Many theories have been tossed around for why Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling avoided discussing religion and her books. One of the more popular theories was that she didn’t want to be typecast or shunned for any personal views that could affect books sales.
The answer, it seems, is a lot simpler. Rowling, according to an article by MTV.com’s Shawn Adler, wanted to avoid giving away the book’s ending to perceptive fans who, if they knew for sure the book had intentional religious parallels, would spot certain themes and trends and ruin all the fun.
Of course the book has Christian images, “almost epitomize the whole series,” Rowling now says. Like, duh!
What’s most interesting about the story, though, is what Rowling reveals about herself:
But if she was worried about tipping her hand narratively in the earlier books, she clearly wasn’t by the time Harry visits his parents’ graves in Chapter 16 of “Deathly Hallows,” titled “Godric’s Hollow.” On his parents’ tombstone he reads the quote “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death,” while on another tombstone (that of Dumbledore’s mother and sister) he reads, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
While Rowling said that “Hogwarts is a multifaith school,” these quotes, of course, are distinctly Christian. The second is a direct quote of Jesus from Matthew 6:19, the first from 1 Corinthians 15:26. As Hermione tells Harry shortly after he sees the graves, his parents’ message means “living beyond death. Living after death.” It is one of the central foundations of resurrection theology. …
But while the book begins with a quote on the immortal soul — and though Harry finds peace with his own death at the end of his journey — it is the struggle itself which mirrors Rowling’s own, the author said.
“The truth is that, like Graham Greene, my faith is sometimes that my faith will return. It’s something I struggle with a lot,” she revealed. “On any given moment if you asked me [if] I believe in life after death, I think if you polled me regularly through the week, I think I would come down on the side of yes — that I do believe in life after death. [But] it’s something that I wrestle with a lot. It preoccupies me a lot, and I think that’s very obvious within the books.”
Will other media outlets pick this story up? Rowling, is after all, on a publicity tour. The general idea of those is to pick up media attention, and the big media outlets are not always jumping to publish the latest celebrity gossip. Oh wait — never mind.
In all seriousness, the media coverage this story gets in the next couple of days will be telling. How many times has a Harry Potter book made the front page of USA Today or the cover of one of the big three news magazines? Local newspapers eat the story up when the books come out, often assigning a features writer to get an embargoed copy of the book, read it in one night, and write a review for the day the book goes on sale. Will Rowling’s resolving the religion issue make it beyond the celebrity-entertainment sections of the papers?
The MTV.com story isn’t without its own barbs. See the final few paragraphs, which are more than likely to get a certain number of people excited:
That, by the author’s own acknowledgement, “Harry Potter” deals extensively with Christian themes may be somewhat ironic, considering that many Christian leaders have denounced the series for glamorizing witchcraft. When he was known simply as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope himself condemned the books, writing that their “subtle seductions, which act unnoticed … deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly.”
For her part, Rowling said she’s proud to be on numerous banned-book lists. As for the protests of some believers? Well, she doesn’t take them as gospel.
“I go to church myself,” she declared. “I don’t take any responsibility for the lunatic fringes of my own religion.”
Terry has been saying for years that the books are shaped by “a Church of Scotland communicant whose faith has helped shape her work.” In fact if you look at portions of his August 1 column, you’ll see that Rowling confirms some of his predictions in a somewhat eerie fashion.