Christian Themes in Harry Potter?

I work with a guy who has written a book on the supposed Christian themes in Harry Potter. The other day I was talking with him and he got on the topic of Harry Potter (apparently a major obsession, hence the book).

One of the things he does is speak to groups of fundamentalist christians explaining how Harry Potter is actually OK because it’s actually all about Christianity. When we spoke the other day he compared J.K. Rowling to C.S. Lewis and explained (or perhaps impied) that the Harry Potter books were allegorical.

One detail I remember is that he said that expecto patronum referred in medieval latin to waiting for the return of Christ. He is a latin teacher, so maybe he knows what he is talking about, I certainly don’t know enough to challenge it, but somehow that strikes me as wrong or at least stretching it.

I’m interested what you all know about the subject. I’m sure some of you have more expertise in the fields of Christian Allegory and Harry Potter than I have. I’ve read Harry Potter, but I’m not much up on the behind the scenes story of the book, such as Rowling’s education and religious background. Nor do I know enough about stories and symbology of Christianity to really analyze Harry Potter for it.

Personally, I would say that HP is about as Christian as most children’s fantasy, which is…not all that much. C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series was specifically written as a Christian fantasy story; Aslan is Christ, and The last battle is about the end of the world. HP is just your basic wizard-school book.

Every book carries a message about the author’s worldview; that can’t be helped and is partly unconscious. Most children’s books have something resembling moral lessons. HP has a lot to say about the value of friendship, family love, and other stuff. But I have never noticed the books to be specifically Christian in message.

There is a small industry in producing books about the ‘underlying message’ in one pop culture icon or another. There are books about the gospel according to the Simpsons. HP attracts a lot of attention, so there are groups who hate it (I’ve seen it called unchristian, unfeminist, un-something else, or just plain not very good), and groups who want to use it for their own agendas, whether that be religious or some other cause.

shrug I’ve never heard of Rowling being particularly religious, but I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention. But it’s really just part of the cultural reaction to a “phenomenon” like HP.

Your take on it is pretty much my take on it. I really don’t see the symbolism he is talking about and I think he is basically rationalizing it for himself (I think he’s fairly devout).

I really don’t know how common my co-worker’s view of HP is.

I’d like to know if any of you have heard any theories about Harry Potter as a Christian book. I’m also interested in things people know about Rowling that would support or hurt my co-worker’s assertions.

Perhaps I’ll have to do a little research on my own, but I think perhaps some of our Harry Potter fans here on the SDMB might know something about this.

I really didn’t get much of an allegorical feel from H.P. at **all ** (although, amusingly enough, some of my 12-Stepping friends have been to use the initials H.P. to stand for “Higher Power.”)

As far as “Expecto Patronum” goes, the “Patronum” part obviously plays off the words for “father” and “protector,” which is why Harry’s Patronus looks like Prongs the stag. I don’t see why a reference to a father need necessarily have anything whatsoever to do with the idea of “God the Father.”

One of the great mysteries of the Christian devout is their insistance than everything is really about themselves. Sad. And scary.

J. K. Rowling is a member of the Church of Scotland. She talks a bit about her religious beliefs in this interview. IIRC, she’s also said that she doesn’t want to say too much about the spiritual underpinnings of the series at this point, because it would give away too much of what’s to come.

Personally, I think there are a few Christianish themes running through the books, what with all the emphasis on the power of love and Harry being protected through Lily’s sacrifice, but she doesn’t seem to be going for a C. S. Lewis-style allegory. There’s also a bit of generalized symbolism, like serpents representing Evil, although that may be so firmly ingrained in our culture that it isn’t necessarily a deliberate echo of Christianity.

(I also have a nutty pet theory that Voldemort, having been raised in a Muggle orphanage in the 1930’s, knows his Bible very well and gets a kick out of doing stuff like rewarding his pet traitor with a silver hand, but that’s just me.)

Whoa, there. Totally unnecessary potshot.

Y’know, it strike me that scene seemed very familiar, but I’ve no idea where I might have heard it before. Can you elaborate on what this refers to?

I don’t know either, but I’m going to make a WAG and say it has something to do with Judas betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver?

Well, it struck me as a rather twisted play on “thirty pieces of silver.” I’m the first to admit this may be a bit of a stretch, but I still think it’s more likely than “Oh no, Pettigrew is going to kill Lupin because werewolves are allergic to silver,” since it’s pretty heavily implied in OotP that in Rowling’s world, they aren’t.

My daughter is taking an English class this year and they’re studying the archetypical hero cycle: separation, initiation, return. This is a common device in literature of all kinds, and one could just as easily apply it to Christ’s life as we know it as to Harry Potter’s. I think it’s admirable to seek out positive messages in children’s literature, but I think specific examples of parallels are more in the reader’s mind than in the actual text or even subtext.

But too, think about Christian values and the Golden Rule and that sort of thing - yeah, I’d say they’d be easy parallels to draw if you tried.

Is your friend John Granger?

Not in the context of this discussion, it isn’t. See above.

Interestingly, the wizards of Rowling’s world celebrate Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter but (unlike practically every known culture in Muggle-human history) don’t seem to practice any kind of religious worship, Christian, pagan or otherwise. See these threads:

In fact, yes he is. Really he’s just a co-worker (it’snot his main job I think). I mean, he’s nice enough, mostly, but I don’t know him that well and, up until recently, my job didn’t take me in his vicinity all that much.

I wasn’t sure how obscure he was, whether people would know of him or not. Apparently yes.

(I’m off to read your link)

Well, actually some of them do seem to practice some flavor of religious worship – Harry has a godfather, after all, and Rowling mentioned on her web site that he had a christening. Perhaps it’s a nominally Christian but mostly secularized society where people go to church for christenings, weddings, and funerals, or perhaps there are deeply religious wizards running around, but they’re not going to get mentioned because it isn’t part of the story.

I can’t blame Rowling for not wanting to open up that particular can of worms, either way.

But since we believe that Jesus is the Ground & the Goal of all Creation, is it any surprise that we’d see His fingerprints all over the place?

Pliny’s point is not that extremely devout Christians see everything as being about Christ, but that they see everything as being about Christians, or about Christianity. And I bet he’s right more often than you would care to admit.

Or that every freaking book in Western literature has a Christ-figure. Yes, I know this is an exaggeration, but the way some English teachers and professors talk, it sure seems like it.