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The Gospel According to Harry Potter.
October 8, 2002 8:47 AM   Subscribe

The Gospel According to Harry Potter. Connie Neal thinks that she sees "glimmers of the Gospel" in the Harry Potter books. Not the most interesting attempt to counter the occult hysteria surrounding this book, but sure to stir up some hilarious controversy just the same.
posted by mikrophon (19 comments total)

 
She noted that during a recent conversation, a teen-ager with a pierced nose had commented to her; "Hey, isn't that a bit like what Jesus did on the cross."

And um, the nose piercing is like Jesus on the cross. Yeah.
posted by pedantic at 8:53 AM on October 8, 2002


Just about any book written by someone raised under the influence of Western Civilization is likely to use some ideas or images that trace back to Christianity. It's even less surprising in an author who is writing in the tradition of Tolkein and C.S Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. You could probably write a book like this "finding" Christian images and themes in a book that was consciously trying to be anti-Christian, like Philip Pullman's Golden Compass.
posted by straight at 9:02 AM on October 8, 2002


and perhaps, just maybe, if we try real hard, we'll see that it's just a book!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:02 AM on October 8, 2002


You could probably write a book like this "finding" Christian images and themes in a book that was consciously trying to be anti-Christian, like Philip Pullman's Golden Compass.

Especially since Pullman is deliberately rewriting Paradise Lost...
posted by thomas j wise at 9:09 AM on October 8, 2002


"Satan is never mentioned in Harry Potter but I've not found a better literary representation of evil than in Voldemort," Neal said.

OK, I like the Harry Potter books and all, but come on! Has Connie Neal even read "Lord of the Flies"?
posted by starvingartist at 9:28 AM on October 8, 2002


like Philip Pullman's Golden Compass.

While we're on the topic (sort of), are these books any good? I've recently read Chabon's Summerland, and I'm looking for some new, non-Potter, adult-friendly young-adult lit . . . or something.
posted by mikrophon at 9:39 AM on October 8, 2002


Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy is excellent - there's a previous thread in which you can read all about it.
posted by adrianhon at 9:55 AM on October 8, 2002


Bah, its terrible. A category of literature I like to call 'books for kids, for adults really'. Full of 'themes' and 'issues', and winning loads of awards. However, when actually read by its target audience, it bores them endlessly. Or perhaps thats just me...
posted by Orange Goblin at 10:15 AM on October 8, 2002


From another page:

When I viewed The Lord of the Rings, I was filled almost immediately with the most unbelievable sense of deep, pervasive Satanism. Almost immediately, I was filled with the greatest foreboding I have ever sensed, and throughout the movie, I felt a great, great power of evil emanating from the screen. This movie is far more Satanic and pure evil than Harry Potter.

Or consider this:

Most spiritual traditions other than evangelical Christianity have been accused of being Satanic either in inspiration or in practice. Not only is feminism 'Satanic' but some seemingly quiet 'unliberated' housewives are alleged to be Satanists. People whose grandmothers read horoscopes in their newspapers, even casually, may be possessed by Satan. Children who play with Carebears or read C.S. Lewis's Narnia tales are in the company of those who play their heavy-metal records backwards to hear Satanic messages.

-- G. Harvey, Journal of Contemporary Religion. Vol. 10, No. 3, October 1995; pg. 284.

The bottom line is that if Lewis and Tolkein can get slighted for being Satanic, it's inevitable that Harry Potter/Rowling will be (mythical and specifically christian archetypes are weaker in her stories and modern school daze archetypes stronger). Even people who seem to understand what Tolkein and Lewis and many other fantasy writers have done (intentionally or not) still seem to think it's short of the mark.

I don't know what to make of it sometimes. There seems to be a narrow minded literalism at work here that isn't inherent to religious belief -- I know lots of people for whom the principles of the religion are the point, and so even if they firmly believe in a specific cosmology (say, Jesus as the son of God the Father who created the world a la Genesis in the Bible), they're not offended at finding the principles they believe in offered up in a different cosmology (say, a large talking Lion), and are delighted at the learning that takes place when they're well expressed. What I don't know is how to explain this to people who've decided that "magic is bad." Sometimes I sing this Dar Williams song.

I'm certainly going to read my kids Lloyd Alexander, Madeline l'Engle, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and maybe even J.K. Rowling. And perhaps, when they get older, even though I am a Christian, I may follow the example of Charles William's Father.

(Note: Charles Williams hung out with Lewis and Tolkein among others... Humphrey Carpenter's The Inklings is a great group biography and interesting food for thought about religion, myth, personal faith, and all sorts of things).
posted by namespan at 10:15 AM on October 8, 2002


Just about any book written by someone raised under the influence of Western Civilization is likely to use some ideas or images that trace back to Christianity.

Or perhaps, the basic ideas, imagery, and symbolism that christianity has used have also been used throughout human history. Christianity is just one of the many things that took up imagery that is common to our culture.

The idea that a lion could represent "positive" while a snake would represent "negative", for instance, was not invented by christianity (in fact I'd suspect early christians wouldn't have thought the lion particularly positive...) but just used by them. One animal is beautiful, graceful, proud, golden, strong and fearless; the other is cold & sneaky. Although both are powerful, snakes are more likely to kill humans than lions.

Anyway, in harry potter, snakes are not evil; slytherin isn't harry's house, but it's still part of hogwart's, and harry can communicate with snakes.
posted by mdn at 10:20 AM on October 8, 2002


So this book, you say its Christian allegory vibrates?

Sorry...and what pullman said.
posted by MrBaliHai at 10:48 AM on October 8, 2002


what pullman said.

Scratch that. Insert: what straight said.
posted by MrBaliHai at 10:51 AM on October 8, 2002


I think this is the hidden gem here:
"The Gospel According to Peanuts," has not been well received by Harry Potter critics within the Christian community.

What kind of messages are in Peanuts? "Thou shalt not yank away the football so that I may falleth on my ass" or Linus' blanket = Christs' crown of thorns. More info here.
posted by dr_dank at 11:27 AM on October 8, 2002


It always amazes me that people who want their children to read a book with that covers incidents of rape, sex, prostitution, adultery, fornication, incest, sodomy, torture, murder, violence, death, supernatural events, etc. (and this book would be the Bible), would feel the need to subject other books to rigorous critiques and either sanitize or ban them for the most specious of reasons.
posted by orange swan at 12:13 PM on October 8, 2002


Come now. Harry Potter is clearly gay.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:34 PM on October 8, 2002


While we're on the topic (sort of), are these [Pullman's "His Dark Materials"] books any good?

Not particularly, IMHO. There were things that could have been interesting, but stopped just short.
posted by kindall at 2:21 PM on October 8, 2002


Pretty nuts about the C.S. Lewis business. I loved those books as a kid but have had second thoughts about letting my kid read them because they are basically Christian propaganda. C.S. Lewis was a raving Christian (see the Screwtape Letters for a particularly annoying argument.) But on the other hand, Narnia and Aslan didn't turn me into a Jesus Freak, so I guess it's OK, and I wouldn't want to be the sort who worries about this kind of thing. I want my kid to read anything and everything (within reason -- not porn or whatever.)
posted by Slagman at 5:45 PM on October 8, 2002


[Havent read the link, but have read Potter and Narnia]
I think that the fact that 'Potter' can be read as Christians & Occultist & gay... blows my socks off. One can read whatever one wants into anything.

What worried me was nearly being converted by a reading of 'Mere Christianity' by CS Lewis. That was scary!!
posted by dash_slot- at 7:13 PM on October 8, 2002


I loved those books as a kid but have had second thoughts about letting my kid read them because they are basically Christian propaganda

no they're not - he may have meant to weave christian ideas through them, and if you already have christian beliefs you'll see them, but otherwise, they're just great fantasy stories (hey, maybe they are similar to the christian stories..)

two things - I loved the narnia chronicles, but I remember being a little disappointed that the author chose to bring aslan back to life - it seemed a cheap way to avoid the pain of the truth, a pain that hurt but also enhanced the beauty and intensity - tragedy is the purest art, the truest form... the happy ending seemed tacked on and almost even disrespectful of his readers. So years later when I realized that was meant to be representative of his actual beliefs about the cosmos, I lost some respect for CS Lewis.

Also, I think the only truly damaging aspect of xtian beliefs is the idea that if you don't believe, you suffer eternally - does anyone remember is susan suffered for not believing that they had really gone to narnia instead of believing that it was just games they played? Maybe in either case she was too dismissive, since those games were so brilliant and real that they lived for 100 years in another world... even if they were imaginary, they were pretty incredible... but anyway, was she punished for her lack of faith?

I don't remember other specific things that might be congruent with aspects of christianity, but I definitely wouldn't worry about embedded symbolism when it comes to children's literature. Like dash_slot says, you can read anything you want into it... Just 'cause Lewis thought he was writing christian propaganda, doesn't mean he was :)
posted by mdn at 6:36 PM on October 9, 2002


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