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. RichardSRussell

    In the Harry Potter books, religion is simply irrelevant. It doesn't show up at all. It plays no role in anybody's life. Would that the same were true in the real world.

    But, of course, leave it to the Christians to try to co-opt ANYTHING that's popular. It worked so well with their appropriation of Saturnalia (relabelled Christmas) that they've tried to apply the same technique to everything from rock music to shopping malls.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:31 am |
    • Frogist

      @RichardSRussell: I don't think this book was an attempt to acquire Harry Potter for the Christians out of some greedy need to hoard anything that is popular. It was a rebuke to those Christians who reject it out of sheer misunderstanding. I think that's an important difference.

      December 29, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  2. James

    The Christians figure that if they couldn't condemn him for magic and witchcraft they'd try to embrace him...phonies.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  3. Rose

    Okay, Harry Potter is not a Christian, but could he be a good Muslim? After all, his character exemplifies morality and goodness toward others.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  4. James

    I think the character of Harry Potter was written as a good person. He doesn't necessarily have "christian values" just good values. Sorry, the christians can't have Harry Potter. He's just a good person. 🙂

    December 28, 2010 at 11:30 am |
  5. krashundburn

    There are fundamental Christian sects that truly believe Harry Potter heralds the coming of the anti-christ.

    And "Beauty and the Beast" promotes bestiality.

    I kid you not.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:29 am |
    • Newyorker

      I wouldn't doubt that. People believe anything.

      December 28, 2010 at 11:49 am |
  6. Anai Bendai

    This kind of stuff really dismays me. Who cares if HARRY POTTER was a good Christian? Or if he at least acted LIKE a Christian? Like TREASURE ISLAND or WAR OF THE WORLDS, HARRY POTTER is classic children's literature. It's not a Christian story. Those Christians who have and who continue to burn HARRY POTTER books are so clueless that it boggles me that 95% of them are American. (What HAS happened to America?) Christians (at least Conservative Christians) think that EVERYTHING has to be embedded and wrapped around with Christian Dogma. It's like they're all members of Sinners Anonymous and they can't experience anything outside of that ultra-rigid structure or else they are afraid they will break down and start "sinning" again. Since HARRY POTTER isn't a Conservative Christian story – they seem to think they have to condemn it and ban it and keep their precious little (brainwashed) children from it. But the truth is – 75% of the world is NOT CHRISTIAN. "HARRY POTTER" was written for a GLOBAL AUDIENCE. It's not written for a Christian audience. Christians have to get it through their heads that Christianity is a PRIVATE, SECRET matter between them and their God(s). The Bible itself condemns Christians who are self-righteous hippocrites and who judge everyone else (judge not lest ye be judged!) according to THEIR personal standards.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:29 am |
    • Lex


      December 28, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  7. Mike

    Why doesn't CNN have a Science section?

    December 28, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  8. b.o.b

    Omg i didnt know that harry potter nwas a christan maybe the goblins are jewish

    December 28, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  9. butteryak

    I wonder if CNN ever regrets having come up with the idea of allowing comments......

    December 28, 2010 at 11:26 am |
  10. Mike

    He seems better than most Christians I know. But, what does it matter anyway?

    December 28, 2010 at 11:26 am |
  11. common sense

    You know who wasn't a very good christian? Darth Vader, that's who!

    December 28, 2010 at 11:26 am |
    • Lex

      Yes, Anakin has many serious issues, but he too is saved in the end – it is love that he finally accepts and that redeems him – hmmm, sound familiar??

      December 28, 2010 at 11:44 am |
    • common sense

      no Lex – it doesnt sound like your stupid idea of christianity and your one true god because thats just asinine

      December 28, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • common sense

      So I can go for 20+ years killing all who stand in my way of ruling the galaxy, and right before my mechanical suit gives out, kill an emperor I will glow like Yoda and Obi-Wan. Hell ya! Count me in!!!!

      December 28, 2010 at 11:57 am |
    • common sense

      I'm gonna force choke the hell out of some folks.

      December 28, 2010 at 11:59 am |
    • Lex

      Common Sense, get a grip – it is all discussion, and everyone is allowed their views and points – no one is 'out to get you' (to convert or anything) – I was recently in a class and the professor leading it opened up with a question – "What would you say/feel if you found out Hitler had been forgiven and saved by God and is in heaven?" – I was stumped – hard to imagine what to think – what about every other megalomaniac??? I don't know... I doubt and question all the time... (relax – it's just a discussion board!)

      December 28, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
    • common sense

      sorry, Lex, the whole Darth Vader thing was a joke. Everyone knows that all happened a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

      December 28, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  12. Brian

    Harry Potter and the rest of the wizards celebrate Christmas and Easter...

    Though, thats probably cause Jesus was a wizard or something.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:25 am |
    • Lex

      Yes – they celebrate them – but more likely the seasonal equinoxes (which is of course why the Judeo-Christian holidays are tehn too)

      December 28, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  13. common sense

    All this fuss about a kid who flies on a stick, and a jew who died on one. Maybe in 2000 years folks will think Harry Potter was real.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:25 am |
    • zank

      OMH (Oh my Harry) I hope so.

      December 28, 2010 at 11:31 am |
    • common sense

      ok, now I'm going to have to watch this Harry Potter business

      December 28, 2010 at 11:36 am |
    • Peace2All

      @common sense

      Dude... you're cra-ckin' me up here...! 🙂


      December 29, 2010 at 3:12 am |
  14. popeye1128

    This is ridiculous. It is like asking if Hazel and Gretel were good Christians. Can't a whimsical fairy tale be just that?

    December 28, 2010 at 11:24 am |
  15. Unknown

    This story in more secular than Pagan. Pagans get their magic from spirits while Harry Potter never states where the magic comes from. Another thing I know Dumbeldor is gay, but if anyone who should be upset about that it should be the gay community, because he has been in the closet all his life.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:24 am |
    • Epidi

      Whomever told you that Pagans get thier magick from spirits, lol? That's an untrue statement. We call on spirits for assistance or guidance from time to time but one's magick does not come from them. Magick itself is not cleaning up dust bunnies or clutter with a wand. How devinely Hollywood! Check your facts, please.

      December 28, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Unknown: How do you know that Dumbledore was in the closet his whole life? Because he didn't sit Harry down one day and explain how one man can love another man? Dumbledore's orientation is not central to the plot. And his declaring himself hom-ose-xual to Harry obviously was not important.

      December 29, 2010 at 10:30 am |
  16. WhoIsToSay

    Witchraft as defined by the Harry Potter series is the same definition by original languages the Bible was written in? I doubt they had ideas of wands and flying brooms.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:22 am |
    • Snape

      What about Occlumency?

      December 28, 2010 at 11:24 am |
    • Occlumancy

      Would be the magical means to do what christians are taught to do by simple discipline. Different methods to accomplish a similar goal.

      Question is, who borrowed from who on that one.

      December 28, 2010 at 11:28 am |
  17. Rob Morgan

    Harry Potter a good Christian? I HOPE NOT. such nonsense here!

    December 28, 2010 at 11:21 am |
    • Newyorker

      I wouldn't mind as much if I heard he was a Satanist.

      December 28, 2010 at 11:51 am |
  18. Joe

    Maybe Harry Potter doesn't care to be rated on Christianity's "good/bad" scale at all?

    December 28, 2010 at 11:21 am |
  19. The Jackdaw

    The real question here is, would Jesus have been a good student at Hogwarts? And was this where he was during that time the bible failed to talk about him? I bet Professor Snape taught him how to turn water to wine!

    December 28, 2010 at 11:20 am |
    • Snape

      Ah yes, Jesus was indeed in my potions class. I am just fed up with having the "chosen one" in my class all of the time. All of these celebrities...

      December 28, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • Frogist

      @Snape: *raises hand* Professor, wouldn't turning water into wine be transfiguration, not potions?

      Also half-blood Prince, Prince of peace... I just know there's a joke in there somewhere!

      December 28, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
    • Snape


      Ah, you got me on that one. We all know that I am only truly interested in Defense Against the Dark Arts any way.

      December 29, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Snape: 10 points for Ravenclaw!
      PS Sorry bout that snake...

      December 29, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  20. Patti

    Harry Potter is a fictional character, created for entertainment. If you want to talk about classic lit in terms of western judeo-christian worldviews, fine. But enlighten up. Strictly speaking, "witchcraft" is banned by the Christian faith. The value of Harry Potter is in sparking the imagination.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:17 am |
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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.