Love Wins: A Brief Theology of Harry Potter

August 2, 2011 — Leave a comment

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[In case you were wondering, yes, the title of this post is a bit of strategery]

It’s been just over two weeks now since the last and final Harry Potter film was released. While a more full scale analysis is due, including working through questions regarding the setting of the Potter films (i.e. the witchcraft). As I said in the last Harry Potter post, I owe you a bit more explanation how I came to change my mind about Harry Potter, but I think some elements from the last two films (which if you’re unfamiliar, both come from the 7th book) might make a good case on their own. If you’re interested in literary merits, of the Harry Potter series, read this, but for some thoughts on the theology of the series, keep reading.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows not only ties together several themes that ran through the first six books, but more so than the others is more explicitly theological. The key to understanding the theology of Harry Potter is in chapter 16 of the book, and is the scene in the movie where Harry and Hermoine visit Godric Hollow. Missing from the movie is the Scripture adorning Harry’s parents grave markers, 1 Corinthians 15:26, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” On Dumbledore’s mother and sister’s grave is written Matthew 6:19 “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

In an interview with MTV, J. K. Rowling says that these verses sum up the entire series. Consider how the Deathly Hallows part 1 opens. Harry’s friends take a polyjuice potion in order to morph into likenesses of him so that when they travel to safety it will be hard for Voldemort to determine which Harry is the real Harry. Because of the loving relationships Harry has established with his friends, they are willing to lay down their life for him, and because of that, Harry is able to survive the transport, and ultimately to face Voldemort in an epic showdown.

The antithesis of placing your love in your friends is to place your love in things. This is the path Lord Voldemort takes and loving material things like he does, especially prestigious ones, he literally tears his soul apart so that he can possess them. In the world of Harry Potter, these things are called Horcruxes and Voldemort makes a total of 6 (the 7th being himself) so that he can only die if all the Horcruxes are destroyed. In other words, where his treasure is (in material things) there will his heart be also (literally).

The Deathly Hallows begins with Harry surviving attack once again because his friends, out of love, become Horcruxes for him in order that he might live. The Deathly Hallows ends with the last of Voldemort’s Horcruxes being destroyed. This happens after Harry survives the death curse once again, this time passing beyond death in order to destroy death itself (Voldemort). The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death, and Voldemort, and all his Horcruxes are systematically destroyed. His treasure, and his heart do not survive. Harry on the other hand gets to keep his treasure (his friends) and his heart (his life).

In the books Voldemort is depicted as the archetypical figure incapable of loving of other people. He loves things, and he loves himself. This thread runs through the first six books, by the 7th, it is the unmistakable tapestry hanging from the rafters. But loving things leads to destruction, while loving one another leads to life. This is true in the main plot of Harry’s journey, but also in the subplot of Snape’s journey, which while ending in Snape’s death, helps contribute to Harry’s safety and life. Death is ultimately destroyed by loving self-sacrifice on behalf of another. This is what ultimately undoes death, which is a familiar refrain if you’ve heard the Biblical story. There as well one hears of a story where love wins, and that story provides the blueprint for any stories we might come up with that teach that loving one another is the way to live. So in the end, for all its difference in terms of setting, Harry Potter’s message fits right at home with the message of Scripture: Self sacrificial love wins.

Note: If you’re interested in the connection between Harry’s Horcruxes and Voldemort’s read this article. It’s where I got the idea.

Also, I realize this post might raise questions about what I think about Rob Bell’s book. For that, wait a few weeks.

Nate

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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