In the long shadow cast by the 9/11 attacks in 2001 two movie franchises hit the big screen: Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. They helped us heal and started a sort of cultural revolution. Tolkien found a new audience with the help of Peter Jackson. Rowling made reading cool for kids around the world. Young adult books have been around for many, many years, but Harry Potter pushed the genre into a new stratosphere.
I remember, very clearly, a conversation I had with a coworker about the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings books. In her mind, the wizarding world was bad and Middle Earth was good. Her reasoning rested on the fact that the Hogwart’s students learn how to cast spells. It promoted witchcraft. When I argued that the wizards of Middle Earth used magic she denied it. My chin did drop when she said that. Clearly, she knew of Tokien’s wish that “his literary insights be clearly consistent with Christianity.” ¹ She found the parallels between the Gospels and Tolkien’s work, but hadn’t bother to look for them in Rowling’s.
This debate is old news, so why am I bringing it up now? Because of a news story I read about 15 year old Cassidy Stay who survived a shooting. While her parents and siblings died execution style, “her skull was fractured by a bullet graze.” ² She managed to call 911 and warn the police that her ex uncle-in-law was on his way to kill other family members.
What really struck me about the story was her public statement at a memorial for her family on Saturday (July 12, 2014). “I know that my mom, dad, Brian, Emily, Becca and Zach are in a much better place, and that I will be able to see them again one day,” Cassidy said. This shows me she is a person of faith. So, when she also quotes Dumbledore, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light,” naysayers of the Harry Potter series would do well to stop and take notice.
Rowling herself finally revealed the Christian themes of the Harry Potter series and why she waited until the final book to speak publicly about them. You can read an article about that here. If you want to explore even further, I recommend reading How Harry Cast His Spell by John Granger. Take one minute and ten seconds out of your day and watch the video below of Cassidy Stay’s speech at her family’s memorial.
1. Armstrong, Chris. “Christian History Corner: J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, a Legendary Friendship.” . Christianity Today, 1 Aug. 2003. Web. 13 July 2014. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/augustweb-only/8-25-52.0.html?paging=off.
2. Urbanski, Dave. “Teen Girl Who Survived Shooting That Claimed Her Entire Family Quotes ‘Harry Potter’ Character During Stirring Memorial in Her Hometown.” The Blaze. The Blaze, 12 July 2014. Web. 13 July 2014. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/07/12/teen-girl-who-survived-shooting-that-claimed-her-entire-family-quotes-harry-potter-character-during-stirring-memorial-in-her-hometown/.