Conservative Christian reviews of the new Harry Potter movie are surprisingly positive.
“As ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ opens, we are once again reminded of the characteristics that make him something of a Christ figure,” Connie Neal writes for the evangelical Christianity Today.
“It is more likely that at the end of the viewing or reading, rather than the allure of magic … what remains are the scenes that evoke values such as friendship, altruism, loyalty, and the gift of self,” wrote L’Osservatore, the Vatican‘s semi-official newspaper.
Even Focus on the Family‘s pluggedin finds something redeeming: “Harry, whatever his faults, embraces such unglamorous words as ‘duty,’ ‘responsibility’ and ‘sacrifice.’”
Has Harry or one of his Hogwarts cohorts cast some sort of spell over conservative Christendom?
After all, it was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) who in 2003 warned that Harry Potter books and movies “are subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul, before it can grow properly.”
It was James Dobson of Focus on the Family who in 2007 denounced the series, saying that “given the trend toward witchcraft and New Age ideology in the larger culture, it’s difficult to ignore the effects such stories (albeit imaginary) might have on young, impressionable minds.”
And it was the American Family Association’s Donald Wildmon who described the Harry Potter series as “books that promote witchcraft and wizardry.”
Hardly. In fact, as more conservative Christians seem to be realizing, the “Harry Potter” series actually promotes Christian themes.
In the final book of the series, Harry reads two verses from the New Testament: The first (from I Corinthians 15) on his parents’ tombstone that says, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”; a second (from Matthew 6) on another tombstone that reads, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
“Those two particular quotations he finds on the tombstones at Godric’s Hollow, they sum up — they almost epitomize the whole series,” author and Christian J.K. Rowling told MTV in 2007.
In a Today Show interview with Katie Couric back in 2000, Rowling had this response to critics who ascribe evil motives to her and her fictional characters: “A very famous writer once said: ‘A book is like a mirror. If a fool looks in, you can’t expect a genius to look out.’ People tend to find in books what they want to find, and I think my books are very moral.”
Maybe Harry Potter books are like the Mirror of Erised, a mystical mirror discovered by Harry in “Philosopher’s Stone.” On it is inscribed: erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi — which, when reversed and correctly spaced, reads “I show not your face but your heart’s desire.”