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. Veritas

    Just my two cents;

    I'm sorry I wasted time reading this article and the comments therein. C. S. Lewis warned Christianity that it faced dangers when the word – Christian – were to merely become another word standard of morality. IOW, if you're a Christian, you're good; if not, then you're bad. This is a dangerous and stupid place to go.

    Is Harry Potter a Christian? If – Christian – simply means someone doing something morally good – who knows? According to this criteria – Luke Skywalker, Batman, Nightrider, Ghostrider, Ironman, Autobots, et. al... could be considered good – Christians.

    Perhaps if so many in society were not so ridiculously biblically illiterate – people would not be burdened with writing, reading and responding to such tripe, and trying to make money from it. Christianity is NOT about being – good. It actually reminds its followers again and again and again that they are NOT good, rather, that they are saved and follow the teachings of Jesus, the Christ.

    The pervasive and annoying trends to try to allegorize movies and their characters into a Christian model is nauseating. Harry Potter is simply good – entertainment – and nothing else. I've read the entire series and was entertained, but, it never occurred to me that hey – Harry Potter is a good Christian. Good grief, but sometimes, my fellow Christians can and do prove to be an embarrassment. They should go home and read the Book and let the unbelievers find their own reasons to mock without handing them more ammunition hammered out of ignorance.

    Thank you

    December 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
  2. David

    This is low even by CNN's standards. I find it amusing that I spend more time on ESPN than CNN these days because of the higher percentage of actual news...
    And that isn't supposed to be a complement to ESPN...

    December 28, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
  3. Brett

    Whether you like religion or not, whether you believe or not... it doesn't matter. Religion in some way will ALWAYS be present on Earth, and you will never be able to convert someone who doesn't believe, just as much as you will newver convert someone who does. Oy.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  4. tony

    So the "conservatives" don't like the fact that a great moral code is lacking the addition of "faith". So what does "faith" added to an already great morality, bring of value to humankind??? Zilch I would think, since Christianity's saving grace so far has been it's teaching of "being good to each other".! Unless of course a belief in "magic" is somehow helpful?

    December 28, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  5. Everyone

    Who cares? christinsanity is not important. thisis the dumbest article ever, except for anything about a palin.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
  6. april

    Why does Harry have to be a Christian? I think the author of those books intentionally created a story where the reader could infer nearly any religious faith. Harry clearly has morals and, since morals are NOT human nature, they came from a religion. You could probably insert any major religion into your concept of the character and it will work with the story.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  7. cat

    It always amazed me when church members would denounce the Harry Potter series as herasy. I grew up in the Christian faith, though I am more agnostic now, and I love these books for their blatant religious & good vs. evil themes and imagery. Harry is essentially a Christ figure. If you're not religious, enjoy the books for their morality and good story. If you are a Christian or other religious person, actually read the books and you will admire Rowling's writing and her characters. Harry is anything but evil–he fights evil. And morality story or not, anything that gets children to read the way this series has done is a winner in my eyes.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
    • TDB

      well said!

      December 28, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
  8. Joe B.

    He's a character in a movie. How about the author of this thing spend as much time doing good works instead of asking stupid questions about a character in a movie.


    December 28, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  9. bluegirltwo

    I have never understood the problem with Harry Potter. What is the difference between him and say Spiderman or Batman???

    December 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • Steve the real one

      You mean other than the witchcraft theme?

      December 28, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
  10. Bob

    Good Christians don't wear blue tinted glasses.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  11. EdS

    this is yet another one of the Christmas / or Easter / time efforts to by Western media to poke the audience with mind babble and confirm the JewishChristian standards are still breathing......this article uses // over uses the word "seeker" it the point of being obnoxious" if they had any clue as to what the greek word "Christ-os" points to ( and is not some one who lived 2000 years ago in a human body ) and that it is simply Pure HUman potential NOT something that can be Bought/Sold/ or Told ....is Potter "moralistic" daaa are the star wars series "moralistic" since when in the last 100 years has the Western Hollywood movie / media/ industry NOT been dosing with "moralistic" messages?? has it made the west more Moral?? Definitely NOT!!!

    December 28, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  12. JennyTX

    Hate to break it to ya, but Christians don't have a monopoly on being good.

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

      Very true. Also, the point of Christianity is not to be good. It's coming to the realization that we are not good and giving Jesus the chance to make right the things we have done wrong.

      December 28, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
  13. ohreally

    "Hogwarts Academy is a very moral place but that morality is an ethical code entrenched in secularity"
    Who care? morality is morality. I'm sick of these Christians saying who has to believe in what/whom and giving everyone labels.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
    • vicki

      I don't see any Christians on here telling you what to believe. Only thing I see is you people bashing Christians. I don't see Christians bashing you. Get over yourself.

      December 28, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
  14. Thomas

    Since Harry Potter is a fictional character, I guess it is easy to compare him to another fictional reference.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  15. jeff

    Wow, this article turned out to be quite a troll... Stupid, really. Funny though, that she wrote the book as a counterpoint to all the Christians who were decrying the Harry Potter series as satanic, and look how the atheist community here reacts to the notion of Christians hijacking the book. We seem to live in a world of extremes, with no middle earth (I mean, ground)

    grass and peas,


    December 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  16. Bob the Chemist

    Did anyone notice that Harry was raised by a "Public School" "Non-Wizarding" family in England and in all liklyhood is some sort of Christian already (likly Church of England, Chatolic or some other Non-conformist.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  17. Kevin

    Personally, I believe in Evilution, which is the theory that humans are decended from evil monkeys. This explains why we enjoy bananas and the success of 60's boy band 'The Monkeys'. (They were obviously evil!)
    Church people don't like evilution, hence it must be true...

    December 28, 2010 at 1:29 pm |
  18. Mystic River

    Maybe Harry Potter was Jewish?

    December 28, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
    • TDB

      Exodus 22:18 says a witch should be put to death.

      under Jewish law he would have been executed.

      December 28, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
  19. twistedpuppet

    Harry Potter winds up being a Jesus allegory in the end. He dies to save everyone and is then resurrected. I laughed my rear off when I read that part.

    December 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
  20. hotweel@sbcglobal.net

    In typical Christian fashion, if you can't beat em', join em'!

    December 28, 2010 at 1:23 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.