If you are a Harry Potter fan, but have yet to finish the new, final volume, stop reading now. I am about to give it all away. But the whole Harry Potter series turns out to be so remarkably Christian in shape that it cannot pass without comment.
Those who have noisily insisted that these books are, in some way, a threat to Christian faith have embarrassed themselves. The books have a deep Christian theme: that love is stronger than evil. Moreover, as the final instalment makes clear, the series is a salvation narrative with a remarkably Passion-shaped ending.
Evil stalks the land. This evil is expressed in the guise of race hatred. A number of pure-blood wizards are out to eliminate all “mudbloods” from the culture. Their hero is a dark lord whose name evokes terror. Yet there is a prophecy that he will be defeated by a child. So the dark lord sets out on a massacre of the innocents. The child escapes, and, over time, survives the dark lord’s powerful magic, using a combination of schoolboy daring, innocence, and an instinct for what is right.
There is much angst woven into Harry’s journey. Will he really be able to defeat the dark lord with such seemingly meagre resources? Finally, he learns the truth: he must sacrifice his life in order for the dark lord to be defeated. He must lay down his life like a lamb to the slaughter. He goes willingly to his fate, knowing that his sacrifice will save others. What he does not know is that the resurrection stone that he has been given will keep him alive. Evil is defeated. Harry lives.
Does the author acknowledge a Christian theme? Halfway through the final book, she quotes scripture: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” It is not much, but, remember, this is a book about clues. Why is it that C. S. Lewis can get a lion to be universally recognised as a Christ figure, but so few are prepared to see the same logic at work in Harry Potter? I guess some people just cannot see beyond the wands and the pointy hats. But there is just as much magic in Narnia. And, in the Harry Potter series, magic is subject to a searching critique about its being bound up with the worship of power.
I am writing this on a public computer in the foyer of a camping site. A nosy Dutch boy of about ten has been looking over my shoulder, and has whispered to his friends that I am writing about Harry. So I am now typing away with a small group of boys at my back. They can just about make out the argument, and are now talking about it themselves. If I could speak Dutch, I reckon I could get a discussion going in seconds about Christology. He is quite an evangelist, this Harry Potter.
The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Team Rector of Putney.