Potterphernalia

It's been several weeks now, and I still haven't written anything, here, in private discussion forums, or anywhere else, on THE key question (for me, the theologian, at least) about the last installment of the Harry Potter series:

Just how Christian is the Harry Potter finale?

And I'm still not going to do that now. At least, not in depth. I have the bare bones of an essay called "Harry Potter and the Under-realized Eschatology" floating around in my head. If it ever gets written at all, you will see it here first. But I can't spare the time to give it the treatment it deserves just yet, so I'm just going to lay claim to the title for now and roll out some of my favorite links to theologically-informed discussion of the book.

My inchoate essay is not essentially a response to Josh Moody's bit at CT, but I can use his response to the book as a foil for my basic idea: Moody has a point that The Deathly Hallows offers a "less-than-[thoroughly]-Christian" vision of death and transcendence, but it is not for that reason "essentially pagan." Limitations inherent both in popular Christian imagination about death and in the logic of imaginative world in which the story is set prevent the story from articulating a fully Christian eschatology. Nevertheless, the story is "essentially Christian" at its core and offers "whispers of Christ" that point toward the story that can offer the explanation and fulfillment of the inscription on James & Lily Potter's tombstone.

On a side note: I consider it a particularly poor choice of words on Moody's part to label the worldview of the Potterverse essentially pagan, given the rancor in evangelical/fundamentalist circles over the past decade or so over whether the Potter books endorse or promote real witchcraft. Moody is not using the word pagan in its contemporary religious sense to refer to a movement of post-Christian primitivist beliefs and practices including Wicca, but in an Enlightenment-era philosophical/theological sense to mean simply non- or sub-Christian. This might contribute to a misreading of his critique as well as his endorsement of Christians reading and learning from the series.

You only have to spend a few minutes on a mainstream adult discussion board of HP to discover that there are folks who find the very idea that HP is a kind of "Christian literature" highly offensive. These readers are generally huge fans of Harry and not at all fans of the church. Dave Bruno has written an excellent response to this reaction.

When Alan Jacob's review of book seven is published, it will be here. But B&C has not caved to the 24/7 news cycle, so we may have to wait a while. In the meantime, some of his initial thoughts, which really have very little to do with the question at hand but are still worth reading, are here.

I find it particularly interesting that Jeffrey Wiess of the Dallas Morning News went from describing books 1-6 as painting a remarkably areligious world to concluding that, once you take book 7 into account, HP is at least as Christian as Narnia(!).

Wiess also drew my attention to an intriguing snippet from JKR's Dateline interview. Before book 7 came out, I was mulling on the twin themes of truth and trust in the HP stories. These matters are writ large in the plot of Deathly Hallows. It makes for illuminating reading to consider these in light of Rowling's professed "struggle ... to keep believing."

Okay. That's enough links for now. Since your time is at least as precious as mine, I recommend that you don't go peruse the top three blogs that I've found for ongoing discussion of HP and theology. If you do follow these links, don't say I didn't warn you.

And now for something completely different...

Peter's Evil Overlord list is fun to read and laugh at the ways Lord Voldemort (and every other evil "genius" you've ever met) fails to observe basic rationality. Although I must say that when Voldy attempted the wizarding equivalent of point five, it didn't work out too well for him, did it?

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