SOUL FOOD:Analysts debate Potter's religion

August 02, 2007|By MICHÈLE MARR

The decision is in: J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter story is, alas, a pagan tale, as many a Christian has charged since the publication of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" nearly a decade ago. Thus saith Josh Moody.

His declaration was published July 24 in "Christianity Today," days after the release of "Deathly Hallows," the seventh and final volume in Rowling's series of bestselling books. As much as anyone and more than most, Moody should know.

He's the senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in New Haven, Conn., and associate fellow of Jonathan Edwards College at Yale. Josh Moody was born in Epsom, Surrey — suburban London, England.


Nevertheless, writing for the Wall Street Journal, children's book reviewer Meghan Cox Gurdon posed another opinion. Based on evidence gleaned from "Deathly Hallows," she argued that the Harry Potter saga is "subtly but unmistakably Christian."

In light of its 759-page conclusion, Gurdon sees a reflection of the Christian symbolism found in J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and C.S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia."

Gurdon believes Rowling has in "Deathly Hallows," finally, if "gently" laid it all out. "It," that is, being the Christian worldview.

She points to a "great silver cross" (those are indeed Rowling's words) that turns up to aid Harry midway through the book. The cross, readers soon discover with Harry, is "the sword of Gryffindor," a deft, ancient tool against evil forces. There are the churchyard graves of Harry's parents.

Rowling's themes span "the preciousness of each human life; bodily resurrection after death; mercy, forgiveness and redemption; sacrificial love overcoming the powers of evil." These are, Gurdon writes, "the [Christian] concepts that underpin the marvelously intricate world of Harry Potter."

On the other hand, given the wizardly trappings of Harry's world, this is a view that has often been rejected. Countless pastors and priests and bishops and outspoken evangelical icons have repeatedly warned their flocks of the dangers inherent in the Potter books.

Some have labeled them out-and-out evil. Yet the books have their defenders who argue that their magical trappings are benign.

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