De-Theologizing Harry (or, The Death of the Death of Death)

On Thursday night, I had the privilege of seeing the final Harry Potter movie in the city where the books were conceived and written, so I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on how faithfully this last crucial film reflected the rich theology of J.K. Rowling’s creation.  I should mention that I was, until the very last book, something of a Potter skeptic, unconvinced that the books were anything more than a fun and overhyped story.  But in the final chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I was bowled over by the overt and profound Christological elements, which were so prominent that it seemed impossible that they could be integrated without overwhelming the story and turning it into a sermon.  That they did not do so is a remarkable tribute to Rowling’s literary prowess.  Following the logic of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, the final book revealed that the magical world of wonder that Harry inhabited was not all there was–there was a deeper magic, which overturned all the calculations of the magical world. 

But the question was, could Hollywood grasp this deep magic?  It had failed abysmally in the recent Narnia adaptations, sucking all traces of theology out with startling efficiency.  The less overt theology of Lord of the Rigns had escaped somewhat more intact, though still crucially undermined at points.  Whether intentionally or simply out of blindness, Hollywood shows itself remarkably adept at de-theologizing stories, and converting them, so far as possible, into some kind of feel-good humanism.  I had a suspicion, especially after Deathly Hallows Part One, that this supremely theological tale would be no exception.  Alas, I guessed rightly. (WARNING: Spoilers ahead!)

Now don’t get me wrong.  From a strictly cinematic standpoint, and indeed from the standpoint of fidelity to the book, this film was, to my mind, all that could be wished for through its first 100 minutes or so.  Even after that, I think it would be quite a decent film to anyone who hadn’t read the book.  But these last 20 minutes, encompassing the part after Harry dies and Rowling cranks up the theology into high gear, subtly but systematically removed four key elements of these final chapters, which I shall call “The Death of Death,” “The Life of the Age to Come,” “The Atonement,” “The Last Judgment.”  Note that not everything I sketch here is explicit in the book, and indeed, Rowling seeks to explain each of these phenomena in terms that make sense within the world of the book–this is literature, not a sermon, or even an allegory.  However, I am fairly sure that I am reading each of these out of the book, not into it.

 

The Death of Death

What is it that happens when Harry gives himself up to death, and why is he able to come back from the dead?  Well, in answer to the first question, we could certainly say that the Horcrux that is within Harry is destroyed; Voldemort is rendered vulnerable.  This alone is rich with theological significance.  Harry destroys the power of sin and death by bearing it within himself, and letting it die with him, just as Christ identifies himself with sin and fallenness, bearing it to the cross (does anyone think it’s a coincidence that Harry finds himself at “King’s Cross” at his death?) where it can be destroyed by dying with him.  But if that were all, there would be no reason why Harry would have to knowingly and willingly give himself up; as long as Voldemort killed Harry in battle, one way or another, the Horcrux destruction would be accomplished.  And yet great stress is laid in the book on the necessity that Harry voluntarily take this death upon himself.  He must give himself up to death.  Nor, if it were merely about destroying the Horcrux, would there be any reason he should come back from the dead, just as, from the standpoint of Christian theology, if redemption was merely the expiation of sin at the cross, it’s hard to see what significance the resurrection has.  

To fully grasp what’s going on at this point in the book, we have to think of the significance of the Deathly Hallows, which are after all what the book is all about.  The theme of the book is established many chapters earlier, at Godric’s Hollow, with the twin New Testament passages, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” and “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Harry wants to destroy the power of death, to become the master of death, but the way in which he does so is crucial.  It matters where his treasure is, what it is that he truly values.  If he wants to overcome death for himself, to set himself up as its master, then he will be little better than Voldemort.  This is the symbolism of the choice between Hallows and Horcruxes, which is built up throughout the earlier chapters of the book and comes to a razor-sharp point at Shell Cottage.  Harry recognizes that he must choose between pursuing the Hallows, overcoming the power of death by taking to himself more power than death, or by embracing the route of powerlessness, the long hard path of destroying the Horcruxes, which means eventually giving himself up to death on behalf of others.  (This fascinating dialectic is almost completely left out in the film The Deathly Hallows Part One, and so its resonances are absent at the crucial moment in Part Two, and the extensive conversation on this point between Harry and Dumbledore at King’s Cross is omitted.)

Harry is to become the master of death, but master not by setting himself over it but by putting himself under it.  Death exhausts its force by being poured out on him, the one who willingly seeks it for himself to save others.  Love is stronger than death.  “But I should have died–I didn’t defend myself!  I meant to let him kill me!” Harry exclaims. “And that,” Dumbledore replies, “will, I think, have made all the difference.”  This enigmatic comment is left unexplained, but for the reader looking for an explanation within the existing logic of the books, Harry’s cheating of death is explained in terms of the power of Harry’s blood, itself clearly rich with theological overtones.  The power of love in his mother’s sacrifice is in his blood, and although Voldemort took Harry’s blood to weaken Harry and strengthen himself, in this blood is the power of life that makes it impossible for Voldemort to finally kill Harry. 

In short, in Harry’s death, we witness the death of death in his own death.  Like Christ, “death has no more dominion over him.”  What this means is more than just the destruction of another Horcrux; Harry has not just struck one more blow, but in fact the decisive blow.  But to bring this decisive blow to completion, Harry must be resurrected.  Death must be publicly exhibited as overthrown, its powerlessness before the power of love must be displayed and enacted, Harry must tread the powers of evil underfoot, must reverse the sentence of death that Voldemort has enacted on him by returning it upon Voldemort.  And this resurrection must be no mere “rescuscitation,” it must be the return to life of someone over whom death no longer has hold (more on this in the next section).

All of this, I think, is clear enough in the book, although generally hinted at rather than openly set forth.

In the film?  Nope.  In the film, the conversation between Dumbledore and Harry is abbreviated so as to omit any sustained reflection on the significance of what has happened, and Harry simply asks, more or less, “So, can I go back?”  To which Dumbledore replies, more or less, “Well, if you want to.”  Why should he be able to go back?  On what basis?  Can the story just conveniently break the rules of its own world whenever it wants to?  No, as in Narnia, what we have here is not the normal rules of magic, but a deeper magic at work.  Thus far, the departure in the film is primarily one of omission, not commission, but the ramifications are still significant.  The following features will show, I think, that I am not reading too much into this omission.  

 

The Life of the Age to Come

When Harry comes back to life, it is not merely a reversal, a resuscitation.  He comes back as one who has passed through death and come out on the other side.  Now, clearly Rowling does not make too much of this.  This is a story, not a sermon, and Harry is, for purposes of the story, just a regular old human being, not the God-man.  He will go on to live a normal life, and presumably to grow old and eventually die again.  Nonetheless, the sense that “death has no dominion over him” anymore is conveyed in several ways.  

After he comes back, Voldemort, thinking him dead, triumphs over his body by casting the Cruciatus Curse, which ought to inflict unspeakable pain on any living thing.  However, Harry is impervious, he feels no pain.  Voldemort’s magic can no longer affect him.  For this reason, Harry can now face Voldemort without fear.  It is not as if he has now merely nullified Voldemort’s advantage and now comes back to fight him on equal terms.  The terms are completely unequal.  Voldemort has no chance, and Harry knows it.  The game is up.  “You must believe that you have magic that I do not, or else a weapon more powerful than mine,” says Voldemort.  Harry replies, “I believe both.”  Nor does Harry even have to cast a killing curse–Voldemort’s simply rebounds upon himself and he is destroyed. In the book, this is explained primarily in terms of the logic of the Elder Wand, and its change of allegiance.  The Elder Wand, the greatest of the Deathly Hallows, represents the power of mastery over death, the power that Harry has refused to try and seize.  And nonetheless, it has been granted him, in a roundabout fashion, ultimately because of Dumbledore’s self-sacrificial renunciation of it.  But in any case, the upshot is that Harry now, having given himself up to death, has been vindicated as the true master of death, against whom Voldemort has no power.  

Contrast this to the movie.  Here, there is no hint that we have anything but a rescuscitation, an unexplained but convenient mechanism for Harry to return to fight another day, so that Round Two can commence, and the special effects guys can go crazy for another battle scene.  The battle that commences is not one that, as in the book, is essentially futile from the start (for Voldemort), but one in which Voldemort still seems to have the upper hand.  Harry is running and dodging, the snake is striking at people (instead of being decapitated right at the beginning of the sequence), and nothing really seems to have changed.  Voldemort and Harry grapple together, and when their wands finally do meet, it takes some time before Harry can overpower and thus destroy Voldemort.  Instead, in short, of a narrative in which the decisive victory has already been achieved by the renunciation of force, Harry triumphs, it seems, by superior force in a final closely contested showdown.

It’s also worth noting one little sequence in the movie that runs quite counter to the theo-logic I’ve sketched here. Voldemort comes into the castle courtyard with Harry’s body, exulting over his triumph, and Neville steps forward to challenge him.  Neville tells Voldemort that Harry hasn’t really died, because he lives in each of them, in their hearts.  He is still with them in spirit, and so it really makes no difference.  They will still fight.  Now, to be sure, in the book, the defenders of the castle are still defiant, but they are utterly downcast.  They may not want to submit, but it is clear that Harry’s death does make a difference.  Harry being truly alive and Harry being “alive in their hearts” are not the same thing, just as, contra modern liberal Christianity, Christ being resurrected and him living on in the disciples’ hearts are not the same thing.  As Paul says in Corinthians, “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

 

The Atonement

One of the most beautiful parts in the book is the revelation that just as the death of Harry’s mother protected him, so Harry’s giving himself up to death on behalf of his friends means that they are covered by his death, they are, as it were, atoned for.  The sentence of death was on each of them, unless Harry went to die himself.  He does so, and the power of evil and death no longer has any hold on them either.

“‘You won’t be killing anyone else tonight,’ said Harry as they circled, and stared into each other’s eyes, green into red.  ‘You won’t be able to kill any of them, ever again.  Don’t you get it?  I was ready to die to stop you hurting these people. –‘ 

‘But you did not!’ 

‘–I meant to, and that’s what did it.  I’ve done what my mother did.  They’re protected from you.  Haven’t you noticed how none of the spells you put on them are binding?  You can’t torture them.  You can’t touch them.'” 

This is one of the most overtly Christian ideas in the book, and is entirely omitted in the movie.  There is no sense that Voldemort no longer has power against Harry’s friends.  Quite the contrary–he is still a terrifying force, striking at will, with, it appears, a very real chance of triumphing.  

 

The Last Judgment

Finally, we come to the only change from the book that has been significantly remarked upon, because this one is too obvious to miss.  In the book, Harry faces down Voldemort in the Great Hall, in the presence of all.  Everyone falls silent and stops their fighting and watches the final encounter.  And instead of simply going for each other, Harry and Voldemort have a conversation.  Only at the end, when Harry has laid everything bare, does he engage and destroy Voldemort.  In the movie, the final showdown occurs alone, in a courtyard, with no one watching or listening, and only a minimum of conversation.  

Is there any significance to this?  I think there is.  

For what we have at the end is not so much a battle as a judgment.  As I have said, Harry has for all practical purposes already triumphed.  He has passed through death, he has overpowered death, he is the lord of the Elder Wand.  What remains is simply for him to exhibit this triumph.  All of this, I think, is theologically significant.  At the end of the age, Christ will not simply snap his fingers and wipe out evil, and everyone will live happily ever after.  No, he will be publicly vindicated, as will all his saints.  All evil deeds will be brought to light and laid bare, and the righteous will shine for all to see.  The lies of ages will be unravelled, and the truth will finally be spoken for all to hear.  The spell of deception which the Evil One has laid upon the world will be broken.  The wicked will be given one final chance to repent (or not, depending on your precise theology).  Christ will be publicly proclaimed as the true Lord of Ages, and he will name the Evil One for who he really is.  In short, just judgment will at last be given.  

All of this happens in that final showdown in the book.  It is crucial that Harry be publicly vindicated as the righteous one, the one who gave himself up to save the world, and that Voldemort be named for who he is–Tom Riddle, a coward.  The truth will finally be told about Dumbledore and about Severus Snape–the righteous will be vindicated, and Voldemort’s lies about them finally unraveled.  Harry will warn Voldemort of the terrible end that awaits him, and summon him to a last repentance, but in vain.  Voldemort’s claims to supremacy will be shown to be empty, and Harry revealed as the true lord of the Elder Wand. 

Although I doubt the filmmakers had any idea what they were doing when they altered this showdown, I think they were instinctively flinching from the intolerably eschatological nature of it all.  For the modern, the battle against evil, insomuch as there is one, is one that we each have to fight within ourselves, is one in which we are each alone and each victory is ours alone.  The idea of a final public confrontation, a judgment in which the nature of evil is laid bare for all to see, is foreign and unacceptable.  Nor can the modern handle the revelation of true lordship.  We saw this in Lord of the Rings and Narnia movies, in the watering down of the idea of kingship.  So it is here.  Harry’s supposed to be someone with whom we can all identify, and in the very last scene, he appears just a little too lordly.  Suddenly he is revealed as the guy who holds all the cards, so to speak, who suddenly has access to all kinds of truths that we as readers are still trying to figure out.  No doubt the filmmakers felt that audiences really wouldn’t be able to relate to such a transfigured Harry, and so the final confrontation must be no more than a last personal showdown between Harry and his nemesis.

 

As for the other changes, I can only speculate whether the filmmakers were intentionally de-theologizing or whether they really just didn’t get it.  Sadly, based upon the way in which reviewers have reacted to the film and endorsed the ending, I’m afraid it’s the latter.  Perhaps this is, if anything, more disturbing–to live in a society which is no longer reacting against or fleeing from God, but has just forgotten how to even recognize Him


24 thoughts on “De-Theologizing Harry (or, The Death of the Death of Death)

  1. This is all very fascinating. I read the first few chapters of the first Harry Potter book and found it both wanting and uninteresting. But that showdown sounds interesting. It seems as if Rowling finally figured out where she was going by the time she got to the middle of the series somewhere and sent it in the direction you outline above. Would that be a correct assumption based on your reading of the entire series?

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  2. Brad,I walked the same road as you, I think. Reading the books and watching the films in tandem I found it to be an engaging and entertaining story, but without a lot of thoughtful themes beyond "the power of love." Then came The Deathly Hallows, and I was amazed at how richly theological and, yes, Christian the conclusion is — and, by reflection, shows the overall story of the series to be.I have to be honest: I had such faith in David Yates and the screenwriter and producers, and their use of Rowling as a close consultant, that I read your Facebook status update on Friday and decided you had to be wrong. Maybe crazy. Then I saw the movie on Saturday and talked it up with my wife over dinner, and I agree (cheering!) with every word you've written here. You nailed every issue I have with the film's conclusion.I suspect that the screenwriter and director and producers looked at that final showdown in the Great Hall and decided it was too "talky" for the climactic moment of a 10-year, multi-billion dollar film franchise. Moviegoers want to see Harry, who has gone from small boy to powerful wizard, kick Voldemort's ass. But you're right — this loses everything of the heart and intellect of Rowling's climax. After the snake is killed and Harry reveals himself as alive again, the tide of the battle is decisively turned. Voldemort has lost already; the point of the final confrontation with Harry is that he learns that he's already lost, to this boy, that because of the love of Lily for Harry, of Dumbledore, of Harry for his friends, even of Snape for Lily, Voldemort himself is the one who "really doesn't stand a chance." Evil isn't conquered in a showdown; it runs itself out, breaking on the rocks of self-sacrificial love.It's still a terrific movie and a satisfying conclusion, all things considered. I understand the challenges of adaption for the medium of film, balancing exposition and action (or, more fairly, plot movement). But the film adaptations have been so good over the years that the books and the movies stood on an even level, for me — different mediums, equally good storytelling. With these final 20 minutes or so of The Deathly Hallows, the books now stand head-and-shoulders above the films. There's just so much more in there, and as great as the movies have been they — and especially this last one — stand as a shadow cast by a great work of fantasy literature.Thanks for a terrific and thoughtful write-up.

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  3. Kate

    Thanks Brad – this was really good and captured what bothered me most about that final battle, which wasn't supposed to be a battle at all. You should go see Tree of Life now, for a theology fix. 🙂

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  4. Kent Will

    That was good stuff, Brad. Nice writeup.Do you know anything about Rowling herself? Nothing I've heard about her (which is minimal to be sure) suggests she would possess this kind of theological sophistication. But when you explain it that way, it's hard to ignore.

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  5. Peter Rapp

    Great thoughts Brad. I think the Christ parallels are definitely in the book, and many of them were unfortunately removed in this film. I was especially uncomfortable with one scene in particular. Harry and Voldemort are at the top of Hogwarts, and then Harry says, "Let's finish this", and they start flying all around the castle. For a very brief moment, their faces merge into something that looks like a sinister court jester, and they crash into the ground. This was disturbing for me because I felt like it was suggesting a secret oneness between Harry and Voldemort, like a Yin-Yang-good-and-evil-are-inseparable. Maybe that's reading too much into it, but it almost felt like Yates et al. were trying to rationalize the climax by appealing to… bad philosophy.

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  6. Brad Littlejohn

    Truzzi (is this your e-pen name? I like it!)–well, I don't know much about the inner working of Rowling's development of the series. The fandom that inquired into such things and knew all the details was so fanatical that I steered clear. My sisters would probably know more about that, though. One thing I did hear (though I never verified it) was that she wrote the final chapter(s) at the very beginning of her writing process, so she knew exactly where it was headed all along. Certainly, my impression on reading back through the series was that a great deal of the threads of the story seemed to be guided by a master plan that was weaving them together all along, and a lot of them start to make a lot more sense in that light. Of course, I do think that there are inconsistencies, and that the story developed more focus and rigorous coherence as it went along, so that there are some things earlier on that don't make too much sense in light of the fully-developed story. But those are the exception, rather than the rule. Also, I think her writing certainly does mature, and that's part of what you're picking up on, probably. However, I've always felt that she intentionally evolved the feel and style of the books in line with the maturation of the characters. Sorcerer's Stone is written to young teenagers, and in the way an 11-year-old would see the world. It's a lot more innocent and simplistic. As the books go on, the sophistication of the narrative grows as the characters and the audience ages. So there's a lot more just wide-eyed wonder at the magical world in the beginning, whereas by the end everything's very tightly focused.On a related point, Kent–well, again, I don't know the details. I know that Rowling is self-consciously Christian, and that she said in an interview that her faith deeply shaped the story, particularly the ending. And she's clearly extremely clever. I remember back when only the first three books were out, some guy wrote an article called "The Hidden Key" arguing for all kinds of Christian themes underlying the Harry Potter books, especially the second. I didn't buy it at the time, but he seems to have been on to something. Add all that together and I wouldn't be surprised if all of the stuff I describe here was intended–but I expect that some of the details were not (e.g., the "Last Judgment" stuff). If the Christian story is the paradigm of all stories, we shouldn't be surprised when we unwittingly imitate it. Kate–thanks. I've been dying to see Tree of Life, but it's only just come out here. We're going this week.

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  7. Brad Littlejohn

    Darren–Thanks for the affirmation. Glad to hear you felt much the same. However, to be honest, unlike you I've been fairly underwhelmed with the movies all along. Not that I don't respect the immense accomplishment. To adapt such a long series, using actors cast when they were only ten years old, for books that were still being written, and that had a fanatically zealous and nitpicky following–it was crazy to even attempt it, and remarkable that they pulled it off on the whole. I salute them for that, to be sure. But "really good considering the obstacles" isn't the same as "really good." Up until the two parts of Deathly Hallows, the films have seemed to be too clunky, jerky and episodic, the result of having to cut out way too much of the connecting material and abbreviate too many scenes, no doubt, in adapting a story that was somewhat episodic already. This was particularly so, I thought, with films 1 and 2, and film 5–which I consider to have been the worst of the lot (though in fairness, my perception may be colored by the fact that the projector broke in the cinema at the climactic scene when we were watching it). Film 3 I recall just being a bit weird (though I only saw it once). 4 and 6 were definitely solid and packed lots of emotional punch, and these last two have been excellent, aside from missing these crucial extra layers of meaning. But perhaps I'm asking too much. Really, there's only two screen adaptations of literature that I consider nearly on a par with the original works–Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet and the 1981 Brideshead Revisited. And the lesson of those adaptations is that, to do the job right, you have to be willing to include every line and every scene (and therefore not make much money). Obviously not an option with this series, so maybe I should be satisfied with what we got. Peter–interesting observation. I hadn't really thought about that, but there may be something to it. Certainly, the theme of Voldemort and Harry's fates being intertwined, and them sorta living within one another, could be taken in a dualistic, yin-yang direction. Rowling is careful not to, but the film, again as much by omission as commission, is perhaps not.

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  8. Bradley

    Really, there's only two screen adaptations of literature that I consider nearly on a par with the original works–Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet and the 1981 Brideshead Revisited.

    Agreed, although Hamlet doesn't really count as an adaptation since it's a performance of something that was intended to be performed. 🙂 Might we add the BBC Pride and Prejudice to the list as well?

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  9. Jim

    Hey Brad, Great post. Just wondering though, the Deathly Hallows (book) is almost Rowling saying in a more explicit way 'the story of Harry Potter is a re-telling of the Christ story'. How so many millions have missed this is beyond me, but I find it surprising that someone with seemingly such theological knowledge could miss this in every one of the previous books!The books are formulaic in a narrative sense, but also in a symbolic/theological sense. Every story ends with Harry under going s symbolic death (ie. a journey to the underworld/otherworld) and rising again to a renewed life. Each book retells the Christ story, in a slightly different way. Harry is the 'everyman' hero, discovering the Christ life within him as his adventures proceed. This is the simplest and richest theology, how can you have missed it until the 7th book??! We are all conduits for the Christ, if only we would understand that for this life to be a reality in us – like Harry we must accept the death of the old self.

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  10. Great read; referred by a friend.I suspect your latter conclusion; they just didn't get it is primarily the problem – perhaps more precisely they didn't want to get it. The metanarrative of judgment just doesn't fit well with movie cliche feel-goodism.Having NOT read the books I understand now that there are tremendous theological themes – more than I thought – and while the movies were good – the original writing was great.

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  11. Kate

    @Jim: You wrote, "The Deathly Hallows (book) is almost Rowling saying in a more explicit way 'the story of Harry Potter is a re-telling of the Christ story'. How so many millions have missed this is beyond me."To which I would add, how so many Christians still think these books are ANTI-Christian is beyond me. Perhaps they haven't read the books. 🙂

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  12. Brad, a former pastor of ours in Amman, Jordan, linked this on facebook. I hope you don't mind if I copy and paste the whole thing for my blog readers.I studied Wicca before becoming a Christian, and saw nothing satanic in the HP books. They got darker, yes, but imho there was more spiritual danger in me-centered materialism than HP We in Jordan are waiting for HP7 due to Customs delaying it's import wanting to raise fees for films. After reading this (except for the spoilers), I really can't wait. Thanks so much for the time you put into it, God bless you!

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  13. K. Coleman

    Great summary of the Christological themes in the book. I think this is one of the best arguments against those who say that Christians shouldn't read them. Thanks for sharing!

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  14. Brad Littlejohn

    Bradley,True, Hamlet really shouldn't count. But sure, I'll add Pride and Prejudice to the list. Only saw it once, though…I'll have to go remedy that.Jim,I think you're definitely right, but until the seventh book, I didn't pay much attention to these less fully-developed Christian themes in the earlier books. I just figured that they were accidental, due to the fact that the Christian story and its imagery are deeply embedded in our cultural consciousness, and so it's hard for an author to avoid echoing it. Satan figures, evil serpents, death-and-resurrections, self-sacrificial love are all easy enough to come by, without the author necessarily intending something explicitly Christian. But in light of the ending, all of these definitely do take on a deeper significance.Kate,Haven't you heard? Dumbledore is gay! So of course the books must be anti-Christian! :-pKinzi,Wow, the power of Facebook. Never thought this blog would be read in Amman, Jordan. Sure, feel free to share it.

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  15. Thanks Brad, this is at once the most theologically sensitive reading of the books and most insightful critique of the final film that I've read (haven't seen the final film yet, but nothing here I hadn't already heard from a plot spoiler point of view). Since I spent a year writing about HP and Narnia (when there were only four HP books out), I'm delighted you've taken the time to put this together.

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  16. Brad Littlejohn

    Kate, you were right about Tree of Life. Anyone reading this thread–go see that movie!Again, though, I am shocked by the film industry's blindness to Christian themes–in none of the half-dozen or so reviews I read or listened to about that film did I hear a film critic once mention the very explicit wrestling with Christian ideas that characterized that film. It's like they've sworn some pact to be functional atheists.

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  17. "Harry being truly alive and Harry being "alive in their hearts" are not the same thing, just as, contra modern liberal Christianity, Christ being resurrected and him living on in the disciples' hearts are not the same thing. "I loved this article and have subscribed to the blog but this quote summed up my disappointment with the final scene. Thanks for writing!

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  18. Holy cow! You totally explained my disappointment in the ending of the movie! I wonder if I had read the books yet, if I would have figured that out for myself. Even with only having the movies themselves to go by, the "triumph" at the end felt kind of flat. I've gotta go amend my review to point to this article. Great job!

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  19. We've lived and breathed HP over the last few years as a family (especially Stephen Fry reading the books not the USA version!) – and what you write here is compelling and persuasive, thanks. I hope it's ok to link to your post on my blog.

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  20. Brad, the fellow you mention who wrote the Hidden Key is John Granger, an EO writer, and yes, he was definitely onto something. He's now the premier Potter scholar in the world and has something like seven books to his name. He reaches occasionally, but is generally a reliable guide to all things Potter. He argues in one of his books that the Potter series is built around the Church Year (which shouldn't surprise us, as Rowling attends a Church of Scotland parish), and, like Tolkien, the major plot elements are built on or around Church Holy Days (Frodo's company departing Rivendell on Dec. 25th, etc.). Granger argues that each book is a journey from death to life, and in Hallows the three major turning points come on Christmas (Godric's Hollow), Theophany (The Silver Doe/Finding the Sword), and Calvary/Easter (his death, resurrection and destruction of Voldemort).

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