Note: This is not a review but a movie evaluation of characters, action, and themes from a Christian standpoint, and touches on some themes from the book as well, especially those left out of the movie.
The themes from part one of this movie continue violence, a plethora of casting of spells, many people dying, and a very dark, somber atmosphere. Harry, Hermione, and Ron are searching for Horcruxes, objects which contain pieces of Lord Voldemort’s soul. Voldemort put parts of his soul into objects to safeguard his life, since these Horcruxes must be destroyed in order to weaken Voldemort enough to kill him.
Naturally, since Harry is a sorcerer who has honed his abilities over the years at the school for wizards (sorcerers), Hogwarts, it is impossible to get away from the occult arts. There is much spell casting in the movie; most of the encounters of Harry, his friends, and the “good” people with the evil Lord Voldemort and his followers involve using wands and spells.
Early on, a goblin reminds Harry that a “wand chooses its master.” This has also been said in earlier books and movies. The idea that a wand chooses its master is an occult view as well as a belief in some areas of the New Age that objects have certain inherent energies or powers that will draw a person to that object. In the occult, objects can allegedly be infused with power through rituals and incantations.
In the New Age, it is believed that one can impart one’s energy into a crystal through meditation and visualization. This makes the crystal one’s own, and supposedly the crystal will then have a special tie with the person, protecting and/or enhancing its owner’s health, mind, or spirituality (depending on the type of crystal). The writer of this article did this very thing with a crystal given to her when she was in the New Age. She was advised on the steps and told that doing these steps would align the crystal with her vibrations.
Believing that there is an energy or power that can draw objects and people together is a central idea common to both the occult and the New Age.
When Harry wants to know about a diadem (a crown), his friend Luna tells him that it is so old that no one alive has seen it, so they must talk to “someone who is dead.” Harry then converses with the Gray Lady, the spirit of a dead woman (Helena Ravenclaw) who roams Hogwarts. She doesn’t really give much of an answer, so this part seems unnecessary.
In the book but absent from the movie is the tale of Dumbledore’s sister, Ariana, who died tragically because her magic became too powerful for her. A picture of Ariana is shown in the film but her story is not told. In the book, Dumbledore’s brother, Aberforth, explains to Harry that Ariana became “unbalanced” because her “Magic . . . turned inward and drove her mad, it exploded out of her when she couldn’t control it” (p. 564). Moreover, her actions caused her mother’s death (p. 565). Maybe this was too grim for the movie? This is one reason that nobody can truly judge the Harry Potter books just by viewing the movies.
The Yin and Yang of Harry
Harry discovers he himself is a Horcrux (by “reading” memories of various people in an object called the pensieve (like “pensive,” get it?). When Voldemort tried to kill Harry as a baby, Harry’s mother stood between them and the spell hit her and rebounded on Voldemort. In defense, part of Voldemort’s soul went into the only live creature, which was Harry (though Voldemort remained unaware of this). This is why Harry can talk with snakes, like Voldemort, and why he has a psychic connection with Voldemort, able to see and hear him at certain times.
Dumbledore (now deceased) had explained earlier to Snape that Voldemort could never be defeated unless Harry himself is killed since Harry is a Horcrux. All along it seems, Dumbledore knew this but never told Harry. It lends some credence to the words spoken earlier by Dumbledoreâ€™s brother Aberforth, that Harry was being used as a pawn.
This bond between Voldemort and Harry makes Harry and Voldemort sort of a yin and yang. Yin and Yang, the two complementary forces of the universe from the Tao, are considered to be part of each other and they intermingle. Harry has had part of Voldemort in him all along.
To solve this dilemma about killing Harry without Harry truly dying and staying dead, the author has Harry killed later by a death curse from Voldemort, but Harry is able to come back because he has a resurrection stone.
Violence and Death
Before Harry is killed, he meets up with his dead parents and Lord Sirius in the woods. They assure him they are with him. Harry asks Sirius if it hurts to die, and Sirius tells him that it’s “faster than falling asleep.” Other death-friendly remarks in the book are not given in the film.
When Harry is killed by a spell from Voldemort, he finds himself in a place with a white light talking briefly with the dead Dumbledore. In the movie, this seems to be almost a fantasy, but in the book, it is very real because Dumbledore gives him information that Harry later discovers is true.
Harry later revives and there is intense fighting between the two sides using wands and spells. It is very violent with many deaths.
Now that Harry has been officially killed as a Horcrux, and “resurrected,” he no longer needs to die since he is no longer a Horcrux (the other remaining Horcrux, Voldemort’s serpent, is killed by Harry’s friend, Neville Longbottom). There is a dueling wands scene between Harry and Voldemort, and Harry quickly vanquishes his enemy.
Character Versus Magic
It seems that Harry and his friends get things done largely through their magic. They control people with spells when necessary (as they do with a goblin to get into the bank), they fight with spells, they use spells to discover things, etc.
Despite the idea that one must work hard to master spell casting, it seems a lot easier, once you know how, to get things done with this power than to work at things using brains, or to endure things using and building character.
Harry does act commendably when he refuses to leave Draco Malfoy, a follower of Lord Voldemort, in a burning room to die. He rescues Draco and his friends, who then run off. But in the books, Harry’s desire for vengeance is paramount and is mentioned often. It is what motivates him in many scenarios (this is not as apparent in the films). He is also hypocritical in the book, asking for truth from characters when in many cases, he himself lies and deceives.
Harry is touted as the hero and as a good person, but he looks good only in comparison to Voldemort and other evil characters. The bad characters are made to look so wicked that almost anyone looks good next to them.
Master of Death
In the book, Dumbledore gives Harry a speech about being a “master of death,” though this is not in the movie. Some may want to see a Jesus figure in this, since Jesus conquered death. But being a “master of death” is not vanquishing death.
Mastering death is an occult concept, going back to early Taoism when shamans and sorcerers concocted potions and intricate meditations to build up the invisible chi power within and thus gain health and immortality. This continued as a quest off and on in Taoism, as well as in other non-Christian beliefs. Alchemy, in particular, posited the sorcerer’s stone (name of the first Harry Potter book) as a source of immortality. Ancient Egypt and vampire lore also have tales of seeking magic or power to gain immortality.
The desire for immortality is the desire to escape death, which came as a result of sin. Sacrifice and redemption mean little if the awareness of sin is absent. If Harry is a savior figure, what is he saving people from? It is Lord Voldemort and his evil followers. But when Jesus died on the cross, he paid the penalty for sins to save those who believe from eternal death – that is, separation from God.
Jesus did not die to save anyone from Satan, because Satan is not the ruler of death or hell. Jesus is the one who says: “I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Rev. 1:18b). And through faith in Jesus, one has not only escaped the second death but has eternal life with God.
A Christian Tale?
Much is made of the supposed Christian themes in Harry Potter. This has been addressed in other CANA articles on the Harry Potter books, and answered by writers like Michael O’Brien and Richard Abanes.
Since Harry meets the dead Dumbledore at King’s Cross station (at least Harry thinks it looks like it), some have read a Christian meaning into “King’s Cross.” But this railway station is one of the busiest in London, connecting with many places. As pointed out in Harry Potter Wiki, it is appropriate that Harry believes he is there because that is the place where he entered the world of wizardry by going into Platform 9 3/4 to get the train to Hogwarts. It is also the border between the Muggle (non-witches and non-wizards) and Wizard worlds (http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/King’s_Cross_Station).
King’s Cross is a real station in London used in the story as a gateway between Muggles and Wizards and, in the last book, life and death. As it is a central rail station in real life where trains from many areas come and go, so it is in the books.
Harry does let Voldemort kill him after he finds out that he (Harry) is a Horcrux, and thus this will weaken Voldemort. This is a sacrifice. But a general story of sacrifice out of love, though it is an echo of Christ, is not sufficient to say the books are Christian. Many books have these themes. It is more accurate to say that the story of Christ is possibly reflected in stories of those who have heard it, or that themes of sacrifice and love derive from a Christian influence on the culture.
Aside from the lack of a true Christian meaning in the books is the fact that the books are very centered on occult arts and power. Casting spells is pivotal to most confrontations in the story and much is made of Harry learning his craft as a wizard.
Many claim the spell casting and other occult arts are merely plot devices. I have, however, over the years, carefully noted where real occult concepts and practices are in the books (sometimes given different names). This is documented, with specific references to the books, in previous CANA articles on Harry Potter. By this, I am not claiming that J. K. Rowling deliberately did this. In fact, I think she is unaware of what the occult really is and from what she has said in interviews, does not seem to believe in its reality. I think she has inserted ideas she has read or heard of without understanding there are spiritual dimensions to these practices.
Think about it: Would you as a Christian, knowing Deut. 18:10-14, and wanting to write a story with a Christian message then choose to make the hero a young boy who goes off to a school to learn to cast spells, divination, contact the dead, and include numerous and often positive references to astrology, amulets, charms, numerology, and magical potions? All of these activities exist and people make use of them today. Such a scenario is not even rational; yet in defense of these books, numerous people are dismissing or telling others to dismiss the occult activities so prominent in the books as mere plot enhancers.
A theme of sacrifice, love, and resurrection amidst the promotion occult practices and concepts does not send a gospel message nor does it allude to Christ, who would certainly not accept, much less endorse, that which is condemned in scripture.
Moreover, these books have led many to investigate the occult (I know this from my email and others, like writer Richard Abanes, have documented it). It is fact that the popularity of these books led at least four publishers to announce in 2001 that they would start putting out similar books with heroes who are wizards, witches, or something similar. Since then, a proliferation of books, cartoons, and movies have been produced in which practicing spells or using psychic powers is not a bad thing, but a good thing.
If Harry Potter is a Christian book, then why is it that due to Harry Potter, children badgered a pagan society in the UK with questions about witchcraft and white magic? Why did I get emails asking if there is a real Hogwarts, and could I please direct them to information on how to learn white magic?
Why is it that Harry Potter displays in bookstores included books for children and teens about the occult and how to practice it? I saw this over and over again each time a Harry Potter book came out, and even purchased some of these books for examination. These books gave information on actual occult concepts and practices, and, in some cases, directions on how to perform spells. I also tracked some of the numerous websites that popped up in connection with Harry Potter giving instructions on numerology (one allegedly run by Hermione) and spells, many of which were frequently linked to zodiac sites (as a former astrologer, I was particularly distressed at this). It should be stressed that these books and websites were written for and marketed to young people.
Dialoguing with Harry Potter Fans
Even if one does not believe there are authentic Christian themes in the books, one can use the themes of death and sacrifice to talk about Christ. One can ask: What would Jesus have to say about casting spells? What would Jesus say about power?
Jesus upheld the Old Testament as God’s word. Being part of the Trinitarian Godhead, Jesus is always in unity with the Father. Therefore, just as Moses passed on God’s command that one must avoid all occult arts such as casting spells, divination, contacting the dead, consulting mediums, spiritism, and so forth, so would Jesus uphold this.
There is nothing in the Bible about seeking to build power or gain power. Rather, God tells people that He alone is God and has power over everything. We are told that after his ascension, Jesus is at the right hand of God (a position of power and authority), “having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him” (1 Peter 3:22; also, Colossians 2:15). He is “the head over all rule and authority” (Colossians 2:10).
In Harry Potter, Harry is seeking to gain power over Voldemort. But with Christ it is opposite: one who believes in Him as the Savior seeks Christ’s strength, not one’s own, because man’s power against evil is puny since he himself is infected by it. Only because Christ atoned for sins through his death and gives us his life through his resurrection can one be free of the infection’s power and from the penalty of sin (evil) through trusting him.
“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do so.” Deut. 18:10-14
“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:40
Article on book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Article on the movie, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part one”
Harry Potter and the Paganization of Children’s Culture by Michael Oâ€™Brien
Harry Potter, Narnia, and Lord of the Rings, Richard Abanes
Harry Potter and the Bible, Richard Abanes
Harry Potter and the Paganization of Culture, Michael O’Brien
SpellBound: The Paranormal Seduction of Today’s Kids, Marcia Montenegro