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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. steveinmn

    “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.

    Well, see him as you care to, but he was in fact a seeker for Gryffindor.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
  2. steveinmn

    “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.

    Well, see him as you care too, but he was in fact a seeker for Gryffindor.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:49 pm |
  3. Rowling's intent

    http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1572107/20071017/story.jhtml

    Interesting read re: this debate.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
  4. Mary

    two masters in Religion? I wonder what went wrong. she should be writing about religion, not Harry Potter.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
  5. Ken from FL

    The fools says in his heart, there is no God. I've seen the scribblings of a lot of fools on this topic tonight.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:27 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      The fool says in his heart "There is no god." The wise person says so right out loud.

      December 29, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  6. Scott

    Harry Potter can’t be a Christian because his favorite spell is expeliamus and a real Christian would be at least using crusio or the imperious curse

    December 28, 2010 at 9:13 pm |
  7. Scott

    Harry Potter can’t be a Christian because he can speak to snakes. And the only talking snake in the bible was defiantly evil

    December 28, 2010 at 9:08 pm |
  8. Scott

    Harry Potter can’t be a Christian because he doesn’t curse every one that doesn’t agree with him, not does he use his power to intimidate people to his point of view.

    December 28, 2010 at 9:05 pm |
  9. Scott

    Harry Potter can’t be a Christian because he has a “familiar” Hedwig and this is defiantly demonic

    December 28, 2010 at 9:01 pm |
  10. Shalom

    Hello, I think Harry Potter is a good Jew. First and foremost, in the movies, the actor who played Harry Potter is a Jew (Daniel Radcliffe) and secondly, Harry Potter is a wizard who fought to bring peace and equality to a wizarding world where muggles (non-magic folk) were seen as dirt by some wizards and witches. A good Jew's mission is to repair the world by bringing peace to it and bringing the notion of one G-d for all human beings (gentiles and Jews alike but each one with their unique mission). Harry Potter just like a Jew was chosen to fulfill a mission. Thus, in the books and the movies Harry potter is referred as the chosen one. On the same token, we Jews are known as the chosen ones since we were chosen by G-d to fulfill his will. Therefore, Harry Potter would be a good Jew and not a Christian.

    Shalom!

    December 28, 2010 at 8:59 pm |
  11. olorinstaff

    Harry Potters mentor was gay. How's that for a good Christian!

    December 28, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
  12. Doug

    I think the Easter Bunny is nice!

    December 28, 2010 at 7:03 pm |
  13. Elizabeth

    sigh.. cnn "reply to post" is not working right... my last post was in reply to WiccanAndProud, whose post I suspect was in replay as well...
    Hey, CNN techies! We have a problem....

    December 28, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
  14. Robert Sweet

    How can you even compare harry potter to christianity. it doesnt make sense. who ever wrote this article is a complete moron. its a freakin fictional book for gods sake. why does everything have to be compared to religion. religion is stupid and all gods that people believe in dont exist. its time to wake up and stop being brainwashed. BTW im trolling 🙂

    December 28, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
  15. Morbid Games

    From the article:

    “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.

    If this is what makes for Harry Potter being a good Christian (ie: being a good person, loving others and making decisions that benefit others) then he's also a good example as a Muslim, Jew, Buddhist and any other religion you'd like to throw in.

    That said, I don't see why this article was posted to the front page of CNN in the US section, I'm guessing it just wanted to stir up some engagement for the site, which is accomplished.

    December 28, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  16. al

    There are way too many typos and grammatical errors to read this in its entirety. I stopped reading after the second paragraph, please proofread before you post.

    December 28, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
  17. Mike...just Mike

    Call it God, call it knowledge, call it Yahweh, call it enlightenment, call it truth, hell, you can even say “Coke is it!”…we are all going for the same thing. Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Atheist, Agnostic alike should all be living their lives under the same overall moral thought/path/principle of do the right thing and treat people the right way.

    I went to a Catholic school run by monks from the 5th grade to my senior year in high school…(insert disgusting catholic priest joke here)…and I was “forced” to take two years of history of world religions as part of my religious education. The one thing I took from it was that we are all going for the same end goal…we just call it different things and go about it differently. Who’s right? Who knows? Are any of us right? Guess that’s where a little thing called faith comes into play. Faith that someone is right and when “it” comes to collect, “it” will factor in the fact that some of us may have been wrong.

    Christians believe that God is the One who sets up those rules and we need to follow those as perfectly as we can…knowing that we will fail most of the time, but we still try. Others believe that a cute fat guy and his teachings are the way to go. Remember that group who believed that the way to go was in that spaceship behind a comet?

    One of the great things about life is the fact that by simply being alive we have the ability to debate things…even as (in my honest opinion) inane as “was Harry Potter a good Christian?” Seriously? Does it matter? I guess it does to some. That to me is more puzzling then the question of does God exists or if religion is an opiate or if the Bible is just as fictional as the HP series. Is it possible that JK simply wrote the books because she wanted to make a little cash? Harry simply does what is right. Be it Christian or moral or whatever you call it…he does the right thing. My kids are 8 and 10...they love HP, Percy Jackson (oopps!), love the Beatles, and we go to church. Good overcomes evil…people doing the right thing…treating each other with respect…see a trend? Factor out Yoko and you should see one.

    December 28, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
  18. Chef Jeff Tendick

    Who cares? He's a fictional character. I enjoyed the books & the movies. Why does everything have to be compared to religion and the expectations of religion? These books were not meant to be religious. They portray a make-believe world.

    December 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  19. Spidey-Man

    are you freaking KIDDING ME?!! Does this author have a thing for the little boys like a lot of priests do?

    December 28, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
  20. JackieInDallas

    Many of you have missed a serious point, here. Rowlings is still around to actually ASK. Her answer was, to paraphrase, that she wanted to instill values into her characters, without the trappings of religion. Those values, including self-sacrifice, honor, and defending the helpless, are not limited to Christians. However, Rowlings herself is a Christian. She could not possibly write her books without filtering her stories through her own experience (which includes Christianty). Therefore, the values that a good Christian should live are present in her stories. Does that make any of the characters Christian? No. None of C.S. Lewis' characters are professed Christians, either, but his stories are read as ALLEGORIES of the Christian faith because of Lewis's own very fervid Christian beliefs. To be Christian, you must profess belief in Jesus, AND live as good a life as you can. It is understood that you will make mistakes (sin) and fall short, but you ARE expected to make the effort.

    December 28, 2010 at 5:33 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.