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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. DP

    PLEASE SEEK HELP! The author desperately needs to get a life and obviously is having trouble find one.

    December 29, 2010 at 11:00 am |
  2. DD

    I always wonder why people can't just read fictional stories and accept them for what they are. But it's true many bestselling books (and movies) tend to be allegorical to previous, much told stories. I guess it's human to want to hear the same thing over and over. It explains a lot not only in fiction, but in reality as well.

    PS music is all the evidence I need that there's a lot much greater than humans in the cosmos.

    December 29, 2010 at 11:00 am |
  3. Rainah A. Mizell

    So, Harry Potter IS a good Christian. I like it.

    December 29, 2010 at 10:54 am |
  4. JohnQuest

    jeff, so what you are saying is, God does not visit disasters on those that follow his word and obeys? If that's the case please explain why disasters are not selective in who they kill, children die of painful diseases, most of the worlds population is living in abject poverty? It seems that disasters, pain and suffering does not have a will of it's own they have no respect of persons, we have to conclude that God has no more control of disasters then we do. If God does have control of these horrible situations then God would have to be considered the most callous mass murderer in the history of the universe. I think it makes much more sense that we made up God to explain the unknown, to give reason to anything we didn't understand like disasters, diseases, pain and suffering. Why did a volcano wipe out Pompeii, well since I don't know what tectonic plates and volcanoes are, it must have been Gods punishment for three people in the town committing thought crimes, like blasphemy.

    jeff, I have a question for you, how would the world work if there was no God, I would think we would still have diseases, disasters, pain, suffering, love, happiness, and sadness. It would look exactly the same, if that's the case why would a God create a world (universe) that works the same if he existed or not, what would be the point? I think, since there is zero evidence of a God and the world works as if there were no God then we have to conclude that there is no God.

    December 29, 2010 at 10:06 am |
  5. Linda

    You don't have to be a Christian to have good morals! Sorry for all those who think so. I am an Atheist and I have morals more than most people who claim religion. I treat people with respect and love all life so go figure. I can't even believe this is a subject but I guess people need something to believe in when they don't believe in themselves! Sad!

    December 29, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  6. Bryan

    "Christianity is NOT a religion. Religion is about what you do for God. Christianity is about Jesus and what He does for us. Religion always leads to pride or despair. You try hard and if you do good then you are arrogant and not humble like Jesus. If you fail to live up to the expectations then you are grieved and sad because you aren’t good enough for God. Jesus alone gives us joy and humility. Humility knowing that we cannot save ourselves and joy knowing that when He said “It is finished” that it was. This is why we love Jesus so much, there is no one like Jesus."
    -Mark Driscoll

    As Christians we love and worship Jesus. If you want to talk about Christianity keep the focus on Jesus, the man who is fully God and fully man without sin, the man whose words, miracles, life, love, death, and resurrection inspired 11 of the 12 ordinary uneducated men who followed him for three years to willing die gruesome martyr deaths for the sake of His good news and truth. The life of Jesus has never been discredited by any archaeological finds and has been confirmed by other nonbiblical writers such as the famous Jewish historian Josepheus. He changed my life and gave me a new one worth living....this is why we worship Jesus! 🙂

    December 29, 2010 at 9:11 am |
    • RichardSRussell

      Anyone who starts out with "Christianity is NOT a religion" is so obviously off the wall that it's not worth reading any further.

      December 29, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      @Richard S Russell,

      Yet not only did you read all of it, you even bothered to comment on it!

      December 30, 2010 at 11:05 am |
  7. Bryan

    "Christianity is NOT a religion. Religion is about what you do for God. Christianity is about Jesus and what He does for us. Religion always leads to pride or despair. You try hard and if you do good then you are arrogant and not humble like Jesus. If you fail to live up to the expectations then you are grieved and sad because you aren’t good enough for God. Jesus alone gives us joy and humility. Humility knowing that we cannot save ourselves and joy knowing that when He said “It is finished” that it was. This is why we love Jesus so much, there is no one like Jesus."
    -Mark Driscoll

    As Christians we love Jesus and worship Him. You cannot put Jesus on the same level as people because he was perfect and without sin, the only person in history to be so, He is God in human flesh. If you want to talk about Christianity, keep the focus on Jesus and his love.

    December 29, 2010 at 8:59 am |
  8. Joebobcat

    Harry Potter the classic hero story. It sounds like the Jesus story because it's the same plot that's been around for as long as people have been writing. There's nothing new or unique about either story. Both are good stories that use allegory to teach morality. As long as you remember that, you won't find yourself defending one of them and denouncing the other. Plus, you might learn something.

    December 29, 2010 at 8:30 am |
  9. Apostle Eric vonAnderseck

    In a new book out this month, author Danielle Tumminio asserts Harry Potter is a good Christian. Tumminio argues Potter lives a life that lines up with Christian values.
    Apostle Eric says;” Satan thinks the same thing and that it is God’s fault for not sanctifying Harry Potter to be our redeemer, but after all it was Jesus who shed His blood. How strange the sinners think about God.” http://apostlestoday.net/

    December 29, 2010 at 4:52 am |
  10. Dov

    Jewish readers and those interested in kabbala might also be interested in my book Harry Potter and Torah http://goo.gl/Y7GJ0 I certainly don't claim that Harry is Jewish (although the actor is) but there are many many themes in the Harry Potter series that relate to Biblical and Jewish themes.

    December 29, 2010 at 3:02 am |
  11. Scott

    Harry Potter cannot be Christian because he hates Draco Malfoy and get’s back at him whenever possible and everyone knows that Christians love their enemies and always turn the other cheek

    December 29, 2010 at 12:23 am |
  12. Blackwater

    An incredibly dumb question. Who cares if Harry Potter is a "good Christian" or not?

    December 29, 2010 at 12:20 am |
  13. Jeremy Raglin

    The Harry Potter series is awesome and any Christian who can't enjoy them shouldn't movies like the Wizard of Oz.

    December 29, 2010 at 12:16 am |
  14. Scott

    Harry Potter can’t be Christian because he likes/hangs out with Dumbledore who is gay. And we all know what the pope and protestant high ups think of gays and their friends (especially high ups like bishop Long and Ted Haggard)

    Harry Potter can’t be Christian because when he dies he does not go to heaven, hell or purgatory. King’s cross station does not qualify for any of these.

    December 29, 2010 at 12:11 am |
  15. The_Mick

    "They’re [Hogwarts faculty] just not Christian." Then why did they have Christmas vacation?

    December 28, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      For the same reason Christians have Saturnalia vacation.

      December 29, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
  16. nOT Trash

    I guess harry curses dumbledore for being a h0m0s3xual.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
  17. RightTurnClyde

    This lady is in the Twilight Zone. Tumminio is ordained in The Episcopal Church, (Wikipedia reports ) the tradition in which she was raised??? The Episcopal church must be embarrassed at her (and for her). "Being good" and "acting Christian" is not what makes you Christian. BELIEVING in the Triune God - the Trinity is the primary requisite (but she apparently doesn't know that). Sheesh. Tumminio reportedly is a three time graduate of Yale University?? where she studied with theological giants Marilyn McCord Adams, Emilie Townes, Miroslav Volf, and Serene Jones (wow, I guess she missed the part about Christianity). She pursued doctoral studies at Boston University beginning in 2008 under the direction of Shelly Rambo and Bryan Stone; ( Wikipedia reports ) .. well so one can easily see where ordained women are taking the Episcopal church. There is going to be less emphasis on Jesus and the Trinity and more stuffed animals and Hobbits. It feels good (tot hem) so it must be good. Right?

    December 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  18. WAT

    Someone wrote an article about this?

    December 28, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
  19. Daniel

    Any number of people live according to values that are in line with Jesus' teaching, while not being Christian. Living those values is not what makes one a Christian. Professing faith in Christ does. And nowhere in Rowling's work does Harry go to Church, nor was he christened. At no point is the Bible mentioned, let alone quoted. If Harry's behavior is held to be exemplary for Christian, then what that says about morality is that a.) it is a human quality, not tependent upon the authority of religion and b.) that a secular cultural phenomenon is not necessarily devoid of moral value. This points really should not need to be made – but they do, if Harry Potter is being shanghaied into being a spokesperson for Christian values, because that is certainly far, far away from the author's belief or intent, and far, far away from how the character is portrayed – without any reference to religion whatsoever.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
  20. Rev Brian Carpenter

    The writer utterly confuses Christianity with the decent moral values that everyone knows they ought to practice. Christianity isn't about telling already nice people to be nicer. It's about a power from above which gives a new kind of life. It is available as a pure gift of God and atones for the fact that we actually haven't lived up to those nice values we know we ought to have practiced all along.

    December 28, 2010 at 10:36 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.