Harry Potter was a good Christian?
December 28th, 2010
06:00 AM ET

Harry Potter was a good Christian?

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

In a new book out this month, author Danielle Tumminio asserts Harry Potter is good Christian. Tumminio argues Potter lives a life that lines up with Christian values.

“I see him best as a seeker in a world where Christianity is not the vocabulary. I see him best as a seeker trying to live a life of faith in the same way a Christian seeker tries to live a life grace,” Tumminio told CNN.

Tumminio said she wrote God and Harry Potter at Yale: Teaching Faith and Fantasy Fiction in an Ivy League Classroom, to explore the contention by conservative Christians that Harry Potter is akin to heresy.

“I felt like the conversation about the Harry Potter series among Christians was really narrow,” Tumminio said.

Tumminio self-identifies as a Christian in the Episcopal tradition and has a two Masters degrees in religion from Yale University’s divinity school. The book grew out of an undergraduate course on the Potter series she taught at Yale.

When the Harry Potter series first burst on to the scene in 1998, some Christians denounced the book about a young wizard learning the ways of magic. Several small independent churches even publicly burned the books. The series ranks first in the American Library Association’s Top Banned/Challenged books from 2000-2009.

Lauve Steenhuisen, a visiting assistant professor at Georgetown University, says the criticism is understandable given the framework of faith for many conservative Christians.

“The Christian paradigm is that you implore the divine - you await the grace of the divine - God is in total control. It’s dueling kingdoms,” she said. “In conservative Christianity there’s two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. If (Harry’s) not on one side, he’s on the other.”

But the criticism of the books stung Tumminio on a personal level. She said that criticism “wasn’t’ just doing the books an injustice, it was doing Christianity an injustice. First of all I was astounded so many of (the critics) hadn’t read the books.”

“I think that Harry lives a life that is in line with the values Christians line up with. What he grows to be good at is loving others - the fact he gives his life for his community, the fact that over and over he makes decisions that are better for others,” Tumminio said.

But that doesn’t make Harry Potter a Christian said Steenhuisen.

Hogwarts Academy is a very moral place but that morality is an ethical code entrenched in secularity, she said.

“The faculty is very eager to say we never do the curse of the this or that. There are rules that they are learning that are morally designed. I think it’s incredibly moral. There is tons of restraints of the power they’re gaining. They’re just not Christian. To be Christian it has to be intentional about being in Christ,” she said.

Steenhuisen agrees with Tumminio that Potter is doing his best to grow morally. “He is acting like a moral man. But she is appropriating Christian language and using it metaphorically. He is not a good Christian because the faith is missing,” Steenhuisen said.

Tumminio said it’s up to the reader to bring his or her own metaphorical magic to and read between the lines to see Potter’s faith. She does not think Potter author J.K. Rowling intended the series to be a tome on faith.

“It feels to me that (Rowling) is not a Christian writer in the style of C.S. Lewis, showing them how great Christianity is, to get them to convert. I think for her it’s much more the journey of a seeker exploring and deepening a faith,” she said. The books are, “not for the purpose of creating other Christians.”

Those books have sold over 400 million copies worldwide. Tumminio hopes she has enough credibility with Potter fans to sell her own book. She said she too once stood in line at midnight waiting for the newest Potter book to release.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Books • Christianity • Culture & Science • Movies

soundoff (857 Responses)
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    April 8, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
  2. Janvi

    I haven't seen the video...let's just say I was shocked! I could've NEVER plelud that off...my parents would've killed me! At least they look like they are all having fun!

    May 19, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  3. Christina

    I wish people like her would stop stealing my belief and claiming them as Christian when we all know the bible condemns the practice of witchcraft, and the worship of pagan gods.

    July 17, 2011 at 1:36 am |
    • Bruce

      And divorce and remarriage, which Jesus called adultery. It condemns that, too.

      July 19, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
  4. Concerned Christian

    Danielle Tumminio are you even saved? You better call on the Lord!

    July 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
  5. Human

    Actually, If you have ever read the Bible in whole, the conclusion would clearly point to Harry Potter NOT being Christian.

    Harry practices magic and divination; spells and calling to the dead, which the Bible explicitly tells God's people not to practice at Deuteronomy 18:10-12. And again, when did Jesus ever call upon the Devil or even himself to do any work, whether it be healing a blind man or raising a man from the grave? No, Jesus did not do any such thing! He told his disciples at John 14:10, "The Father who remains in union with me is doing his works."

    So, how could Harry, a wizard or warlock, be a Christian when we did NOT learn Christ to practice any form of spirit-ism?

    When taking a deeper look into the Holy Scriptures, we see clearly the truth about Harry Potter for what the character is really worth.

    July 16, 2011 at 1:58 am |
  6. Reality

    Harry Potter, the book, pure fiction about a moral wizard, brilliantly written.

    Christianity, semi-fiction, about an embellished, sometimes "mythicized" magic man with mediocre writing.

    To wit:

    As per the NT, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

    Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Most contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with J's gospels being mostly fiction.

    Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man" atonement, and infallible, old, European, white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices.

    July 15, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  7. Dumbledore

    Kids would learn more on how to be a moral person from watching Harry Potter or Star Wars than from reading the Bible.
    I don't recall seeing the "good guys" in HP or SW advocating slavery or stoning your children when they disobey.

    July 15, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
    • Human

      May I ask what Biblical Scripture refers to God Almighty telling any one to stone their children?

      July 16, 2011 at 2:00 am |
    • Michael Amey

      This is to Human – I don't know that the Bible actually advocates stoning children, but I did find this in Leviticus 20:9

      9 “‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head.

      July 16, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Eric

      @Michael- The word "curse" there does not refer to cussing or dropping the F-Bomb to your parents. It refers to actually putting a curse on your parents...in other words putting an occult based hex on your parents.

      If it were that easy to be disowned by God then Heaven would be empty! =)

      July 16, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • hermione granger

      so true. harry potter made me a better person then the bible ever did. but no star wars. I WILL FOREVER HATE STARWARS.

      May 6, 2012 at 2:43 am |
  8. Jack Gal

    Both the bible and harry potter are amazingly succeful series of literature, but the bible is obviously the more succesful of the two. Christians should chill out, their book is more succesful that JK Rowling could ever imagine.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  9. Joseph Balaich

    And behold all things have their
    likeness, and all things are created
    and made to bear record of me,
    both things which are spiritual; things
    which are in the heavens above, and
    things which are on the earth, and
    things which are in the earth,
    and things which are under the earth,
    both above and beneath all things
    bear record of me.

    Now it is clearly shown that J.K. Rowling did not fully intend her series to be Christian oriented. She made them out of pure imagination, not under the influence of the Devil. But the books have Christ-like principles from what he taught. Example Dumbledore's result to love. Here are some quotes from the book itself that I believe reflect Christ:

    "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."

    "Harry, I owe you an explanation," said Dumbledore. "An explanation of an old man's mistakes. For I see now that what I have done, and not done, with regard to you, bears all the hallmarks of the failings of age. Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young...and I seem to have forgotten lately."

    "...in the light of Voldemort's return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort's gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open."

    "You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be."

    "I am not worried, Harry," said Dumbledore, his voice a little stronger despite the freezing water. "I am with you."

    "Time is making fools of us again."

    “Harry must not know, not until the last moment, not until it is necessary, otherwise how could he have the strength to do what must be done?”

    "It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

    "It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well."

    “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love. By returning, you may ensure that fewer souls are maimed, fewer families are torn apart. If that seems to you a worthy goal, then we say good-bye for the present.”

    We have no need to condemn the Harry Potter books because they have not led us or had anyone the single desire to follow Satan. The movies are a different story for the enticing things they show. But J.K. Rowling showed the terms of good and evil. And we read from the Bible the terms of good and evil. This is a children series after all that makes us expand our imagination and take for what Dumbledore has said to Harry. Let us be good to one another and enjoy what we all enjoy differently, but love each other the same. If you don't desire to read the series that is okay, there are other forms of literature for you and other media. But choose wisely and for yourself, don't let anyone else follow you like your a leader. Contention is of the Devil and not of Christ.

    May 2, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  10. Lubiana

    Well I see it as a fictional story. The only bad thing about it is if children want to copy or "be like" the characters and delve into the occult and practice "spells". Then I think it is bad.

    February 4, 2011 at 11:42 am |
  11. Melanie Lee

    IMO, there is no doubt that the Christian faith and the Jesus story influences the Harry Potter books. In fact, I understand that before the last books were published, that when someone asked J. K. Rowling her religion, she said, in effect, "If I tell you that. you'll figure out how the story turns out." She is a member of the Church of Scotland.

    That said, IMO she had no intention of evangelizing through her books...but her books don't exactly deny Christianity, either. She does, however, have a thing against the Religious Right, evidenced, for example, in her naming one character Pius Thicknesse.

    January 26, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  12. Christina

    I have a question: if Harry Potter was a "good Christian" in the general sense without any reference to Jesus, than why couldn't the author have just as easily stated that Harry Potter was a "good Jew" or a "good Muslim"? What sort of actions did he undertake that were Christian but not Jewish or Muslim?

    January 20, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • rachelternes

      Well, he celebrates Christmas.
      Good point, though.

      June 25, 2011 at 3:50 am |
  13. lordkid

    The definition of a CHRISTIAN is to be a follower, believer and doer of the words and works of JESUS CHRIST. Not just to know of him and go to church, but to be born again of the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD and to do his will and work...Preach the Gospel and obey his words,walk his walk, and talk his talk. Now that is a TRUE CHRISTIAN and BELIEVER...So no harry potter is not a christian an neither is a lot of other people who think they are..

    January 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  14. lordkid

    Harry Potter is not real, but the books has brought on GOD punishment on this world because of the readers interest. GOD said; "He wish for a witch not to live". GOD said he don't wish for a witch to live. Those are some very strong words from the SUPREME BEING and CREATOR of the UNIVERSE. Harry Potter and other characters are witches, an so i hear, so is the author also. So being what it is, do you think GOD is pleased with your reaction to a book filled with what he hates (magic and witchcraft) and want killed. Wake up People, GOD is some one you do not ignore or disobey, his wrath is soon to follow. I do not advocate going around killing people. I know how to pray against you in the spiritual world. To all forms of witchcraft in the world, in the name of JESUS CHRIST I rebuke you and to deliver you over to satan for blasphemy GOD WORDS. CNN be fair and morally correct and post this..To all of you who want to argue and disagree, keep it to yourself, if not, GOD will deal with all non believers. My job is only to warn. The whole world is feeling his wrath right now as we read..

    January 17, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Man with Beard

      I see that someone has not been taking their medication.

      July 15, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  15. Mike

    To all of you atheists out there – stop repeating the same, lame arugments that have been refuted thousands of times by numerous Christians. One website in particular that has a nice catalog of responses to the innumerable totally irrational and unfactual atheistic arguments would be http://www.tektonics.org/ (Tekton apologetics ministry) – before you run around so confident in your vitrolic hatred of Christianity and your smug superiority, try refuting some of the arguments made there (or in the books of many educated Christians throughout history) While there are no good arguments for atheism, at the very least there are slightly better ones than the tired, old, oft-refuted ones I see here. Not that I expect atheist forum trollers to actually do a bit of research before they start mocking Christians...

    January 13, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • heliocracy

      I read that site, and had no trouble refuting all of the so-called arguments. If you don't understand something, and make up stories to explain it, then believe those stories even when evidence to the contrary presents itself, you are a moron. There's no arguing your way out of that. I could posit that the universe was created by an all-powerful dachshund, and could employ every argument you use to support Christianity. But that doesn't make it true, does it?

      July 18, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  16. Ray Eme

    It was always interesting to me how they always stopped to celebrate Christmas no matter how bad things got

    January 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • ByStander

      too true

      February 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
  17. Robert

    Ridiculous. Being a "good" person doesn't make you a Christian, it just makes you "good'. Harry fights against oppression, deceit, and murder. This is a basic moral code that all world cultures understand and live by to some extent. That does not make any of them Christian. Christianity is specifically belief in God AND that Jesus existed, was born, crucified, and resurrected, AND that those who believe and obey God's commands have an eternal home with him. That is Christianity. At best, Harry and all the characters as portrayed are agnostic or humanist.

    January 5, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
  18. Michelle

    Harry Potter may or may not have represented Christian values. I have no idea. But I think most people can agree that he at least represented positive values such as sacrifice and bravery and friendship. He wasn't an evil person. It was a battle of good vs. evil and good won like it should. That should be the main argument instead of whether he was "Christian" or not. I guess that's just my opinion

    January 4, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  19. Adam B. Embry

    Marrapodi is correct. Actually, a scholar in the UK named Colin Duriez wrote A Field Guide to Harry Potter, as he traces the influences of classical literature and Christian themes throughout the Potter series. Duriez has also written on Lord of the Rings. To say there are no such themes in the Potter series is unfortunate and shows how our culture is illiterate. I thought the books were great fun.

    December 31, 2010 at 6:30 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.