Harry Potter Apologist (Part 2: Love, not Magic)

Rather than accusing Rowling of occultism, I’m surprised the Christian world hasn’t attacked her for being too secular.

The only spirits that make any mention in the books at all are the ghosts who haunt the school, and no one acquires any power from them, worships them, or gets anything out of them besides, occasionally, information. They are drawn, rather, as echoes of rather sad people, who were not brave enough to risk the transition to the afterlife (which is acknowledged but drawn in very generic terms). Most of them are comical. They have virtually no influence on the living world one way or another.

So Ms. Rowling’s world is not drawn as a world where invisible beings influence the earth for good or evil, as both Christians and many occultists believe. Her world is, however, deeply moral.

Ms. Rowling’s wickedly adept pen satirizes our Western acquisitiveness and materialism, attacks middle class lack of imagination and preoccupation with status, pokes fun at our obsession with celebrity, critiques our entrenched classism, takes down sensational journalism that goes for ratings at the expense of truth, and shows little mercy for bureaucrats who care more about covering their tails than serving their constituents. Her arch-villain seeks power and security above all else, uses and disposes of his followers, and often acts alone. Her heroes value loyalty, family, friendship, community, courage, diligence, and honesty.

The characters never call on a Higher Power, nor is a Devil ever acknowledged in Ms. Rowling’s books, except for those who make themselves into devils through their narcissistic choices. Using magic in Rowling’s world is not a matter of believing or not believing in a Higher Power, or paying deference to a lesser power. There is no mention of prayer, ritual, or sacrifice in any religious sense at all.It is this seeming total independence from the spirit world that makes the Harry Potter books probably more secular humanist than anything else.

Even so, the choices and sacrifices made by Ms. Rowling’s heroic characters share much with Christian values. Friends sacrifice comfort for one another. Professionals sacrifice their careers for the truth. Ordinary citizens sacrifice safety for freedom.  Activists sacrifice reputation for justice. Others suffer on behalf of the poor and oppressed. Friends and family lay down their lives for one another.

Didn’t Jesus have something to say about that?

Finally, Rowling takes great pains (GREAT pains) to make clear in the books that even with all the magical whiz-bang fireworks going on, the greatest, deepest, and always victorious magic is – (drum roll please….) – love.

Love.

Yes, in the Harry Potter books, at the end of book 7, Love (not magical talent) wins. Resoundingly. Nothing replaces the power of love in the HP universe. Love is affirmed as the greatest power of all.

So no one prays.

But the protagonists truly love one another and live for others rather than themselves.

I can think of worse things for children to read.

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