Dudley and his friend Piers Polkiss to the zoo. They wanted to leave Harry behind, but had no one to leave him with and were afraid he would do something horrible to their house if they left him alone, so they ended up taking him with them. After lunch, Dudley headed for the reptile house, which was his favorite place at the zoo, and soon found the largest snake in the place. It was so huge that it could have wrapped itself around the Dursleys' car and compacted it into a trash can. But at the moment the snake was fast asleep. Dudley stood with his face pressed against the glass, wanting it to move. "Make it move," he whined to his father. But his father's rapping on the glass produced no effect, so they walked away. Harry stood looking at the snake. As he did so, it slowly opened its eyes and raised its head until it was staring right at him. Then it winked at him! Harry winked back. The snake jerked its head toward Dudley and his father as if to say: I get that all the time. Harry agreed that it must be very annoying, and the snake nodded. When Harry asked where the snake came from, it pointed to the sign that said, "Boa Constrictor, Brazil." As they continued to converse in this strange manner, Dudley's friend Piers turned and saw them, and shouted at Dudley and his father to look, saying they wouldn't believe what the snake was doing! Dudley came waddling back and pushed Harry away so he could have an unobstructed view. He and Piers were leaning close to the glass when suddenly it was no longer there and the huge snake came slithering out onto the floor beside them. They howled with fright, but it merely snapped at their heels and kept right on going. People in the reptile house were screaming and running every which way as it slithered along. As it passed Harry, still sitting on the floor where Dudley had pushed him, he heard it hiss, "Brazil, here I come. . . . Thanks, amigo." The Dursleys weren't sure how, but they knew Harry was somehow to blame for what happened. So he had to endure the longest time he had ever spent confined to his cupboard under the stairs. When he got out, the school term was over and summer vacation had started.

As in the case of the apocryphal stories about Jesus, the main purpose served by these stories about Harry is to underline his fantastic powers and foreshadow the much more important things he will do in the future. He might live among ordinary people, the Muggles, but he himself is clearly much more than ordinary.

The Unknown Years

Much has been made, over the centuries, of Jesus' so-called unknown years, the long span of time in which nothing appears to be known about him, except, of course, for the apocryphal stories. It is believed that he was about thirty years old when he began his public ministry, appearing to John the Baptist at the River Jordan and asking to be baptized, following which he entered the wilderness for forty days and nights and underwent the ritual of the three great temptations. But, with the lone exception of Luke's tale about his lingering in the temple with the rabbis when he was twelve, there is no word about his life from the time the family returned from Egypt, presumably when he was two or three, until that dramatic appearance some twenty-seven years later.

There are, of course, many tales and legends about Jesus during this interim period, one of which involved a boyhood visit to England. The poet William Blake mentions the story in his long poem "Jerusalem." Apparently it was widely held that Joseph of Arimathea, not the father of Jesus but the wealthy man mentioned in the Gospels as the owner of the tomb where Jesus was buried, had made trips to England as a tin merchant. On one of these trips, he brought along the young Jesus and his mother, and they landed at St. Michel's Mount, off the coast of southwest England. After Jesus' death, Joseph was rumored to have brought the Holy Grail, the goblet from which Jesus and the disciples drank at the Last Supper, to Glastonbury, in Somerset, where he buried it. There was even a wrinkle in the story that said the original church at Glastonbury had been built by Jesus as a monument to his mother when he was a teenager.

There are, certainly, great lapses of time in Harry Potter's life when we are not told what was happening, but it would not have served J. K. Rowling's purposes to skip over his childhood and present him to her audience as an adult. She began the Harry Potter series, after all, as a collection of stories designed for and about children--even though she has confessed that she wrote them for adults as well. What we get, instead, after a rather brief description of Harry's infancy and a little of his unpleasant existence with his Dursley relations, is the narrative of the incredible barrage of mail about Harry's enrollment at Hogwarts School and then, when he is eleven years old, his actual departure from the Dursley household to take up life as a student at Hogwarts.

The mail barrage is a very curious episode, pivoting on Uncle Vernon's refusal to allow Harry to have the letters that arrive addressed to him. The letters come thicker and thicker, necessitating Vernon's nailing up the mail slot to keep them out of the house and eventually leading him to take the family to a broken-down house on a barren island off the coast where there is no mail service. And there, in the middle of a terrifically stormy night, the giant gamekeeper Hagrid appears, bends the gun Vernon waves at him into a pretzel, informs Harry that he's a wizard, and presents him with a letter stating that he has been accepted as a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, thus marking the end of Harry's period of waiting.

Still, there is one similarity to Christ's coming of age and being baptized by John at the start of his ministry. It was at this point that Jesus' being chosen by God was first made plain, when a "daughter of a voice," spoke out of heaven to say, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

Harry has not known, until Hagrid appears on the island with the letter, that he is a wizard or that he has any future other than an extension of the same miserable life he has been leading under the Dursleys' stairway. Hagrid becomes furious with the Dursleys for having hidden the letter Albus Dumbledore left with the child on their doorstep and kept from him the information that his parents were wizards and were killed by Voldemort. They had told him, in fact, that his parents died in a car crash. To which Hagrid exploded, "Car crash! How could a car crash kill Lily an' James Potter? It's an outrage! A scandal! Harry Potter not knowin' his own story when every kid in our world knows his name!"13 As Hagrid recounts Voldemort's killing of Harry's parents and attempting to slay Harry in the same way, only to be unsuccessful and managing merely to leave the scar made by his powerful curse, Harry remembers clearly what he had not been able to remember well before--a blinding flash of green light and "a high, cold, cruel laugh." He asks Hagrid what happened to Voldemort. Hagrid says that nobody knows. Some wizards speculate that he had enough humanity left in him to die. Others say no, he is out there somewhere, merely biding his time before he strikes again. Whatever happened, he met his match in Harry, even though Harry was only a baby.

Hagrid regards Harry with "warmth and respect" approaching adoration. But Harry is so stunned by the announcement that he is a wizard that he can't really take it in. His whole life, practically, has been spent with the Dursleys. Dudley has battered him regularly, and Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon have treated him like an outcast whom they could barely tolerate in their home. If he is really a wizard, then why haven't they turned into ugly toads every time they've locked him in the closet under the stairs? It didn't make sense. When he says this to Hagrid, Hagrid only laughs. And, after a scuffle in which he turns Vernon Dursley into a pig, Hagrid carries Harry off to London to get him ready to go to Hogwarts.

Devoted Christians, prone to read an imperialist theology back into all the details of Jesus' biography in the Gospels, think of his wilderness temptations--to turn stones into bread, to worship the devil in exchange for a kingdom, and to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple to test whether God would not bear him up14--as evidences of his strength and determination as the Savior of the world. But is it possible, if only barely, that it was the other way around--that instead of being confident of himself as the chosen of God, he could not really believe it any more than Harry could believe he was a wizard, and went into the wilderness as an attempt to clear his head and get his thinking straight? Was he only testing the voice that had pronounced him the Son of God, the way Harry tested Hagrid's announcement that he was famous in the wizard world and that everybody in that world was expecting great things of him?

In both cases--Jesus' and Harry's--they must face what they are about in the world, namely, that they are instrumental in the age-old conflict between good and evil powers, and are about to embark upon remarkable careers filled with good works, formidable opposition, and an eventual struggle to the death with the wicked force seeking their destruction. And it is to the similarities of those careers that we must now turn.

Meet the Author

John Killinger, who holds doctorates in both theology and literature, has taught courses in the theological aspects of contemporary literature at Vanderbilt University, the University of Chicago, City College of New York, and Stamford University. An ordained clergyman, he has been a minister in parishes in Virginia and California, and presently serves as the minister of the Little Stone Church, a resort parish on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Among his many publications are several books in the field of literary criticism, including Hemingway and the Dead Gods and The Failure of Theology in Modern Literature. He has also written two novels, Jessie and The Night Jessie Sang at the Opry, which feature Christ as a woman in modern times.

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God, the Devil, and Harry Potter: A Christian Minister's Defense of the Beloved Novels 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I whole heartedly agree with the 8th grade reviewer from new york. I myself am a 13 year old catholic christian. I attend church weekly, go to catholic school, and read the Harry Potter books. And, yes, i have had no urges whatsoever to buy a wand and cast spells on those who displease me. I believe Mr. Killinger is awesome, and i fully plan on lending this book to a ton of people. I would also like to add that many people (including myself) have re-read the harry potter novels several times. And, no, it's not to get the spells correct. It's because they are fun, well-written novels by a talented author. So, thanks Mr. killinger, for lending the adults some faith in us younger set.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Finally, this book is so true and I am so glad that someone finally wrote it. Harry Potter is no bad, infact it is the best. I think if people want to know the truth then they should read this books and all the Harry Potter books. This book is right about everything concerning this issue and I recommned it ot anyone who wnats the truth about what to think in this very heated debate.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i am 14 and i love the books they are the best you get to go to his world and explore with him they are wonderful my brother who is 6 loves them i read them to him and he loves them ohhh and did i mention i am a very strong christian and so is my family and as i said we all love them, they are wonderful and the neat thing is my last name is Potter and well the people who think Harry Potter is filthy piece of you know what whatever( i have been an extra in the movie to so thats probably why i have this opinion, or however you spell it hehe) and to finish this note i love you people who gave harry potter a chance even thoe your relitives or perants or just friends did not approve. farewell!!!!! -Potter
Guest More than 1 year ago
Harry Potter books are just a modern 'cops&robbers' good vs. evil. Yes there are some questioning things in these books,but through out time poeple have tryed to discredit others to put the spotlight on themselves by digging up any and everything they could that might sound bad and blow it rediculously out of proportion.I am 14 a skateboarder and a cristian,and like it or not I think the conservitives are crazy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a christian and i love the Harry Potter books. I don't think these are a bad books just because it has witchcraft or any of that sort of things. I love the books because it sort of put things in a diffrent view on somethings some how. Some of my friends don't like Harry Potter but thats ok becuase they don't have to like it if they don't want to but am not going to stop reading them just people think that the books are a bad thing to read which they are not but i will respect there opinon about the books and i just won't read the books around them that all. The Harry Potter books do have to do with good and evil. it is sort of like Harry is like jesus and Voldemort is satan.I like the books not just becuase it has to do with good and evil but it give you an a really good imagenation for life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am tired of listening to people saying that Harry Potter is promoting whichcraft and the Devil. Mostly everyone who reads the series is doing it because they are exellent novels. Hardly anyone does because they want to do whichcraft. My best friend is a conservative Christian too, and loves the Harry Potter books and goes to church weekly. It is very possible to be a good chritian and still be a Harry Potter fan. It's not like after reading it we'll go out and start practicing whichcraft. Thank you for this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a Christian, Iam 17 years old, and i read Harry Potter more than my school books. People believe Harry is satanic and demonic, but not once have i come accross anything to do with the devil. Harry's world is imaginitive, and not real, so why do people go the wrong way and make bad comments on something that doesnt exist? This book is to prove them wrong!
Guest More than 1 year ago
THANK YOU! I LOVE YOU! SOMEONE ACTUALLY ON OUR SIDE!! PLEASE GO TALK TO MR. ABANES
Guest More than 1 year ago
Most people don't like Harry Potter because it supposedly is Santanist. Well I think it's good that a Christian is standing up and saying that's wrong. I'm only 14 and I'm a Christian and I've read the books eight times each and I've never come across anything that would was remotely related to the devil!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Its about time a christian came to their senses. I prase this man. No child thinks that harry potter influences the devil or that thease spells are real. i should know. im a huge fan and im 13. ive read harry potter every since it first came out. this man it truly a god sent. its time ONE christian stopped saying that all harry potter is is evil and in my oppinion all of those christians are hipicrits. thank you so SO much for being on our side minister!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Publisher's Weekly pegged this book right. Nice try, but rather weak in logic. Bridger's book "The Spirituality of HP" from Doubleday might be a good start at a lower price. But for the most powerful analysis of the HP books as moral/Christian stories read "The Hidden Key To Harry Potter". Just released, this book is going to be a big hit with Potter fans in 2003. Very entertaining and fun to read, but also a substantial literary evaluation. Traces the meaning of latin words and names and the major themes of JK Rowling. As an added feature, Granger makes predictions about what will happen in the last three HP books.