This weekend the last of the Harry Potter movies opens in theaters. There is little debate that author J.K. Rowling has captivated a generation with her books about the British wizard and his epic adventures. The attending films have just increased the impact.

One aspect of the Harry Potter phenomenon that has been particularly interesting to me, as an evangelical observer, is the Christian reaction.


In short, it seems that as the movies have gained momentum they have become more acceptable for people within broader evangelicalism. Looking back at the early days, judging from the evangelical reaction, it seemed as though these books and movies were characterized as overtly demonic and expressly anti-God. Now it seems, judging by the chatter, that the series is either accepted or rejected based upon your liking of the genre or the story rather than the supposed spiritual agenda of the author.

I was interested to read Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s column today in the Wall Street Journal. She was observing much of the same development of tolerance within the Christian tent.

She writes:

In its early years, “Harry Potter” was a litmus test of orthodoxy for some conservative Christians, who expressed concern over its portrayal of witchcraft. A Christian lawyer sued a public library for encouraging young readers to check out the series. Texas Pastor John Hagee called the books a “precursor to witchcraft.” In 2005 a Canadian website published a letter opposing the books written by Pope Benedict XVI when he was Cardinal Ratzinger. (In 2009, the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano published a favorable review, seeming to reverse course on the series.)

The hysteria has largely died down, and not many religious leaders asked their flocks to avoid the final movie, which opens today. Potter observers cite a few possible reasons for the waning concern, including a natural desire to move on to other entertainment issues, but also an interest in the themes that unfolded.

Pulliam Bailey also reminds us that Ms Rowling identifies herself as a Christian who was widely influenced by writers such as C.S. Lewis. Rowling even said, “To me, the religious parallels have always been obvious…But I never wanted to talk too openly about it, because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going.”


I am not going to attempt to persuade consciences or preferences on this movie. In fact, I aim to stay neutral in this post. However, it is here that I think it is helpful for Christians to at least think and listen for a moment.

What do we have in the Harry Potter series? We have an enemy who threatens to destroy as he pushes his wicked agenda. We have a hero character who seems unlikely and weak, yet uniquely powerful and driven. He is characterized by self-sacrifice, mission, the honor of his parents, vindication of good, and friendship. He is willing to sacrifice himself for the benefit of others and the defeat of evil. Potter is called the chosen one who fights the evil one and must ultimately defeat death.

If we stop right there we have to say that this sounds very familiar to us as Christians. It sounds a lot like the story-line of the Bible. Of course it is not exact and there are obvious breakdowns here (I would never say that Potter is a type of Christ, rather he is a hero). However, you have to admit that the drama of Harry Potter is at least echoing the drama of the gospel.

According to Pulliam Bailey: Rowling suggested that the two Bible verses found on tombstones in the final book almost epitomized the whole series: “And the last enemy that shall be defeated is death” and “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

This is why I find it so odd that Christians have been so opposed and distant from the cultural phenomenon while non-Christians are so enamored by the story. This cultural fascination with a reflection of the biblical story seems to be a natural springboard for communicating the story of the gospel.

Instead, the world around us has assumed that the Christians are really about speaking out against magic rather than trumpeting the story of the hero par-excellence, Jesus Christ.

The world around is captivated by the story. It seems that more Evangelicals are as well. It seems like a great time to leverage some of the theatrical excitement and showcase the glory of Christ.