• Any Good Thing in Harry Potter?

    I read a recent article that drew a parallel between Harry Potter and Jesus on the grounds that, like Jesus, Harry Potter was born to redeem at the cost of his own sacrifice. I mentioned it to one of my sons who said, “That’s drawing a long bow, isn’t it?”

    It might be. But I could see where the writer was coming from. With documented references throughout, both to the Potter books and to the Bible, she talked of symbolism and allusion and drew a convincing case. Mention was made of CS Lewis’ Narnia series, in which the characters throw light on the work of Jesus. It remains my personal conviction that Lewis is a writer so superior to Rowling as to brook no comparison, but no one was really making that case. They were arguing for intentional allegory.

    In a way, you could say that pretty well any story echoes the world’s biggest themes. Samuel Goldwyn, of MGM studios fame, once said there was only one story. But I wonder if there aren’t actually two.

    One, of course, is good versus evil. I once heard someone, arriving late for a television film, ask “Whose side are we on?” as he settled into his chair. Good guys and bad guys, and the blurring of the distinctions between them with greater or lesser degrees of subtlety, have kept films and literature alive since Cain asked God who was his brother’s keeper.

    The other story is that of love. He loves, she loves, problems arise and all is either well (Pride and Prejudice) or it isn’t (Romeo and Juliet). Everybody loves a lover: everybody identifies with the struggle to be heard and accepted, and to overcome the obstacles to true love.

    Why do we? Because we are made in the image of God, who is love and who has made us for loving, both of him and of each other. It is no coincidence that the writer of Genesis records God saying, ”So God created man in his own image; male and female he created them.” It is one of the reasons why sexism is such a degrading thing, because it attacks the basis of human unity that, if we can get it right, reflects the nature of God himself. It is probable, therefore, that the very great assaults on sexual integrity that we see on every side and within ourselves, are the result of deliberate attacks by the evil one on the same reflection of God. Enter evil, the other great human story.

    So we have two recurrent themes: love, and good versus evil. “Sex and violence”, if you want to be pithy about it. Most of our recognised literature focuses on one or the other, and usually both. Even our great and consuming passion with sport fits the picture. Does it really matter that Team A beats Team B at some arcane and generally useless pursuit? Not unless I can be convinced to identify with the good guys, and therefore unite with them against the bad guys. And it’s even better if the stakes look high, even though we know in our heads that they are artificial. The All Blacks beat France in the Rugby World Cup final by a point, because a very wobbly kick at goal went inside the upright and not a metre to the right and therefore outside the upright. Consequently all New Zealand rejoiced, and were saved from despair. The good guys had won. Yet, only a month earlier, the same two teams had met in a not-final, no cup there yet, and a genuinely handsome win was accepted as a mere preliminary. Random, but it fits the mould. Something deep within us recognises the right side, and wants to identify even when we really know it’s artificial.

    So what about the world’s great story? It is that God so loved the world that his Son came to engage the forces of evil and, by meeting them on grounds they failed to comprehend — deliberate and voluntary sacrifice — comprehensively hit them out of the park. Aslan does it in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when his voluntary sacrifice makes death itself “work backwards”. And even if Harry Potter is a lesser variant, he may be close enough for an alert mentor to steer some child’s attention to a view of Jesus that might not have been there before. A long bow? By all means, Paul said, we can win some.

    (Link to the original article)

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