As a Parent

As I read the books aloud with my children, I discovered much of what I discovered as an educator. The books served as a springboard for discussion and sharing. While we read about the story of Harry, we often stopped and began to share about our own experiences. Since my children were in school and close to the age of Harry, they often found opportunities to share with me what they were experiencing in school—and thus I was also able to share my own experiences from when I was in school. In this way, Harry brought us together, and I learned much more about my children’s lives than if I had merely asked them the questions: “How was your day? What did you do?” -- which almost always received (and still does) the responses “Good. Nothing.”

Our discussions often grew to theological discussions about good and evil, God and Satan, and our Christian faith. Harry Potter may be dark at times—but so is life. Together, we faced many of life’s toughest questions and found windows for talking about what we believe as Christians. I talk about many of these discussions and offer resources for parents to facilitate these discussions while reading the Harry Potter books in my book A Parent’s Guide to Harry Potter (InterVarsity Press, 2005).

Now that my children have grown to teenagers, I have found the sharing relationship that we developed while reading Harry Potter has continued. My children have learned that they can share openly with me and trust me to help guide them. Granted—I realize they don’t share everything with me. I am not delusional in believing all is perfect—but I do know that we have a relationship of trust and sharing. And, they have shared much with me that I don’t think they would have shared had we not begun the Harry Potter journey together. Just last night, my son and I discussed the significance of the resurrection stone, how Harry was not meant to be Christ but rather to show our own call to be like Christ, and how the Deathly Hallows might be symbolic of the Trinity.

As a Christian

From book one, I found the themes of the Christian faith. Harry in the battle of good and evil was saved by love -- not magic. This theme continued to intrigue and inspire me. And as this theme continued throughout the series, many also came to find the power of the message. Soon, Harry Potter was not so controversial. Now—that many have finished the series by either reading the last book or watching the second part of the movie—the Christian message might become an even more powerful tool for faith sharing. Thus, the most important phrase of the series, “I Open at the Close” becomes ambiguous. As the series comes to a close, I believe it may “open” eyes and hearts and become even more popular and powerful (as hard as that may be to believe). Much like the Narnia series, I believe that Christians will now begin to see Harry Potter as evangelical tool for sharing about the Christian faith as they realize that Harry Potter was saved by love—and as Christians we believe that God is love. Here are just a few of the themes that might lead to powerful Christian sharing and dialogue and invite Scriptural reflection:

Original Sin

When Voldemort attempted to kill Harry and gain immortal life, he left a scar on Harry’s forehead and unknowingly left part of himself in Harry. This mark might remind us of our own original sin and the ashes that are often put on our foreheads during Lent. It might also cause us to reflect on the Genesis story and the origin of sin and our own constant battle with sin. During the final battle, Harry meets Voldemort in the Forbidden Forest. Might this be symbolic of the Garden of Eden and the forbidden fruit? Might the seven horcruxes represent the seven deadly sins? Or the seven books each reflect one of the seven deadly sins? (See my article “What Harry Learned: The Significance of Seven and the Power of Love”)