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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)
  1. captaincanuck

    What bloody none sense!!!!!!!!! Americans simply CAN NOT let this BS go, "what would Jesus think" "What would Jesus drive" "Is Oprah a good Christian" completely mixed up country, so myopic, so very confused, so very very sad, pathetic questions such as this that DON'T MATTER at all, particularly for FICTIONAL CHARACTERS.......dumb, stoooooopid, obtuse, pathetic, the list goes on and on

    December 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
    • IceT

      And yet YOU read and respond..hmmm curious.
      A question in a blog does not represent a country. You got other problems my friend if you don't realize these "news blogs" serve no purpose other than to create controversy and web hits that generate advertising $'s.

      December 28, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
    • asrael

      So, in Canada, "nonsense" is spelled as "none sense"? To quote a recent contributor: "dumb, stoooooopid, obtuse, pathetic, the list goes on and on". Facile commentary is really quite simple, once one gets the hang of it...

      December 29, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  2. dwighthuth

    Upon the stormy seas thunder bashing the clouds lighting cracks.

    "Princess Sara they are gaining on us."
    Vollies from the ships giving chase struck close to Sara's ship the water pluming high into the air and wetting the crew.
    "We cannot allow the Agamogenesia to fall into their hands. It will be the last of your line if it does!"
    The cannon fire from the pursuing ships rang loud across the water their brilliant reports illuminating the turbulant waters around them.
    "Admiral, fog bank ahead."
    The ships were now almost at full broadside to the Agamogenesia their shots flying over the deck crews head as they fevernetly ran rigging up and down.
    Then as if from a dream the Ensign of the Chalice of Agamogenesia was seen on several ships sails coming out of the fog bank. The Agamogenesia and her cargo raced between two of the parting ships that took the full assault of a broadsides from the pursuer's meant for the Agamogenesia herself. The Agamogenesia slipped into the fog bank behind the fleet. The admiral turned his head at the causility behind them. Her fleet responded with thunderous cannon fire from their guns that broke yard arms and mainsails and masts alike of the pursuing fleet. The pursuer's responded in like.
    The yeomen broke the Admiral's stare of the ensuing carnage behind them.
    "Admiral." he said "Message bouy off the starboard bow."
    The admiral turned his attention to the torch that was upon the top of the message bouy. "Make ready the gaf."
    "Aye sir." came the response from somewhere in the fog.
    A feew moments later the yeomen handed the admiral the message. It read. "Steer her North for two three days and then South for three days. At the end of three days you will have made it through the fog. Then sail west for three weeks until you come to the coast. From their your escorts await."

    The admiral gave the orders as written and left behind. As he turned the Agamogenesia North he turned and looked back to where the fleet's had been engaged. Small upon the horizon were the flashes of cannon fire. One brilliant explosion told him that one of the pursuer's power room had been found. He smiled and signalled the yeoman to take Sara below decks.

    Sara stood at the aft of the Agamogenesia a tear in her eye as she tossed a pink colored Rose into the water. The yeoman then took Sarah by her hand and led her into the below decks of the Agamogenesia. Sara and Agamogenesia and her cargo were safe for now. But what lay in wait for them in the lands of the new would be unknown and perilous for all humanity.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
  3. Catie

    CNN was always my favorite source of information. Fox too right, MSNBC waaaayyyy toooo left. But what has happened to you? I have a hard time on here anymore. There is no where else for me to go. But, quiet honestly your bloggers are idiots and I cant believe you allow some of the comments through

    December 28, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
    • Catie

      'quite' honestly

      December 28, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  4. Justin

    Got to love "without religion there are no morals" people. The Golden Rule (the common-sense standard for which all morality was derived) was clearly stated several thousand years before your bible and your church. Humans are empathetic creatures by virtue of their evolution within a social framework. You can't honestly tell me that if you'd never heard of the Ten Commandments you would think it was okay to murder people. You have to adhere to some very basic rules if you want to be successful (survive and procreate) as a social animal. If you don't adhere to those rules you're ostracized. Empathy is a very potent tool humans evolved to aid them in adhereing to those rules. It is why you cringe when you see someone get hurt and why people have physiological responses to the sight of blood. It is why you feel guilt when you wrong someone.

    It has absolutely nothing to do with some sort of sky god. If you feel guilty when you do something wrong because it is a bad mark on your spiritual reportcard which might have reprocussions on your afterlife gift package (not because you hurt someone), you're a bad human being. That is to say, you are bad at being human.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
  5. Mark Silvers

    He's an imaginary character and his religion was not revealed (possibly Wiccan). The Characters did exchange Xmas gifts, but that was the extent of it.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
  6. Catie

    CNN you go faster and faster downhill. Too bad. At least MSNBC will have company

    December 28, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
  7. TedTheodoreLogan

    Why are people getting so worked over this? I took this blog as a fun and light editorial.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  8. Ronald

    I think Christians try to justify their positions too much of the time. Christianity is not the beginning or end of morality...never was except to those who profess the religion. I don't understand why you can't simply enjoy what life has to offer without trying to explain everything.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  9. JP0

    Not worth the bits it occupies in computer memory. What a lot of bull pucky.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  10. Chuck

    this is news? Did CNN become a high school news outlet or what? It's a fiction character, who gives a crap whether or not they believed in a fiction book?

    December 28, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
  11. Myndon

    I find it interesting that this question is posed and written about in a university as distinguished as Yale, by an episcopalian. This is a New World wing of the Anglican church, founded by Henry VIII. I don't believe a valid argument in any direction can be made by one who would practice a version of Christianity founded by perhaps one of the worst Christians of all time. There is only one Christian church, the one set up by the people who were friends and followers of Jesus Christ in his life.

    That Harry Potter practiced sorcery would make him a bad Christian during those moments, even if it was to fight the powers of darkness. If Harry potter was a good Christian, he would have fought Voldemort without the use of magic. If God saw fit for him to win the battle, then so be it. That is not to say that Harry Potter couldn't have been a good person, which he obviously was. Rules are rules, however, and Harry Potter technically sinned every single time he used magic. That doesn't mean he could not confess his sins, repent, be forgiven and still go to heaven, where good Christians go.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
  12. kirk

    I am always amazed about how many atheists, humanists and secular communists hang around these articles concerning anything about Christianity. Very interesting.....

    December 28, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
  13. dstone

    I'm an evangelical christian that attends church for 3 hours every Sunday and I've never heard of "the kingdom of Satan".

    December 28, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  14. Jon Matthew

    A good Christian not according to St. Paul 5:19-21! Anyone who practices sorcery will not inherent the kingdom of God! Sorry Harry…

    December 28, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  15. JP

    leave it to nutjobs to put a religious spin on everything, and just in case some of you forgot the salem witch-hunts.....yea, this makes no sense to assess if harry potter is a good christian or not

    December 28, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  16. Robin Burns

    Most here do not understand the difference between magic, witchcraft and fantasy, nor between light and darkness. Harry never engaged in any behaviors aligned with darkness or satanism. Not Christian? OK, not openly Christian, but there were certainly broad celebrations of Christmas along the series indicating at least a passing nod to the tradition along with the moral stand. Real witchcraft involves secret ritual, often grisly, aimed at doing real damage through calling upon forces of darkness to do the dirty work. Only the dark wizards and witches in this series resorted to that. Other aspects of Harry Potter are clearly technologies similar to things we commonly carry around with us or fantasize about – and we don't see that as evil. If we are to pick apart works like the HP series we must also take a hard look at Disney and others who use the common framework of magic and witchcraft to establish a story about the struggles of humankind. The argument in each heart should be where the individual stands – with the light or with the dark? Just because the Harry Potter series does not explicitly proselytize for Christianity does not make it unworthy to be read by Christians.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  17. d bryan

    it's interesting how C.S. Lewis never had a problem openly communicating Christian value, even when he used metaphorical language. Some of his writing could be very mystical, 'The Lion, the Which and the Wardrobe,' is a great example of something that could have easily gone 'dark,' but he language and the meassage is clear. The problem with the Harry Potter series is that the language the author is asserting is not discernable at all..... and, every publication, commercial and associated material with the Potter project is dark, cultish and openly embraced by oposers of Christianity... I think if the author had wanted this to potray Christian values, she should have done so at the onset before the project was embraced by and even promoted by those that opposed the Christian idea.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
    • Frogist

      @d bryan: So you're saying the only reason HP is rejected as un-Christian is because a lot of people who are not Christian liked it too? And JKR should have written it more "Christian"? I don't hink I'm understanding you correctly. Please explain.

      December 29, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
  18. Danny G

    Really?? He is a fictional magician. I like this idea because they are just making Christianity look like a joke, which it is, like all religion. Would Harry Potter allow gay marriage? You bet your ass he would. Would Harry Potter allow abortions? You bet he would. I vote for Harry Potter to replace Jesus. Team Potter!

    December 28, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
    • Frogist

      @DannyG: LOL! Vote for Potter! *hits badge that now says "Potter Stinks"*

      December 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
  19. bluerosejaci

    Yes, i am a Christian and I don't believe the bible is fiction at all, I live by faith and lean not unto my own understanding, call me crazy, I don't care, I know how my life has changed since I allowed Jesus in and thats all I need. Harry Potter is fiction and I think we're making to big of deal out of this. I've watched the movies with my children cause I know my children are gonna be exposed to them and I don't believe they're evil. I explain to my children what the Bible has to say about certain things and that this is fictional and we don't believe in practicing witchcraft, which when the Bible mentions witchcraft, its talking about being rebellious toward God. Quit quoting the old testament, like Christians live by that today, the old testament is for studying, Jesus changed all that, because it was impossible for humans, remember what Jesus taught, to love everyone, no matter what, whether they believe or not, its our job to show the love of Jesus, not to condemn or judge!!

    December 28, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
    • Bob

      >Yes, i am a Christian and I don't believe the bible is fiction at all,

      Because you choose not to see. I bet you haven't even read your bible back to front yet.

      December 28, 2010 at 3:07 pm |
    • bluerosejaci

      Yes I have read my Bible from front to back and continue reading it from front to back each time I'm finish. I believe in learning all I can about the word of God while I still have an opportunity to do so because there will come a time that we won't. I have a lot to learn, so I'm not saying that I'm highly biblical educated but I do know what God has done in my life, whether anyone else chooses to believe or not.

      December 28, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
    • Scott

      @bluerosejaci: “Yes I have read my Bible from front to back” Wow! That’s impressive. I tried doing that but I couldn’t make it past the first 5 books. Man there is nasty stuff going down on the side of god in those books. Murder, genocide, ince$t and worse.

      December 28, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
  20. Ykcyc

    Same here. No rime or reason, just some CNN Nazi with a hidden agenda.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
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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.