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. Jim

    Who cares?

    December 28, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  2. DC

    No such thing as a good christian.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:54 am |
    • Steve the real one

      You are really not that far off. We are not good as we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God! In that sense you are correct! The problem is.. you don't recognize that we Christians have been forgiven! THAT is the difference!

      December 28, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
    • Brian Macker

      Two Masters degrees in religion, isn't that like two masters degrees in astrology?

      December 28, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
    • Lex

      Wasn't it Gandhi that said he would convert to Christianity if he met a real christian? It is a hard road and one not many of us are good at...

      December 28, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • Steve the real one


      Christians (NOT Christianity) come in many levels of maturity too! Yoru point about Ghandi is right on! According to his bio, he did try to enter into a church but was denied entry because he wore his trandition garb! I know some folks are willing to trash all Christians because of a sad act of a few!

      December 28, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
    • Brian Macker

      Wait a second Steve. Christianity comes in all different levels of maturity also, from the Greek Orthodox and Catholics, to the Westboro Baptist, and Branch Davidian. This spans from the violence of the Catholic Church in Spain during the inquisition to the peaceful Amish.

      December 28, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      Brian, I stand corrected. Thank you!

      December 28, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
  3. George

    The perspective of this author is an ever growing trend among conservative Christians. The moral values and theology of Evangelicals are read into movies and literature in order to attract a following and to appear culturally acceptable. Even though Tumminio may have her misgivings it is still imposing a reading (understanding) on the literature that was never intended by the author. Something that they do quite frequently with their own Bible....if it is their Bible.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:51 am |
  4. RUSH

    religious or not – this is REAL
    We are asking everyone to say a prayer for "Darkhorse" 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and their families.

    They are fighting it out in Afghanistan and they have lost 12 marines in 4 days.

    It would be nice to see the message spread if more could pass it on.

    Semper Fi, God Bless America and God Bless the United States Marine Corps...

    Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever

    Lindsay Lohan, 24, gets her name and face all over the news because she went to jail.

    Now she's getting it all over again for failing her drug test.

    But: Nothing in the media about these guys because no one seems to care:

    Justin Allen, 23,
    Brett Linley, 29,

    Matthew Weikert, 29,
    Justus Bartett, 27,

    Dave Santos, 21,
    Chase Stanley, 21,

    Jesse Reed, 26,
    Matthew Johnson, 21,

    Zachary Fisher, 24,
    Brandon King, 23,

    Christopher Goeke, 23,
    Sheldon Tate, 27,

    All are Marines that gave their lives for you this week

    December 28, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • Silver Chair


      My wife and I will definitely be prayerfully thinking of the 3rd Battalion and its families. My cousin just returned from a tour in Afghanistan, and thank goodness he made it through unscathed. Thanks for the post.

      December 28, 2010 at 11:55 am |
    • Newyorker

      I wish our troops lots of luck and Godspeed. But I am not a Christian, I am an atheist.

      December 28, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • Steve the real one

      As vet, these young people are my brothers and sisters in arms! I will be in prayer! God bless!

      December 28, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
    • Lex

      I'll be praying, as well as for all the other soldiers I know – my brother is XO where he sends off many everyday to the frontlines – not an easy job – we pray everyday for them, and for those in the war's path – and for the children who will be innocent victims and the leaders to find the strength to stop the fighting...

      December 28, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
    • Bob

      Prayers won't prevent people from dying. If a God exists and if he's omnipotent, they were destined to die by God's will. Prayer won't cause him to "change his mind", because he's doing it for a reason (remember, God has a plan for you).

      I respect their sacrifice. I'm sorry that they fell in the line of duty. But prayer isn't the answer. Maybe if we took the money we spent on church each week and put it into R&D for the soliders, we'd have better, life saving armour. Or perhaps new medical techniques.

      But nope, going to the church coffers...

      December 28, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Steve the real one


      1. You are concerned that we pray
      2. You are concerned that we give to our churches

      Why all the concern about us, ESPECIALLY since you don't believe, Bob? We will still pray, give, AND live our lives as Christians regardless of what you say or think about it! Not trying to be mean about it, I just don't understand why you and those like you are so concerned Christians live!

      December 28, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
    • jeff

      @Bob, why don't *you* take the money you spend on church each week and donate it to the soldiers R&D fund? Sounds to me like someone is coveting someone else's money...

      December 28, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
    • yabbut

      You're right, RUSH, and I wish you weren't.

      December 28, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
    • Bob

      > Why all the concern about us, ESPECIALLY since you don't believe, Bob?

      Cause it's your belief that prevents me from buying booze on the weekends. It's your belief that prevents gays from marrying. It's your belief that increases the suffering in africa.

      That's why.

      December 28, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
    • Bob

      > Sounds to me like someone is coveting someone else's money...

      Sounds to me like someone doesn't understand what covet means.

      December 28, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
    • Steve the real one


      I have a childhood friend who is a missionary in Africa. Exactly what misery has he caused? This nation has done more Africa, especially in the area of aids than anyone else. CHRISTIAN organizations such as COMPASSION INTERNATIONAL, WORLD VISION, and SAMARITAN"S PURSE are feeding, sheltering, and training folks in Africa! Exactly what are YOU doing for Africa,Bob? You are complaining of not being able to buy booze on the weekends? I thought you were the one peddling reason and logic! Here's a secret Bob! You can buy extra on Fridays! In all seriousness Bob, you seem to want to blame all the troubles in the world on Christians! Ever heard of the devil? Or don't you think he doesn't exist either? Probably not!

      December 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
    • Frogist

      @RUSH: Not to be cliched, but can you provide proof that what you are posting is true? So many people here are willing to believe your story without any indication that you are being forthright. I am not. No doubt you too have received spam in the nature of what you are posting so you are aware of how incredible your story might come across.

      December 29, 2010 at 11:01 am |
  5. SeanP

    First we should discuss if today's Evangelicals are good Christians then we can move on to fictional characters.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:47 am |
  6. Bill

    I saw Harry Potter with a "God hates F a g s" sign. He must be a christian.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  7. Steve the real one

    Unfortunately Eric Marrapodi does not understand Christianity!
    1. Potter is not real
    2. Potter is/was a wizard, not a Christian.
    3. The author of the Potter series studied WITCHCRAFT!
    4. Marraodi is stirring the pot and if he believes what he wrote, he then has NO CLUE about Christianity!

    December 28, 2010 at 11:44 am |
    • Bill

      Both are fictional accounts of a persons life. Sounds the same to me.

      December 28, 2010 at 11:47 am |
    • Steve the real one

      Well Bill,

      You have every right to believe what you wish BUT, you WILL know! it just that it will be too late! One that day your reason and logic will mean nothing!

      December 28, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  8. cheekbrown

    How can you have two Master's degrees in religion and not know how one becomes a Christian, Ms. Tumminio? The Pharisees were very "moral", and Jesus asked them "How can you escape the fires of hell?". There's no evidence that the thief on the cross was a moral person at all, yet Jesus told him, "Today you will be with me in Paridise". Our righteousness is but filthy rags to the Almighty God. Is there any evidence in any of the books or movies that Harry Potter believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Almighty God? No? Then how can you call him a Christian?

    December 28, 2010 at 11:44 am |
    • Steve the real one

      Huge difference between religion and Christianity. There is a reason some are referring to (SOME) seminary as cemetary!

      December 28, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • Newyorker

      I believe that Susej is the son of Dog. Am I a Naitsirhc?

      December 28, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
  9. Newyorker

    The level of ignorance on this blog is absolutely staggering. And I thought some fundamentalist Muslims were ignorant. Christian fundamentalists are just as delusional and ignorant. Besides, why would anyone care what these people thought about Harry Potter anyway? Or anything else for that matter? These people are insignificant and their opinions are redundant.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:43 am |
  10. boocat

    Harry Potter is fiction. The Bible is fiction.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:43 am |
    • Newyorker

      Except that Harry Potter is more relevant to people's lives today than the Bible.

      December 28, 2010 at 11:55 am |
    • common sense

      Its a better story quite honestly

      December 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      In justice, the 7 books of the Harry Potter saga contain considerably more sheer wordage than the Bible, and they have the benefit of the same author from beginning to end, so it's not surprising that they're a more fulfilling, satisfying read. The Bible is less like a novel and more like an anthology, and we all know that anthologies are usually a mixed bag.

      December 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
  11. coffeeandtea

    Harry Potter is not a Christian. He is an atheist.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:41 am |
    • Newyorker

      No, he was a pagan.

      December 28, 2010 at 11:46 am |
    • Frogist

      Actually Harry does not partake in any religious ritual except Christmas. He does not pray or attend worship services. Pagans can give me some more background if they have found an instance of him practicing Wicca or other pagan traditions. And he never declares there is no God so we can't claim him to be atheist either. The best we can say is he is agnostic.

      December 29, 2010 at 10:52 am |
  12. FreeToExpress

    As I said in another conversation in a few thousand years, the 7 books of Potter will be the new religion of the world and people will claim that he existed and sacrificed his own life to defeat evil and save us all.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:39 am |
  13. itsjustme

    Liz is spot on...and there are Pagan roots in Christianity. Where do you think a Christmas tree comes from? I believe it's derived from the Yule log. The word "Easter" is closely related to Ostera, the first day of spring - which is also a Pagan (and Wiccan) holiday. Most saints were Pagan in origin.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:39 am |
  14. recreative

    Whether or not Harry is a seeker I do not know, but I do know that the passion with which his fans follow Harry is quite fanatical and definitely quasi-religious. Read more here about flocking to the Potter films being a sort of religious pilgrimage: http://ubuntuspirit.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/modern-religious-pilgrimages/

    December 28, 2010 at 11:38 am |
  15. Reality Check

    Really?!? The Christians have nothing better to do than to get all worked up about a fiction book written recently? Not only that, people are actually DEBATING what J. K. Rowling meant when she wrote the book?? Has anyone else considered the fact that she wrote it the way she did for no other reason than because she liked the subject or to make money or to write a good series? It's a fictional book that is popular; I get it. That's why people with an inflated opinion of themselves have a problem with the book, even if they haven't read it. But why, oh why, validate their concerns by debating a moot point???

    December 28, 2010 at 11:38 am |
    • Steve the real one

      The reality is there are more atheists commenting on this than Christians (in the BELIEF BLOG). So WHO is really getting worked up over this? Just Christians? Really? Actually, I'm not even worked up over this. I just decided to toss in my $0.02 worth! No more, no less!

      December 28, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
  16. JohnQuest


    "Oh, you mean like the weapons of mass destructions, chemical, biological weapons, genetically modified viruses and bacteria, multinational corporations, profit margins, etc. Can you give me some specific examples?"

    Cancer treatment, polio vaccine, ending small pox, space exploration, and the like. I do agree that we are killing our little planet and we need to change the way we treat it and each other but there are notable accomplishments.

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

      How are those "good" things? Unless what you mean, whatever is good for us short term, damb the consequesces. Is it so we can uncontrolably spread like cancer and consume everything or is it so there are more left of us to kill with those weapons? In any case, there is a good reason something does not exist, otherwise it would. The same thing works the other way around. Natural selection is one of the fundumental laws of life. Do we really know better? But, I thought we were discussing why Harry wanted to be a "real" boy or is that another story?

      December 28, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Starting with fire and the wheel and running all the way up to nuclear fission and the internet, technology is utterly amoral. It can be used for good ends or bad, and pretty much any technology ever invented has been used for both. Only a fool would blame a tool.

      December 28, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
    • Ykcyc

      No one is blaming anything. Technology is not a tool, but more like a crutch. We've become so dependent on it that our very own survival is threatened without it. We are the only species that create our own environments istead of adapting to the natural one (another law of Life). Artificial environment are not sustainable long term. Every life form either adapts to existing conditions or is extinct. I think we are long overdue, due to lack of common sense. I just don't know how our ansestors ever managed without a pill for every bodily function. Yet, it's a miracle, but we are here. So, what about this Henry Sporter dude, is he for real or what?

      December 28, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
  17. Ilia Orkin

    I didn't know that Christians had a patent on good morals and values. I guess we're all good thanks to Christianity and religion. Who cares about the witch burnings, crusades, burnings of people in general, genocides, mass murders, executions, and stonings due to religion?

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

      Yes, many Christians believe exactly the same thing as Muslim fundamentalists believe: that theirs is the only path to God and to salvation.

      December 28, 2010 at 11:59 am |
    • Steve the real one

      LLia, Christians don't have a monopoly on good morals and values! We do know however, that morals and values (no matter how good) cannot save one soul!

      December 28, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Steve, the real one: You don't know that cannot save the soul. You believe morals and values cannot save the soul. It's one word, I know. But an important one.

      December 29, 2010 at 10:42 am |
    • Steve the real one


      Once again WRONG! Good morals and values have saved no one! No me nor you! The ONLY one that saves is Jesus Christ! Believe or not! You have faith God does not exist! I have faith that He does! One of us is wrong! It will be revealed in time, who is corrrect! The real question is will you find out when it is too late?

      December 29, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Steve, the real one: I don't know what you consider wrong since you seem to agree with me.
      I was merely pointing out that you don't know any of the things you said... you simply believe them. Knowing something is significantly different from believing something. Since you agree we won't know anything till we die (and maybe not even efter that IMO), you only believe. You don't actually know.
      BTW I don't have faith that god doesn't exist. I suspect from your use of that phrase you don't know where I stand on that issue.

      December 29, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
  18. Geoff

    Give me a break. Another Christian who can't stand the idea that a -fictional- character can live to enlightened ideals without being Christian. There are MILLIONS of people in the real world who live up to "Christian ideals" without being Christian. And there are MILLIONS of Christians who never even try to live up to those same ideals who belittle those other real non-Christians. Fix that before you go trying to analogize a fictional character so that you don't feel bad if your children enjoy him.

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

      Most of the Christians I’ve met did believe that Christians are the only ones with any morals (not that you can tell by their usual behavior (Bishop Long for example) )

      December 28, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
  19. Lily

    First Of all, it's Hogwarts School of Whichcraft and Wizardry. Not Hogwarts Academy. Secondly, you can havering values without being Christian. My values and morals are just as good as Harry's, yet I have never been and never will be a Christian.

    December 28, 2010 at 11:35 am |
  20. Liz the First

    To amend my first post a bit, i didn't mean to imply that all Witches are women. they're not, same as not all Christians, Jews, or Muslims. but prejudice against knowledgeable women was the origin of the persecution and demonization of witches in the Bible and beyond. and ignorance and belief that witches are somehow mythical beings continues to this day. it's a religion, like any other. and a good one!

    December 28, 2010 at 11:33 am |
    • common sense

      a male witch is a warlock. I believe that is the word you were looking for. And since I believe that, let's all debate it, too!

      December 28, 2010 at 11:38 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Liz the First, I don't agree with that entirely, persecution of witches were more about increasing the power of the church by instilling fear in the commoners and increasing the wealth of the church by taking (stealing) the material of the accused. I don't think any religion is "good" they are all based on myth and supersti-tions not reality.

      December 28, 2010 at 11:42 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.