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. seriously

    Your joking me right? This is what the adults of our time is spouting off about? Whether or not a fictional character in a book that was created out of someones imagination, is christian or not? Has the world lost sight of more important issues in this world? Like the homeless, the abused, cancer, our crumbling economy. I bet if we spent as much time debating important issues as i've just seen on this work of fiction. We might actually get something accomplished but probably not. Cause all i've seen on here is a bunch of lunacy. Harry Potter is a brilliant work of FICTION (please look that word up in the dictionary it means NOT TRUE and NOT REAL) that was created to wet the imagination and entertain our youth. My children watch it and yes they've run around waving sticks and saying abracadabra but they haven't said they wanted to be a witch or a wizard except in their imaginative play. And their imagination is just one of the things about my children i love and i will not in anyway stifle that for anyone.

    December 28, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
  2. Blessed Geek

    He is a good Buddhist. Or Hindu.

    December 28, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  3. jet

    Christ vs Potter, battle of the myths! In theaters now

    December 28, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  4. Stef

    REACHING 101...

    December 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  5. Elizabeth

    Oh for pity's sake. The fictional character Harry Potter was a wizard. His friends were wizards and witches. For expediency I'll call them all witches. There are good witches and bad witches in the story. Harry, Ron, Hermione, etc were good witches. Why can't we just leave it at that? As a witch, I'm really, really tired of Christians thinking they have the monopoly on goodness. Harry Potter was a "good" member of a society of magic. He was one of ours. You can't have him. (this is called tongue in cheek....but I am a witch, sometimes good and sometimes bad, like anyone else)

    December 28, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  6. SeaTurt1e

    Why can't a story be a story? There are LOTS of books that tell a complete story from beginning to end without having a "god" angle. Some are very fantastical or unlikely flights of fiction. So why did the Bible-thumpers jump all over this one?

    Because it's popular, probably. Jealousy. See Commandment #10. Hypocrisy runs rampant among Christians. If He were here today, he'd call 'em all Pharisees. Talk about irony.

    December 28, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  7. Maani

    I am a Protestant minister, and I love the HP books. (I also loved The Golden Compass, which is based on a blatantly anti-Christian book series.) I find the "life lessons" that the HP books teach to be Christian in nature, even if "faith" does not enter the picture. In this regard, to those of my Christian brethren who think the HP novels are somehow blasphemy or anti-Christian, I would expect you to make sure your children never read or see The Wizard of Oz, since that, too, has wizards, witches, magic and all kinds of "unChristian" stuff. (And keep them FAR away from Grimm's and other fairy tales, which are truly rife with such blasphemy! LOL)

    Jules: C.S. Lewis very deliberately put a strong Christian subtext in the Chronicles of Narnia. In this regard, Christians are "claiming" exactly what the case actually is.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
  8. jules

    The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – Jupiter
    Prince Caspian – Mars
    Voyage of the Dawn Treader – Sol / The Sun
    The Silver Chair – Luna / The Moon
    Horse and His Boy – Mercury
    The Magician’s Nephew – Venus
    Last Battle – Saturn
    Read them as CS Lewis intended not as the christians have claimed...

    December 28, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  9. Mike

    He was as good a Christian as he was a WIZARD!! It's FICTION, geniuses!!!

    December 28, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
  10. UMAD?

    Is Christianity/Christians still the intellectual worlds biggest joke?


    December 28, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  11. thkgoutloud

    Being a good moral person does not make you a Christian... believing in Christ, followings his teachings, and accepting him as the Messiah does. So, according to that, Harry Potter is not a Christian. As someone else posted earlier, the Harry Potter series was slammed before by christian groups for its protrayal of witchcraft now its being heraled as having a christian subtext. Really? What changed? It did not get a rewrite; it is still a series full of witchcraft. The Harry Potter books are well written and entertaining. People, as with all literature, will read from it or take from it what they will but to make a blanket statement of the character and the series without consulting the author is reprehensible and selfserving.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  12. Al Bluengreenenbrownenburger

    I am soon publishing a book called "Is SpongeBob SquarePants a Good Christian?" How can I get CNN and the "Belief Blog" to give me the same kind of advertising as this Harry Potter/Christian thing? My last book, "Betty Boop was a Fine Christian, Really" really did not sell as well as I had hoped, and I need the yokels, uh, Christians to buy more. Perhaps my next book, "Divine Dr. Seuss: The Grinch as a Prophesy of the War on Christmas" will cash in on Christain hysteria a bit better.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  13. poo

    if harry is not with christians he is against them??? only a sith deals in absolutes!

    December 28, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
  14. Marlye

    Who ever said you had a sense of humor?

    December 28, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
    • Mr. Sniffles

      Why so bitter?

      December 28, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  15. lloyd

    This may be the stupidest argument ever had on the internet. And I cant believe someone wrote an entire BOOK on this subject. Harry Potter is a fictional character written for entertainment....who gives a tumbling #@%$ what religion he is? Read his books or dont read his books, but I would hope the author can focus his attention on more pressing issues for his next book.....else we might be reading 'IS FOZZY A PRESBYTERIAN?' or 'DOES THE RED POWER RANGER EAT KOSHER?'

    December 28, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
  16. Thor.

    Well the Hubble has seen no heaven. Nor have any of the people on the Mir Space station. Well that settles it. Woops. O.K. new plan guys, we will wait and see what happens. So no killing or stealing for now. And report back with pictures and video when we get some.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
  17. Rick

    I agree that CS Lewis writes about his Christians faith and has original work. J.R. Tolkein had some Christian symbolism in Lord of the Rings. JK Rowling just steals other peoples ideas and work. Why is JK Rowling not getting her pants sued off?

    December 28, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
  18. Marian Paroo

    What bugs fundamentalist Christians (and to a much lesser exent fundamentalist Jews and Muslims) is that the HP series presents a secular morality.

    Which drives religious fundamentalists of all stripes crazy.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  19. Big Joe

    Nope, I believe Harry Potter exhibits good heathen virtues and values.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
  20. dave

    The only "good" Christian was Jesus... and he was Jewish. The rest of us fail miserably. That's why we forgive, and ask for forgiveness.

    December 28, 2010 at 4:10 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.