When J.K Rowling released the first Harry Potter books in 1997, it gained wide popularity—and as more books in the series were released, it became a beloved classic that a generation of kids grew up adoring.
However, there was also a lot of talk amongst different Christian circles. While books like “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” had always been enthusiastically embraced, despite the elaborate fantasy and presence of magic, Harry Potter struck a sensitive cord. Christian parents worried that their children would be lured into the occult and cries of satanism accompanied the release of each new book in the series. People were quick to focus and condemn the series’ main premise: wizards, witches and magic. After all, Deuteronomy 18:10-11 does state, “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.”
Rowling’s 4100-page epic was the best and most powerful contemporary retelling of the gospel narrative I’d encountered.
The topic remains somewhat of a sensitive, polarizing topic amongst Christians, however, in recent years, there has been a noticeable shift. The wide belief that the children’s books were a shallow glorification of pagan rituals and sorcery has faded into an appreciation of what many call some of the best fantasy ever written. And in fact, fantasy that strongly parallels Christianity in a multitude of ways. Greg Garrett who wrote, “One Fine Potion: The Literary Magic of Harry Potter” claimed that “Rowling’s 4100-page epic was the best and most powerful contemporary retelling of the gospel narrative I’d encountered.”
Even J.K Rowling came out to confirm the parallel, saying, “To me, the religious parallels have always been obvious. But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going.”
As Garrett notes, “Rowling’s concern, simply, was that those who knew she was a Christian would be able to discern whether or not Harry Potter would live, die or do both.”
For many, the parallel had been obvious all along. Good versus evil, sacrificial love, resurrection and a story where selflessness and redemption reign supreme.
At the end of the last book in the series, the world is saved, delivered from evil because of one man who sacrificed his life to save them all. Sound familiar?
Here are some of the clearest Christian moments found in the Harry Potter series:
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Lord Voldemort, the “Dark Lord,” is the story’s main nemesis. He longs for power and total, evil dominance over the world. He has an army of followers called “Death Eaters” and together, they commit despicable, hateful crimes for which he expresses no remorse.
Before Harry was born, Lord Voldemort catches wind of a prophecy that marks Harry as the “chosen one”—the one who will defeat him and strip him of power. So, he sets out to find and kill him in order to eliminate the threat, similar to the way King Herod sought the location of Jesus’ birthplace. Unlike Herod, who ordered the slaughter of every Jewish male under the age of two when he could not locate Jesus, Lord Voldemort does find Harry. But he can’t kill him.
Harry’s mother, Lily Potter, dies trying to protect Harry and in the process, her sacrificial love protects him from Voldemort’s spell.
Fast forward to the end of the last book in the series and we see Harry offering Voldemort a chance to “try for some remorse” and to make amends for the decades of murder and evil he cast upon the world. Harry knows what will become of the Dark Lord if he does not repent: an eternity of a cursed existence in a weak and infantile body, in constant pain and suffering with no hope of relief. But the fact that Harry offers Voldemort an escape from such an eternity, even after a life of committing the most evil of sins is one of the strongest messages of Christ’s love in the books.
2. Albus Dumbledore
J.K Rowling revealed that Albus Dumbledore is “John the Baptist to Harry’s Christ.” The great Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Albus Dumbledore is a wise and powerful wizard who the prophecy of Harry as “the chosen one” was revealed to before his birth. As a result, he takes a special interest in Harry when he enters school, giving him insight into Voldemort’s past and guiding him to the discovery of what is needed to defeat him.
The fact that Harry offers Voldemort an escape from such an eternity, even after a life of committing the most evil of sins is one of the strongest messages of Christ’s love in the books.
At one point, Dumbledore even tells Harry, “But your blood is worth more than mine.” It is because of Dumbledore that—even after Dumbledore is murdered—Harry becomes equipped to go out and face temptation, evil and certain death in order to defeat the Dark Lord.
Like Dumbledore, John the Baptist knew who Jesus was, what he had to do and at what cost in order to save mankind.
3. The Presence of Evil Temptation
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In “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” Harry, Ron and Hermione set out to gather and destroy all of Lord Voldemort’s “Horcruxes,” which are bits and pieces of his soul that he hid in order to ensure his eternal life. But if Harry and his friends can destroy all of the Horcruxes, they will have defeated him.
However, in the process, they have to gather and keep these Horcruxes close by until they can find a way to destroy them. But the demon-like, evil fragments of Lord Voldemort’s soul continuously temp and torment them, encouraging the friends to turn on each other, abandon their mission and give into evil paths that lead them astray.
The concept of constant temptation luring followers of Jesus away from the path of righteousness is familiar to Christians. Jesus himself is even put to the test and faced with temptations from Satan.
One of the most powerful parallels of Harry Potter and Christ is the death and resurrection each willingly faces to save the world. Like Christ, Harry approaches his death willingly, not even bringing his wand in an attempt to fight and protect himself. He allows Voldemort to kill him without displaying a trace of self-defense. And he is killed.
But this is not the end of the story. His death is not permanent and he returns to life, free from the curse that Voldemort left on him as a baby. Because of his sacrificial death, his friends are also free of Voldemort’s evil power. The people who believed in Harry and fought for him are protected and safe because of his sacrifice.
Because one man sacrificed it all, the world was free of evil. Light defeated darkness and good defeated evil. The debate concerning the Harry Potter series will forever be divided, and there will always be compelling arguments on both sides. But when it comes to the heart of the story’s themes and messages, perhaps Harry Potter isn’t such a poor influence on Christian children after all?