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. vicki

    As a Christian, I don't care about Harry Potter. It's fiction so who cares. What I care about is all these people denouncing the Bible. All the comments from folks calling Christians idiots & stupid & whatever. That's fine, you can, however, I'd like to point out that us crazy Christians don't sit around calling you people the same thing. You don't see any of that here-take note.

    Also, no one can prove the truthfullness of the Bible (until their dead & it's too late). However, the reason myself & others believe the crazy stories in the bible is because of how our lives have changed since accepting it as truth. I've seen changes in myself & my life that cannot possibly be explained except for a higher power whom I call GOD. The only way for Christians to get you folks to believe is to tell of our stories. I can tell you w/110% the fact that God is real because of things done in my life-I just can't prove it scientifically. Therefore, Faith in believing the unseen is something I"m willing to do because I'd rather have things going well in my life & not take a risk of going to hell. I'd rather find at death that nothing happends, than to spend eternity in Hell. I hope Ya'll have a good time there.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
    • Evolved DNA

      Vikki What if it not your god whose up there to greet you when you expire? Also do you have any idea what an eternity would be like on your knees to the master of the universe... sounds horrible to me.. if only Christians could have invented a nicer God....

      December 28, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      It's true, it's true. Christians don't call us atheists fools and idiots. According to the historical record, they skip right past that merely verbal part and get their jollies out of the pear, the thumbscrew, the rack, and the stake.

      December 29, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  2. Randy

    CNN has the worst BLOG on the planet, what a stupid format.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
  3. badger

    My gosh there are some really stupid people out here........ I mean stupid to the point of not being funny. You know who you are too! thinking that what your adding makes some type of sense. It does not. What you are writing is just stupid.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
  4. Evolved DNA

    This is a story about one mythical character being compared to another..Harry does appear in more book though.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  5. JohnQuest

    CL78, sorry to hear that, your children will miss out on some of the best writing, art, and knowledge people have ever produced. Here is a short list of the people you won't allow your children to learn about:

    (In case you missed the relevance all these people were gay)

    Alexander the Great
    *Macedonian Ruler, 300 B.C.
    *Greek Philosopher, 400 B.C.
    *Greek Woman Poet, 600 B.C.
    *Roman Emperor, 1st-2nd c.
    Richard the Lionhearted
    *English King, 12th c.
    *Sultan of Egypt and Syria
    Desiderius Erasmus
    *Dutch Monk, Philosopher
    Francis Bacon
    *English statesman, author
    Frederick the Great
    *King of Prussia
    Lord Byron
    *English poet, 18th c.
    Walt Whitman
    *U.S. poet, author, 19th c.
    Oscar Wilde
    *Irish author, 19th c.
    Marcel Proust
    *French author, 20th c.
    *French author, 20th c.
    Gertrude Stein
    *U.S. poet, author, 20th c.
    Alice B. Toklas
    *U.S. author, 20th c.
    Federico Garcia Lorca
    *Spanish author, 20th c.
    Cole Porter
    *U.S. composer, 20th c.
    Virginia Woolf
    *English author, 20th c.
    Leonard Bernstein
    *U.S. composer, 20th c.
    Pope Julius III
    T.E. Lawrence
    *English soldier, author, 20th c.
    Jean Cocteau
    *French writer, director, 20th c.
    Charles Laughton
    *English actor, 20th c.
    Marguerite Yourcenar
    *Belgian author, 20th c.
    Tennessee Williams
    *U.S. Playwright, 20th c.
    James Baldwin
    *U.S. author, 20th c.
    Andy Warhol
    *U.S. artist, 20th c.
    *Italian artist, 15th c.
    Leonardo Da Vinci
    *Ital. Artist, scientist, 15th c.
    Christopher Marlowe
    *Eng. Playwright, 16th c.
    Herman Melville
    *U.S. author, 19th c.
    Horatio Alger, Jr.
    *U.S. author, 19th c.
    *Russian composer, 19th c.
    Willa Cather
    *U.S. author, 19th c.
    Amy Lowell
    *U.S. author, 19th & 20th c.
    E.M. Forster
    *English author, 20th c.
    John M. Keynes
    *English economist, 20th c.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein
    *Australian mathematician, 20th c.
    Bessie Smith
    *U.S. singer, 20th c.
    Noel Coward
    *English playwright, 20th c.
    Christopher Isherwood
    *English author, 20th c.
    Pier Paolo Pasolini
    *Italian film director, 20th c.
    Yukio Mishima
    *Ja panese author, 20th c.
    Eleanor Roosevelt
    *U.S. stateswoman, 20th c.
    Julius Caesar
    *Roman Emperor, 100-44 B.C.
    Augustus Caesar
    *Roman Emperor
    Harvey Milk
    *U.S. politician, 20th c.
    Bayard Rustin
    *U.S. Civil Rights activist, 20th c.
    James I
    *English King, 16th-17th c.
    Queen Anne
    *English Queen, 18th c.
    Marie Antoinette
    *French Empress, 18th c.
    Melissa Etheridge
    *U.S. Rock Star, 20th c.
    Pope Benedict IX
    May Sarton
    *U.S. author, (1912 – 1995)
    Edna Ferber
    *U.S. author, 20th c.
    Elton John
    *English Rock Star, 20th c.
    Margaret Fuller
    *U.S. writer, educator, 20th c.
    Montezuma II
    *Aztec ruler, 16th c.
    Peter the Great
    *Russian Czar, 17th-18th c.
    Langston Hughes
    *U.S. author, 20th c.
    Pope John XII
    Madame de Stael
    *French writer, 17th-18th c.
    Martina Navratilova
    *U.S. tennis star, 20th c.
    Greg Louganis
    *U.S. Olympic swimmer, 20th c.
    Billie Jean King
    *U.S. tennis star, 20th c.
    Roberta Achtenburg
    *U.S. politician, 20th c.
    Barney Frank
    *U.S. Congressman, 20th c.
    Gerry Studds
    *U.S. Congressman, 20th c.
    Hans Christian Andersen
    *Danish author, 19th c.
    Tom Dooley
    *U.S. M.D. missionary, 20th c.
    J. Edgar Hoover
    *U.S. director of the FBI., 20th c.
    Frida Kahlo
    *Mexican artist, 20th c.
    Suleiman the Magnificent
    *Ottoman ruler, 15th c.
    Rock Hudson
    *U.S. actor, 20th c.
    Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
    *Mexican author, 16th c.
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    *U.S. author, 19th c.
    Candace Gingrich
    *Gay Rights activist, 20th c.
    Margarethe Cammermeyer
    *U.S. Army Colonel, 20th c.
    Zoe Dunning
    *U.S. Military Reservist, 20th c.
    Tom Waddel
    *U.S. M.D., Olympic star, 20th c.
    Kate Millet
    *U.S. author, 20th c.
    Janis Joplin
    *U.S. singer, 20th c.
    Rudolf Nuryev
    *Russian dancer, 20th c.
    Waslaw Nijinsky
    *Russian dancer, 20th c.
    Ernst Röhm
    *German Nazi leader, 20th c.
    Dag Hammerskjold
    *Swedish UN Secretary, 209th c.
    *Greek philosopher, 384-322 B.C.
    Paula Gunn Allen
    *Native American author, 20th c.
    Angela Davis
    *U.S. political activist, 20th c.
    June Jordan
    *U.S. author, activist, 20th c.
    Rainer Maria Rilke
    *German poet, 20th c.
    James Dean
    *U.S. actor, 20th c.
    Montgomery Clift
    *U.S. actor, 20th c.
    Baron VonSteuben
    *German General, Valley Forge
    Edward II
    *English King, 14th c.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  6. Rick

    I agree with post from "Non-Judge-MentalChristianPerson." I'm a christian. ELCA Lutheran to be exact. The Harry Potter books and movies are fiction. End of story. Its not real folks. The books and movies are great fiction. However, I have no idea why the author is not getting her pants sued off. The most recent Harry Potter movie rips off Lord of the Rings in so many ways its disgusting. J.R.Tolkein's books came first. The ring of power is heavy and makes the carrier angry and so does the necklace Harry Potter (Frodo Baggins) carries. The big nasty spider is a rip off. Oh yeah, " Harry Potter is the chosen one." Have you heard the same term from Star Wars I, II, III from a few jedi masters?

    December 28, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
  7. jules

    sorry to burst your little bubble but the chronicles of narnia each represent a planet and the pagan myths that coincide

    December 28, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
  8. Gary

    With dealings in witchcraft, wizardry and astrology, no, he may not even be a Christian at all, much less a good Christian.

    December 28, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
  9. badger

    He is as much Christian as he is Black, Hispanic, Latino, Muslim, Indian.......

    December 28, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
  10. badger

    What a question......the answer is simple and all Christians know it........Anywhere does he accept Christ as his savior? Anywhere? Christians know that good works-values whatever might make you a good person, but that does not necessarily make you a Christian.

    December 28, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
  11. How about a spoiler warning?

    Mr. Marrapodi: Thanks for giving away the end for those who haven't read the books.

    December 28, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
  12. angie

    too much time on their hands. that's all I have to say.

    December 28, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  13. Ty

    Who wasted their time writing this article?

    December 28, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  14. TDJ

    I will limit myself to recommending this book by Canadian author Michael D. O'Brien:

    Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture – http://www.studiobrien.com/writings_on_fantasy/

    Enough said.


    December 28, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
  15. Hello

    Depends on whether you celebreate Saturnalia. You know when you sing over the ol Yule Log. Or you believe in the tree of Thor sorry I mean Christmas tree. LOL.

    December 28, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  16. rjz

    Harry Potter is no Christian for good and moral acts no more make you a Christian than make you any other religion. He is not a model for Christians for he has no faith in Jesus.

    What he is, is another example that good and moral people needn't be religious and that religion is no more a guarantee of moral behavior than atheism is a guarantee of immoral behavior. For this I am glad that conservative Christians have rejected them (they are being true to their faith) but hope that these discussions can help us to realize that non-religious people may be moral, that believing in Jesus doesn't make you anything other than a Christian, and that we really don't need Christianity (or indeed any religion) to live good lives.

    December 28, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  17. BertieNumNums

    The answer HAS to be a) even if you are an atheist, because if you believe that you will come to dust and you are right, then you will come to dust, BUT if you are wrong, you will get the BIG reward.

    December 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm |
  18. macthemechanic

    Why would anyone care? He's a fictional character. He fights bad people. End of story.

    December 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm |
  19. EpicurianLogic

    Question to those well versed in religious scripture, aka bulls***. When I burn a bull on the altar, I know the odor is pleasing to the lord. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

    December 28, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
  20. charles bowen

    Wow, what can i add to all this? The Christians Are as Looney as the muslims, as the Israeli Jews,as the mormans, etc. Religion was never ment to be an answer to all lifes many unanswered Questions its Just a good book. Just my opinion But all religion seems to have run off the track... Being a buddhist and enlightened i can recognise deviant behavior. Have a Great Day! Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    December 28, 2010 at 3:36 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.