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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. JohnQuest

    don, do you believe in witches and warlocks and such? Do you think they can cast a spell that does you harm?

    December 28, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  2. wolfpackbob

    Right. Rowling, the richest woman in England, wrote Potter to "I think for her it’s much more the journey of a seeker exploring and deepening a faith". Yeah, Rowling wanted to write about faith. What BS. This writer is looking for crumbs to fall off the Potter hoard.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
  3. TDB

    Exodus 22:18 says a witch should be put to death.
    Deuteronomy 18:10-11 says do not be a part of witchcraft.
    Galatians 5:19-20 says to avoid many things including witchcraft.
    Revelation 21:8 says that doing magic arts will be given to the second death.

    Anyone who follows Christ should not be a part of witchcraft.

    Having said that, It's just a book! Who Care?!

    December 28, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
    • Know What

      "Having said that, It's just a book! Who Care?!"

      Same for the Bible...

      December 28, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • Ykcyc

      I say, why bother? Just flood the whole freaking place and start over! Again. Rewind!

      December 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
    • vicki

      The main thing to care about is whether your willing to risk enternity in HELL, or take a chance on believing a book & living in heaven. What harm does it do to believe & have a guide for living right? All it's done for me is help. But if you don't want to believe & take the risk of HELL then that's your choice.

      December 28, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • Frogist

      @vicki: The harm is that the bible as a guide also teaches persecution, killing ostracizing others... If you follow that while you are alive, think of the thousands even millions of people you have hurt for some reward in the afterlife. True, in your esteem, any non-believer is risking Hell. But for any person you reject or harm because of your "guide for living right", you are making this life hell. Should there be nothing after this life, you won't feel hell or pain or shame. But for all those you left behind, they will feel all the pain and shame you have caused in your lifetime all for the sake of an imaginary reward.

      December 29, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      @Vicki

      With the same certainty you proclaim the existence of your god and his associated imaginary spaces, I proclaim that there are no gods! No h3ll, no heaven, therefore no risk. Have a nice day and please seek professional help to deprogram your cultish beliefs.

      December 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
  4. Mac

    I'm not sure that Tumminio isn't just hoping that, as a "Potter Apologist", she can capitalize on this topic. To call the character Christian is a stretch. The books storylines are not even close in an alagorical sense. Evidence of morality and sacrifice is not enough. Why not view Potter as Hindu, Budhist or Muslim?

    December 28, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  5. Jeff in Illinois

    Christians are upset because the magic in Harry Potter is as real as the magic in I Dream Of Jeannie and Bewitched.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  6. CW

    @ all the non believers, Atheist, & those that want to criticize or try(notice I said TRY) to disprove the BIBLE,

    On the Harry Potter question: I believe that the movies were about good vs evil....Harry being on the good side BUT they didn't were not good movies....period. They didn't teach anything christian fromt the standpoint of relying totally on God.....so I would say that he wasn't a christian b/c in the movies he relies on magic and not God to fight any and all battles....and yes I have seen some of the movies and never read any of the books but that is my take on it.

    Now on the other front: In a lot of the other news stories where God is put up for comments all I see is those that want to blastphem, criticise, and just plain sprew their very own propaganda on God and the Bible itself. I further see those that say "prove that he exists"....to that I say that he already did by coming to earth, dying for all of us, and being raised on the third day. Remember your not the only ones that are asking for some so called "proof"....everyone back them wanted some sort of sign, miracle, or prophesy for which Jesus provided all things in order for us to not only believe but to live for God.

    Now let me ask all of you nonbelievers....you say show some proof that God lived? I say to you show me some proof that he didn't? Go ahead....admit it...you can't.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
    • Eric

      So I take it you believe in unicorns, leprechauns, Poseidon, space ninjas, tooth fairies, mermaids, genies, Thor, griffins, and boogie monsters seeing that – to the best of my knowledge – no one has ever successfully proven that these things don't exist. Congratulations, the filter that your brain uses to determine fact from fantasy is roughly equivalent to that of a young child yelling "prove it!" and sticking out his tongue upon being told that Wolverine and Cyclopes are not real people.

      December 28, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      So the guy is trying to sell you some aluminum siding, and you ask to see references from his prior jobs. "What's the matter, don't you trust me?", he replies. And this doesn't set off giant red flags and alarm bells for you?

      December 28, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • Bob

      > Now let me ask all of you nonbelievers....you say show some proof that God lived? I say to you show me some proof that he didn't? Go ahead....admit it...you can't.

      You are by far one of the stupidest people I've ever seen post here, bar none. Prove that a pink unicorn named phil doesn't exist.

      December 28, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
    • CW

      @ Eric

      Really?...unicorns....fairies??...now come on. surely you jest. Anyway seems to me you can't even carry on a conversation about our savior. All I can say is read the Bible and learn things....that are proven by one: FAITH and two: because of the infinite evidence that God does exits.

      @ Russel.......
      All I can say is your right can't put your trust in Man.....and yes its not my truth. Its the Truth that God used Man to write for you the only way to live your life. By living as God wants you too.

      @ Bob

      Your post:
      "You are by far one of the stupidest people I've ever seen post here, bar none. Prove that a pink unicorn named phil doesn't exist."

      Seems to me you need to grow up little dude. I just asked all the nonbelievers in the audience that love to attack the Bible and God to show some proof for which they can't. First off I don't have to show proof....there is over 2000 years of proof and fact written in the Bible. In addition one has to have faith to believe that is one of the test's. But I will play your childish game....no I don't believe the pink unicorn existed....named phil.

      December 28, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
    • Eric

      @CW By what means do you dismiss the existence of unicorns, fairies, and Poseidon while accepting the existence of creator of the universe who has a son – a son who you know the name of and who was tortured and executed in the deserts of Palestine so that the sins of your ancient ancestors (which are your sins as well – isn't that a novel idea) could be scapegoated onto him? And I have read the Bible and "learned a few things" from it. One of the things I learned was that I am an atheist.

      December 29, 2010 at 10:12 am |
    • Eric

      @CW By the way,
      Isiah 34:7 – And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.
      Time to rethink you position on the existence of unicorns. That, or rethink your position on the legitimacy of the Bible. Whichever floats your arc.

      December 29, 2010 at 10:29 am |
    • Frogist

      @CW: "so I would say that he wasn't a christian b/c in the movies he relies on magic and not God to fight any and all battles."
      How do you know he didn't rely on God to fight his battles? Because he didn't say it? Maybe it was in his heart and mind without speaking it. Do you think that any character who does not explicitly say he is relying on god is not doing so? I will agree that he used his magical ability to fight evil. But to say he relied only on that is incorrect. He relied on many things including his friends, his family, his wit, and knowledge of people. Why not an unmentioned god? You wouldn't condemn a doctor who uses his knowledge of medicine and a scalpel as not also relying on god's help just because he didn't explicitly say so. It makes no sense to condemn Harry for doing the same.

      December 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  7. don

    I DON'T AGREE AT ALL!!! HARRY IS A WARLOCK AND HIS FRIEND ARE WITCHES AND WARLOCKS TOO. THIS ISN'T CHRISTIAN AT ALL! I think Danielle Tumminio is just trying to sell books by making such a comment, and she doesn't know Christianity AT ALL!
    According to the Bible, warlocks and witches are wizards... "Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I [am] the LORD your God."
    Liviticus 19:31
    BUT, she'll be FORGIVEN too if she REPENTS, like All OF US!

    December 28, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
    • Evolved DNA

      Hey Don... your god is also a wizard....does magic but no one can see it, talks to people but no one can hear.... ironic don't you think!!

      December 28, 2010 at 8:28 pm |
  8. RJC

    How is Harry Potter any different than Lord of the Rings? Just because the author isn't a self-professed Christian doesn't mean you can't pick up on the Christ-like metaphor inherent in the books. Is Harry that much different from Frodo? A self-sacrificing hero – and HP in many ways is even more of a Christ-like figure than Frodo since Harry actually DOES die and then comes back to life. And LOTR, Narnia, and HP ALL use magic in them. So if you're going to trash HP, you have to denounce LOTR and Narnia as well.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
    • Mac

      I think LOC is more about world war II than Christianlity. However, assuming that it is, there is the explicit theme of the dangerous seduction of the power of the ring. Power to which we are not to aspire. If Frodo did not turn from it it would cost him his life. In Potter, increasing your personal power is desirable. Being better than an ordinary ,humble , human being is aspired to. Endorsement of such power in the hands of imperfect mortal beings is about as non-christian as you can get. Who are any of us to hold such power over creation and its creatures? Where is the Christian humility in that? The submission to divine will?

      December 28, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
    • Frogist

      @RJC: I agree with you. Condemning HP but not Narnia on the basis of witchcraft is hypocritical.

      @Mac: Actually, rejecting the increase of personal power is exactly what the final book is about. It cannot be clearer than in Dumbledore's story. He was the greatest wizard of the time, and made the choice to reject that power knowing he was not strong willed enough to let it overcome his yearning for dominance. Harry faced with the same choice of horcrux vs hallows makes a similar choice. The books do not endorse the overwhelming dominating power in Voldemort. It asks that anyone who acquires such power either share it, or reject it. The question of wizards vs muggles is problematic. But Harry and his mother both acknowledge that just because one has different talents does not make one better than another. There is great humility in Harry regarding the power and position he has. So if we contend that humility is part of Christian philosophy, then we have to acknowledge Harry's christianity in his humble att!tude.

      December 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  9. maraduarz

    seriously???? who cares if he was a good or bad christian, it's supposed to be a fiction book for kids. the guy (author) doesn't have anything sensible thing to do???

    December 28, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  10. George

    Even though I am a skeptic myself I'm getting bored with the fundy atheists that flock to articles like this or any other on religion and spill out the same old arguments, cliches, verses from biblical texts and quotations from Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris. I feel the same way about these folks as I do the Bible thumpers that they oppose. It's getting boring folks.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  11. Good Atheist

    The problem I have is the author automatically assumes that because the character of Harry does good, he is christian, again equating goodness with religiousness and on the flip-side non-christians are not good. Christians again, discriminating against free choice and anything that might advocate free thinking.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
  12. steve

    It is interesting to note, that if I were christian, I would be considered a good christian, because I live my life knowing the difference between good and evil, I teach my children the difference between right and wrong. But if I were to say that I was atheist, or hindu, or islamic, or mormon I would be wrong. Makes you wonder, why do you have to be labeled a christian to be good? I have had many people tell me, I am screwed up because I am not christian, yet these are the first people I see passing by someone in need of help.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      Steve, I understyand what you are saying BUT good values and good morals will not save you! You are looking at people for your example (and we should be good examples but sometimes we all fail). The REAL example is Christ himself! He is the measuring stick, not people!

      December 28, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
  13. Bob the Chemist

    Odds are pretty good that Harry was raised an Anglican (Episocpal for us Americans). He was raised in England by a white muggle family that was Public School educated and where sending their son to the father's old school. This usually means you are Church of England (or Catholic) i.e. Christian.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
  14. Nick

    This is a disgrace and a joke. Words cannot describe how asinine and pathetic this blog is.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  15. nopretense

    Some people cannot accept ambiguity at all and they grasp tightly the people and explanations that can "explain it all". When you really want to believe something, when you need to believe it, any evidence will do, even anecdotal evidence will be greedily sn-atched up like a drop of clean water in the open desert and proof to the contrary will be explained away with even the slightest imperfection.

    Religion and science have nothing to do with each other religion is about psychology and emotional need, science is about facts and measurement. It is just as laughable (maybe more so) for a scientist to proclaim that god does not exist as it is for a religious person to claim that evolution is not true.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  16. hello_out_there

    I DON'T CARE

    December 28, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  17. Smokey

    A Christian is someone who accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, recognizing their own need for forgiveness and repenting the wrong they have done in their life, as we all must because we've all done wrong. The grace of God is more than sufficient for the worst of humanity, if we but have the humility to realize it. The Harry Potter novels are solidly secular and never really discuss these matters at all, so I have to say that while while Harry Potter may well be a good person (as a fictional character), there's no indication that he's Christian. He could be a considerably better person and not be a Christian, or he could be a lot worse of a person, yet be a Christian.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  18. dave

    Harry Potter stand in front of the pit. Thanks. THIS IS SPARTA. harry potter is the anti thesis of a christian, he is into witch craft and his character is teaching kids the same. stupid parents who took their kids to devils den thinking they were being intelligent. the Bible says the that devil acts as a angel of light, in other words he doesnt wear a red cape and have a pitch fork. demons use subtle deceit to control peoples minds. there is not one kid that is driven to the Bible from reading those books, but their minds have been changed by subtle demonic teaching. they are growing up with no resistance to spells and witchcraft which was not popular with the generation before. so the parents will be judged by God for allowing this evil on their children. Jesus said that the true path to heaven is narrow and few will find it. in other words, people will follow the wide road of rebellion, a road with out the Bible thinking they are going to heaven but only to find they were tricked by demons who played with their minds. God doesnt want anyone to go to hell but stubborn people refuse warnings again and again they ignore God's word. they hate His truth, and deeply they think they are god. Every hidden thought and philosophy of life will be exposed in the open on judgement day and many will be ashamed of what they held on to. God is real, the big bang is a joke for it has no way of explaining how the Big bang started...where did space come from? where did the energy come from for the big bang? where did the elements come from? Jesus does not hate anyone, He wants everyone to be saved but He will not force anyone to follow Him. He only saves those who want to be saved. those who want their rebellion will get what they want, their way, but their way is against God's way and what they do not know is the devil was a angel in heaven but he rebelled against God...lucifer wanted his way, to rise above God. sorry, there is only one King. if you created little ants that started to hate you and rebel and mock you what would you do to those ants? the head rebel ant knows his fate and wants others to join him in hell. so choose , God's love and grace, or HIs wrath. its your choice. God is love but He also punishes the wicked. imagine if police let the murderer go free? God has perfect justice and the evil jerks will find that out.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
    • Charles

      "God is real, the big bang is a joke for it has no way of explaining how the Big bang started...where did space come from? where did the energy come from for the big bang? where did the elements come from?"

      And god came from...where?

      December 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      EVERYBODY grows up with resistance to spells and witchcraft, because there are no such things, so they cannot possibly affect you.

      December 28, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
    • Know What

      "if you created little ants that started to hate you and rebel and mock you what would you do to those ants?"

      This "God" is claimed to be all-knowing, so it knew before it created those 'ants' that they would rebel... made them anyway for entertainment? Monster.

      December 28, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
  19. Teephphah

    Nothing is more depressing than reading the comments on the CNN "belief" blog. Well, maybe a trip through a children's hospital. Okay. Probably ANY hospital. But still, the point is, this place is really, really depressing.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Teephphah: I'm sorry things are so depressing around here. *does silly dance to make you feel better*

      December 29, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
  20. Corvus1

    He's a great fictional character written by a talented woman. That's good enough for me.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:02 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.