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. hoss

    Danielle Tumminio....you can't seriously have nothing better to write...i guess if i had no original thought i'd probably write a book about the bible....why you ask...because it will sell just enough copies to turn a profit....seriously you're a joke

    Eric Marrapodi you're a wtich and a bad christian

    December 28, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
  2. Nitrogen

    So this christian author is admitting that Harry Potter is a good guy, even though we don't know that he is supposed to be a christian. I highly doubt they'd say the same thing if it was released that he's islamic or atheist. Maybe they're taking it on faith that he is christian. The point to my argument is that most christians don't judge character based on actual personal values, but on how passionately one believes lunacy. In the end, this is really a non-issue, it really doesn't matter because Harry Potter is just as real as god, and neither of them actually matter in the real world unless people decide to literalize them. Unfortunately most people do. Humans.

    December 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
  3. IceT

    I'm surprised people are getting so worked up about an advertisement for a book. Putting this on as a story is just designed to create controversy and thus "web hits" which in turn generate advertising $'s for CNN.

    December 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
  4. Pam

    and now these three things remain: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love. according to the bible God is Love. Throughout the book, Love is what set Harry apart. Was the Harry Potter series based on Christianity, no. Was the teaching something that would be of God, yes. Love was the central theme. Could Harry have been a Christian, absolutely. It doesn't really say, but it doesn't mean he was or wasn't and it doesn't make it evil or bad. How can a book whose story line is about loving others be bad and unChristian?

    December 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
    • IceT

      It is in now way un-christian, it's simply non-christian. Christianity is a belief in Jesus Christ, nothing more. Values come from people not religion, no matter what they try to tell you. If Harry Potter were real, he'd be a good moral and ethical person and most likely an Atheist.

      December 28, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
  5. K

    For all of you saying that Christianity needs to be left out of Harry Potter, the author herself said on Oprah that the book contains a lot of Christianity values and points. And another thing, I can't count how may times I come to CNN to read articles and find so many idiots complaining about what is news worthy and what is not. If you idiots look up at the top of the screen there are several choices of columns that you can read. If you want to hear "REAL" news such as someone getting killed, the weather being disaterous, etc then just drag your little mouse up to the top and click on it! This is a belief blog containing someones belief about a fictional character. Go somewhere else and read what you want!

    December 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
  6. JustPlainJoe

    Logic: Harry Potter is a good christian because he lives a good christian life.
    Perhaps: A person can live a good life like some christians happen to do.

    December 28, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
  7. Maimonida

    Dear moderator,

    If you do not stop with filtering comments I will stop reading and watching CNN.

    Only if comment has valid complaints from others for usage of profanity shall be removed. In free country you CANNOT prescreen comments.


    December 28, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Keep dreaming, dude. I too think that CNN's nannybot is an idiot, but it's a private company, not the government. You don't have free-speech rights here. They can post whatever they want, they can delete whatever they want. You'd be better advised to learn how the game is played and act accordingly.

      December 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
  8. Bianca

    My answer to Amy's e-mail above.... It's not the real Christians who try to ruin everything for everyone by condeming anything they don't like.....It's the 'so called' Christians who happen to be very ignorant. I am so happy that I am not one of them. I'm just a regular Christain. We love everybody and I loved all the Harry Potter books and movies. The Harry Potter books taught us so much including high morals, fairness, how good wins out over evil and most importantly LOVE. I feel like the people who knock this story are just those who have obviously never read it.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
  9. Mr. Sniffles

    The stories in the Belief Blog must be written by a roomful of monkeys banging on keyboards.

    I wonder how many real stories throughout the world are ignored by CNN so that they can kiss Christian booty with this fluffball blog instead?

    December 28, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
  10. McLuhan

    Using fiction to assess the value of other fiction! Can there be any doubt that we, as a species, are infants when it comes to using the full potential of our brains?

    December 28, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
  11. IceT

    To be a Christian, good or bad, you must believe Jesus to be your savior. Harry Potter did not do this and therefore is not a Christian of any kinid. His "living a life that lines up with Christian values" makes him only a good moral ethical person since these values come from people and not religion.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
  12. Tom

    Wow! I should use my better judgement and avoid commenting on this particular issue, but what the he-ck! I find it fascinating myself that people on both sides of this argument can be just as narrow minded, hypocritical, and fire and brimestone when trying to make a point! When Anthony Flew indicated that based on the science of DNA he had now choice but to acknowledge a guiding force to the universe, Richard Dawkins (like and good deacon in any fundementalist church attacked him but insinuating that he was old, infirm and just trying to be prepared in case! lol

    As for the case of Harry Potter, if JK Rowling had a bit more insite, she might have actually become richer than the Queen of England! Maybe Quirrell should have slapped Harry with his turban and got the stone for Voldemort. Or maybe Tom Riddle could have grabbed the basilisk tooth and stuck in Harry's eye! Maybe Harry gets to literally visit Sirus in Azkaban! Oh what the heck maybe Snape should have really just been the bad guy and poisened the little four eyed twerp in his first year! Think of all the pain, suffering and religous and political dialouge it would have saved us! Oh well.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
    • Snape

      I tried, my friend. Oh how I tried..

      December 29, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • johnamatoisahypocrite@yahoo.com

      The book you mention was actually written by "Roy Abraham Varghese" not Antony Flew. By several peoples testimony including several in a NY times article, not just Dawkins as you allege, Flew WAS in fact in a state of mental decline. Flew himself even released a statement shortly afterwards stating that the book had been written by Varghese.

      Just so you know...

      December 29, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
  13. The Jackdaw

    Asking if Hairy Potter is a good Christian is like asking if Frodo is a good Jedi. Two fictions do not make a reality.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  14. Lola

    Oh for Pete's sake! Who would as such a silly question? This sounds like something that one of those right wing, fanatic, ignorant, commune-type religious persons would ask. Well, here's my answer. Was Goldilocks a Christian, what about Little Red Riding Hood, Bugs Bunny, Superman, Lois Lane...How about King Kong, was he a Christian? NO....they were made up fantasy, fiction characters who had nothing to do with organized religion of any kind. Not real people you dumb-ass. Time for you to get a life.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  15. jradxit

    Would christians make good Hogwarts students? I daresay not.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  16. Mark in Atlanta

    Who cares? How stupid that people would actually sit around and argue about it. Harry is a wizard. OK. But the character also shows an immense capacity to love. What could be more Christ-like? A lot of "Christians" could take a few lessons from HP.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
  17. Danners

    Why does everything automatically have to be about whether or not Harry Potter (A FICTIONAL CHARACTER) is a Christian or not?

    He's a character from a book. Why can't people ever just leave it at that?

    December 28, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
  18. JayKay

    Harry Potter was in league with THE DEVIL!!!!

    December 28, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
  19. johnamatoisahypocrite@yahoo.com

    No Harry Potter wasn't a good christian.. because he doesn't exist.. Much like God. Though I see how someone who writes a religious blog could get that confused.

    December 28, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  20. Marilynn

    The author of this blog needs clearly needs something constructive to occupy his mind!! As an earlier responder said and I quote: "Why do Christians have to ruin everything?" I concur with : "why do christians have to ruin everything?""
    The topic is ludicrous!!

    December 28, 2010 at 2:33 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.