Pastoral Predictions of Potter's Predicaments

by The Rev. Matthew Ruesch

So I've read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the fifth time, in preparation for the movie of the same name on July 11th. And I've given away all my Harry Potter books, going on sort of a "Harry Potter fast" in preparation for the seventh installment in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

  I'm a self-professed "Harry Potter geek." I was a little behind the culture in getting on board this train, but now I'm planning to be at WalMart at midnight on July 21st to get my copy. That's the sort of thing only a geek would do. But at least I'm honest with myself.

I've debated with a few people the appropriateness of Christians reading the Harry Potter series. I won't lay out the entire argument in defense of the books, but here are a few thoughts:

1. If you've never read at least one of the books, don't criticize the series. Yes, the books use magic, but so do the beloved fiction works of Christians, such as The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings.

2. Of course the books are dark and involve evil. Again, see my comments on #1. Don't read the book of Revelation if you're trying to avoid learning about the battle between good and evil.

3. Because the books involve a level of violence and mature subject material, of course caution should be exercised in giving them to children. Like I said in #1--read the book first, then decide if it's appropriate for your child to read.

4. What are the books trying to communicate? This is what I'm waiting to find out in Book 7. I agree with Rev. Dr. Richard Stuckwisch who believes that Harry will have to die in order to defeat Lord Voldemort. He sees a lot of Christian imagery in the books, in a similar manner to Narnia and Rings.

I'd put my money (okay, I would never actually bet money...especially on something as meaningless as a fantasy book) on Harry dying in Book 7. I know a lot of hard core Potterites don't want to hear that, but given J.K. Rowling’s Christian background (yes, she is a Christian in the Church of Scotland tradition), I believe she will use the finale of the Harry Potter series to communicate the values of sacrifice and selflessness to a world that is self-centered and "me-focused." After all, since the thing Voldemort fears most is death – doesn't it fit that Harry will then exploit him in his greatest vulnerability? Throughout the books, Harry has not feared death. Therein lies another great Christian truth: our redemption in Christ overcomes death. As Dumbledore has pointed out, there are things worse than death. Eternal death is far worse than our earthly death.

As Christians, we learn to view the world through the cross of Jesus Christ.  God's Law has identified sin for each of us and the Gospel has provided the solution to that eternal problem.  It just might be possible that with our eyes fixed squarely on the cross, we can find something valuable in books like the Harry Potter series.  We rejoice each day because our sacrifice is not found in the pages of fiction, but in the inspired Word of God, the Holy Scriptures. Somehow that message is so pervasive, we're even able to find a picture of the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ in an imperfect fictional character like Harry Potter.

The Rev. Matthew Ruesch is Pastor of Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church, Garrison, MN.

Created: June 19th, 2007