Jesus and Harry Potter

Note: the following is a parody of sorts, having a little fun with the fear in some quarters that Harry Potter should lead children toward the occult.

It’s grown fashionable in recent years to write books — silly ones like Jesus Potter, Harry Christ, or God and Harry at Yale — that piggy-back on the success of the Potter series, pirouette around complicated theological issues and perform a full-twisting double-gainer dismount into big piles of cold hard cash.  I have no book to sell, but I don’t see why book-writers should have all the fun.  I have my own Harry Potter story to tell, I have a blog to tell it on, and publishers can contact me through my agent.

For many years, I was uninitiated into the mysteries of the Potterverse.  Of course, I had seen the news stories that accompanied the book releases, which mostly consisted of long lines of nerdy boy and girls waiting outside of bookstores with black glasses and striped ties.  Since Harry bears a marked resemblance to the title character of Where’s Waldo?, for some time I assumed these were Where’s Waldo? conventions — which, it seemed to me, were exactly contrary to the spirit of the entire Where’s Waldo? experience.  But no sooner had I begun to separate Harry and Waldo in my mind than I was informed by these reports that I, as a Christian, was supposed to be concerned that Harry Potter might inspire children to start sacrificing virgins and painting pentagrams on their bedroom floors.

Harry Potter's resemblance to Waldo is striking and disturbing.

Should your kids seek Harry or Jesus? Answer: Jesus!

I had never met any such Christians, but they were out there in droves, because that was all these reporters talked about.  Apparently the county franchise of Gravely Concerned Christian Parents® was keeping constant surveillance over the local goat populations, fearing bands of children might be roaming the countryside with broomsticks between their legs in search of sacrifices for someone whose name sounded like Lord Value Mart.  They had not yet caught any such nefarious bands of prepubescent children — which was surprising, because it’s not easy for ten-year-olds to run with goats slung over their shoulders and broomsticks clutched between their legs — but the local Value Mart got lots of free publicity and the cow-tipping clubs nearly went out of business for all the parents standing watch in the fields.

These reports and their solemn warnings still lingered in my memory when, on Thanksgiving 2002, I first heard Harry Potter read aloud.  I had been invited to the home of a Christian theologian, a veritable half-giant who was closer to seven than six feet in height.  This professor discussed football and beer with the same dry, languid world-weariness that characterized his lectures, but he grew animated, even giddy, when he read Harry Potter to me and to his children. He could not get over how hilarious it was that J. K. Rowling likened Hagrid’s hands to garbage-can lids.

I became Gravely Concerned myself when I saw goats and pigs watching nervously from a neighbor’s yard.  But I was anxious to make a good impression, and his children did not have that look in their eyes (you know the one) that children get when they’re about to sacrificed hoofed mammals.  So I sat and did nothing while this man whom I had previously admired endangered the spiritual welfare and eternal destiny of his children, the safety of the local goat herds and the future of mom-and-pop stores that cannot compete with Value Mart.

It was not difficult to see why his better judgment was overpowered.  Rowling has crafted every stone at Hogwarts finely and lovingly.  Filled though it is with satanic rituals like Quidditch, and with the rampant underage drinking of butterbeer, Rowling’s world is clearly the product of an endlessly fertile creativity.  (Can you say deal with the devil?  Judas K. Rowling can.  And so can your children!)  Some of her characters are archetypes, some caricatures, yet those who occupy the emotional heart are so familiar you might have known them in school.  Rowling expands the sphere of the imagination with dragons and dementors, gryphons and grindylows, yet the center always holds in universally human experiences of growing up, falling in love, facing fears, confronting death, and what it feels like to have an army of slugs erupting from your throat.

These are your children.

These are your children on Butterbeer.

So, with my moral reflexes dulled by tryptophan and a bottle of Guinness, I relaxed the spiritual musculature that protects the Christian from demonic influence.  In retrospect it’s clear Satan was at work, for even my intellectual pride softened its usual protest.  I was exchanging Kierkegaard for Kreacher, Levinas for Longbottom, Camus and Sartre for Crabbe and Goyle — and I felt no shame.  I now know I was under some sort of Confundus charm, for even Dobby seemed like the height of comic genius.  But I was led astray.  If this renowned theologian could delight in Harry Potter, then certainly I could do the same with no loss of self-respect.  Right?

Thus began my terrifying descent into Potter-mania.

The downward spiral sloped gently at first.  Like Eve tempting Adam, I told my wife that my seminary professor had read Harry Potter — approvingly! — and I even purchased the book and gave it to her.  We began to read the latest volumes of Harry Potter together at night.  It was a scene straight out of Norman Rockwell — if Norman had been a Satanist!  Picture it: the New England snow drifting past the window, the lamp shedding its light in a soft golden cone, a young couple huddled together beneath a book — as, unbeknownst to both, the fates of their stinking souls plunged downward into the belching pits of hell.  But we enjoyed following Harry, Ron, and Hermione through all the travails of adolescence.  Since my wife is of the Chinese persuasion, we laughed at Harry’s “yellow fever” crush on Cho Chang.  We laughed at all the horny Hogwartians, especially Ron and Hermione.  We even supported the entire roster of S.P.E.W. candidates in the 2006 midterm election.

Apropos of nothing.

Yet my friends began to shun me for my embarrassing behavior.  Instead of asking them to sit beside me, I reached out my hand and said Accio!  When the pastor complimented my wife on her disarming smile, I muttered Expelliarmus! and snickered.  I developed an unnatural fondness for the word “git,” I began asking my wife if she wanted to “snog.”  When a fellow student gave an incorrect answer in class, I started calling him “Neville Wrongbottom.”  And whenever I walked past goats I felt an inexplicable desire to do them violence.

Yet the downward spiral is steepest near its end.  In the summer of 2007, while conducting dissertation research at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, I hit rock bottom.  The final book in the septet was about to be released.  You might recall the frenzy of anticipation.  Children were holding séances in the streets, spray-painting pentagrams on church doors and summoning the legions of hell during their school recesses.  Reporters interviewed the Gravely Concerned Christian Parents® every night.  Farmers hired security guards, and goat’s milk hit $20 a bottle.

But in the days before the release, I was so desperate to know how the story ended that I downloaded a bootlegged copy onto the St. Olaf library computer and spent hours squinting at the hastily-scanned pages.  Soon I was suffering a Hagrid-sized headache and wandering the book stacks crying for Madame Pomfrey.  At night I clambered back into my chair and kept reading, hoping beyond hope that Harry and Hermione would survive.  (Ron could eat it, as far as I cared.)

Yet I still had plenty left to read on the day the book was released.  A giggling horde of Girl Scouts had taken possession of the campus for a conference, and the bookstore announced it would stay open until midnight in order to sell the concluding volume to the girls.

It's hard to eat a Thin Mint when your face is melting in Hades.

And so it was that I stood in line that night — the only person in the building taller than Flitwick and the only one sporting a Y chromosome — to receive my copy alongside hundreds of squealing little girls in pajamas and pigtails.  Now, of course, it grieves me that the Girl Scouts were in the service of He Who Shall Not Be Named.  Since Christians are called to speak the truth in love, I should have told the girls something compassionate like: “We’ll see how fresh your Thin Mints taste in hell!”  But instead I actually felt that we were all a part of something special together.

When I reached the cash register, the woman looked at me askance. “You don’t look like a Girl Scout.”

“Polyjuice potion,” I lied.

Even as I paid $6.66 for the book, I knew I would never tell my professors that I had fallen to impersonating Girl Scouts.  But it comforted me to imagine that perhaps my gigantic theologian friend was out there somewhere too, pretending to be a Girl Scout with a severe hormonal imbalance.

Yet finally my eyes were opened.  In a crowd of Girl Scouts as we headed out the door, I saw one girl OMG’ing her BFF on her cell phone:

“U got it 2? I’m totally siked!” wrote the girl beside me.

The reply came swiftly. “U wanna meet up to read it 2gether?”

“Totes!” The girl smiled sweetly.  “And then we can summon Beelzebub.  Maybe burn some Bibles.”

“Eggzactly. I mean, all Jesus needed was a simple Stupefy spell and he could’ve avoided the whole cross thing.”

“A little Wingardium Leviosa and he could have floated right up outta there.  Can you imagine if he’d given Judas a Tarantallegra hex?  ROFL.”

Proof.

This began a Battle of Hogwarts in my soul.  Finally I resolved that I would never read another page of Harry Potter – except for the 253 pages I had left to read.  I had to find out which side Snape was on.  Two days later, I completed the Epilogue, set the book down, and quit cold turkey.

Now, my name is Tim, and I’m a Potter-holic.  I’ve been Potter-free for years now. I understand why parents wish to protect them from malign influences like Satan, Lord Value Mart, and Ryan Seacrest.  But we should all oppose Harry Potter, parents or not, if only for the safety of the local goat populations.

Do it for the goats, and then do it for the children.  Children don’t need HP.  They need JC.  ASAP.

About Timothy Dalrymple

Timothy Dalrymple was raised in non-denominational evangelical congregations in California. The son and grandson of ministers, as a young boy he spent far too many hours each night staring at the ceiling and pondering the afterlife.
 
In all his work he seeks a better understanding of why people do, and do not, come to faith, and researches and teaches in religion and science, faith and reason, theology and philosophy, the origins of atheism, Christology, and the religious transformations of suffering

  • Gwen

    Welcome, Tim. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://alexspeaks.com Alex Humphrey

    The best discussion of Harry Potter I have ever read!

  • http://notesfromamormon.blogspot.com Nick

    That is unfair. JK Rowling penned a masterpiece of good/love/valiance/truth overcoming dark forces. Its not taking the place of Jesus Christ, it IS a testament of Jesus Christ. All things good come from God and it shows a real insight into how we too must apply ourselves to overcoming evil through these said forces. I think hating on Harry Potter from a so called “Christian” stance is hypocritical as Harry Potter shows great respect for the values that Jesus Christ taught, even to the point of quoting Him in a chapter: “Where your heart is, there will be your treasure.”
    This book is silly and magical and fictional but the underlying truths in it are real, eternal and good. Stop being threatened by anything that comes along that doesn’t have the stamp of God on it on the cover and look deeper for the fruits of it as Christ taught. This book is beautiful and helpful to teens to not be induced by dark evils but lovers of righteousness. Don’t be so insecure. Pokemon is not a threat either, its just another fad as I’m sure you’ll see Potter is but look for the good and don’t be so quick to judge that which is good as a thing of naught.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      You really took the story seriously? My goodness.
      -Tim

      • Meredith

        I have never laughed so hard…so didn’t take it seriously. LOVED THIS BLOG!!

  • Katy Leonard

    I think that this post is disturbing, I have read and watched Harry Potter since they have come out and have done none of the things that this post claims. Harry Potter are fictional books and movies, if parents are letting their children watch this than that is their fault there are ratings for a reason. I think that this person needs to re-think what they have written and accused Harry Potter of, or the author for that reason. I am a Christian and this movie has in no way had an affect on what I believe or my faith for that matter. People need to keep their comments about this to themselves, I think their is a serious apology needed for the inaccurate information on Harry Potter and it being satanic. What is the difference between this and any other movie with good vs evil? Get over yourself please!

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Katy, this was a joke.
      -Tim

    • James

      I haven’t quite come to any conclusion yet, but I think it is worthy a topic to delve into. The sheep go with the flow, the wolves lead astray, and the Shepherds lead the way. A multi-billion business doesn’t strike me as good, especially if all of it went to the Gates Eugenics Foundation.

  • Vic

    Tim, I think what you wrote here was very unclear and even unhelpful for many people. I was not sure if you were joking or where you were going with this story. I usually enjoy reading what you have to say but I think you missed the mark on this one.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Lines like these were not sufficient markers that this was a parody?: “Apparently the county franchise of Gravely Concerned Christian Parents® was keeping constant surveillance over the local goat populations, fearing bands of children might be roaming the countryside with broomsticks between their legs in search of sacrifices for someone whose name sounded like Lord Value Mart. They had not yet caught any such nefarious bands of prepubescent children — which was surprising, because it’s not easy for ten-year-olds to run with goats slung over their shoulders and broomsticks clutched between their legs — but the local Value Mart got lots of free publicity and the cow-tipping clubs nearly went out of business for all the parents standing watch in the fields.”

      Anyway, I added a note at the beginning, though honestly I’m a bit gobsmacked.
      -Tim

      • Becky

        ROFL!!! Thanks, Tim!

  • Bill

    Absolutely hilarious!

    • Meredith

      Stupendously hilarious!! Did you really pay $6.66 for the book???

      Have you read “What’s a Christian to do with Harry Potter” and/or “The Gospel According to Harry Potter?” by Connie Neal? They are pretty awesome books and what convinced ME that reading the Potter series wouldn’t erase my name from the Book of Life. ;)

  • M Turner

    Tim – I think the only hope is to place the words “THIS IS A SATIRE” in red ink after every third sentence. Obviously, people are not paying attention to the preface. Even though not a Potter-head, I enjoyed this post.

  • http://ahoeyandhisblog.wordpress.com Jack III

    Tim,
    As someone who is impervious to wit and easily offended, I have to tell you that I only made it to the picture of Jesus and the dinosaur before I was overcome with the desire to comment on the entire post, especially the parts I did not read or did not understand. I will, however, restrain myself. I have only one word for you sir: Crucio!

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Nice.
      -Tim

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    Are you familiar with Poe’s Law?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe's_law

    Just for the record, I thought the first two paragraphs made your intent pretty clear.

  • Doris

    Hilarious. I love it.

  • peter c

    i also thought the intent was pretty clear, and the post pretty humorous.

    by the way, i believe KR meant to link here: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Poe's_Law

  • Pestherly

    I thought this post was hilarious! Thank you for giving me more than a few laughs. It makes me happy to read posts of Christians who display wit and intelligence.

  • Sherri

    I laughed so hard I spit my strawberry daiaquiri all over my laptop when I read “We’ll see how fresh your Thin Mints taste in hell!” Thanks for such a funny post. I needed to laugh today. I was feeling depressed, my prepubescent daughter got to see the movie with her friends today and I had to stay home to protect the goats.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Well, I’m sure the goats appreciated it, Sherri! Thanks for the feedback,
      -Tim

      • Meredith

        LOL…excellent response, Sherry!!

  • http://redsoprano.blogspot.com RJ

    Tim,

    Thanks for the laugh! I became a Potter fan when my friend’s daughter said to me, “You HAVE to read these.” Her mother had read them and enjoyed them, so I took her word for it. I have read them all multiple times. As per usual, the books are better than the movies, and it has been a fun adventure. Harry taught me that there is always hope, and that you have to stand for what’s right even when things look impossible. For me, it was a new spin on an old concept. Most of all, I love that you made fun of people who panic over such things. God is big enough to handle me reading and enjoying Harry Potter. Keep the satire coming. Some day others will realize that a sense of humor is not a bad thing!

  • Linda Haggerstone

    I am so surprised that readers could not recognise this as a parody. Me thinks some folks protest too much, or have no sense of humour. What a fantastic piece! It is truly hilarious. And it makes you think. I’m working on an M.Th. in Interfaith Stuides at the moment, and this is a nice break from some of the accie twaddle I’ve been reading. A man after my own heart… Thank you for such a good belly laugh! Keep writing, Tim.

  • Deacon Jim Stagg

    Well done, Tim. This ws a most enjoyable column on a most enjoyable set of books.

    Read them! Loved them! Gave them to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren (for later reading….they are not old enough yet)!

    Hope others will see the fun in your view of Harry Potterdom!

  • http://TDS Nancy Dalrymple

    Tim, I never watched Harry Potter because of what people were saying about him. And the witchcraft etc.”Suffer not a witch to live” I thought it might be evil and didn’t mind not watching because i don’t feel i missed a thing, but i certainly can’t add much to the conversation either without knowledge of the subject. I do know people make money on children all the time weather it is good for them or bad. It is not a bad thing to be involved with what your children are reading or watching all parents should be involved. So some day when you’re little girl wants to read something you can help explain from your point of view and be helpful to her.I know like the cabbage patch kids people went in lines and actually beat each other up to get in the store first. This scares me i hear but i don’t go. It just so happens this summer i went into an antique store and for 5.00 got me a Cabbage patch porcelain doll the original stamped and dated and i was the only one in the store at the time. I was not punched in the face or thrown through glass doors. I got the doll cheaper then others could have from the mans mom who just decided to get rid of stuff that day. $5.00 and in great condition.He also has Harry Potter glasses there from Halloween but i was not tempted to buy.I do have the first book Stephen King ever wrote and signed by him. I never read it but i saw the picture on TV. I guess i am just not a Harry Potter fan. Thanks for sharing your great story. PS It had allot of humor in it,thanks!

  • Itinerant M

    Edit: Paragraph 5 – sacrafice.

    Fantastic post! Very clever and funny. Thanks for the amusing read! :)

  • Itinerant M

    Sorry…editing myself…sacrifice* ;)

  • Paul Brown

    Interesting Article, I believe someone has a sense of humor with the pictures(^O^)…paul

  • Phil

    Nice work Tim! So sorry some have not understood your excellent satire – surprising considering this is at patheos. At any rate, Rowling hit it out of the park despite those who feared for the children (and the goats). Clearly she tapped into profound archetypes that resonated with our spiritual senses for all who were willing to get past the silliness of the fear mongering. Thanks for the chuckle.

  • Kingsley

    This is so hilarious (apparently, some people have misplaced their sense of humor about this… which is good for most). Thanks alot, friend.

  • Janis Keller

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post, and I’ve never sacrificed a goat. I have to confess: I love goat cheese too much. As for pigs: bacon. I’m not sure about these people that holler “Witchcraft!” when I mention a name with “Potter” in it. Keep ‘em coming…

  • Gretchen

    Alas my Southern Baptist grandchildren are forbidden HP books. Oh over the years the family stopped obsessively saying grace before every meal and snack and this year “the grands” may get to celebrate Halloween, but HP is taboo. They’re off for the summer with one parents who works and both are studying online for degrees. Do I send this to my son or will it just get him more entrenched in his belief that HP is bad for his kids. (And he was raised Unitarian!!) Thanks for lovely post. Humor is what saves us from being narrow minded and 100% sure our version of reality is 100% correct.

  • MatthewS

    Could you provide a source for your claim that goat’s milk was $20 per bottle? Your already-thin credibility is fraying rapidly…

  • MatthewS

    I have to admit the sorcery and witchcraft of Rowling’s stories do make me a little uneasy. It does feel like she’s winking a little at something that at least once upon a time was truly evil. I get that it’s a narrative device, not to be taken too seriously.

    On the positive side, we felt it took more courage for us to let our son read and watch HP than it would have not to. Many people look down the nose. I have not read them but my wife and son have enjoyed them together immensely, and that’s the stuff of good childhood memories.

    There is a constant challenge to think on one’s feet and to handle the challenges of life. To take responsibility. These happen to be things I’d like my son to do very much.

    I was very impressed and pleased with the scene in an earlier movie where a boy is awarded big points for courage because it takes more courage to stand up to your friends than it does to stand up to your enemies. Excellent image, excellent lesson.

  • mcurt2s

    Hmm…I find it interesting that your site features a review by queer pagan “P. Sufenas” that finds these novels to have an unobtrusive “veneer of Christianity.” Also interesting that the Unitarians here offered a Quidditch-based “VBS.”
    I remember the astrology in Caspian and the spells in Dawn Treader, but this magic is clearly placed under the authority of God as symbolized by the Emperor beyond the sea. The magic exercised in Magician’s Nephew apart from authority is shown to be foolish and dangerous.
    I do wonder if the Potter novels fall in the “permissible but not profitable” category. Does the reader feel the holiness that one picks up from Lewis’ or George MacDonald’s books?
    I grew up in South America on the edge of the rainforest, and my husband was the guinea pig for his mother’s obsessions with the occult–we know how harmful it is, and don’t want to go anywhere near it.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Good points and good questions.
      -Tim

  • http://jesuspotterharrychrist.com Derek Murphy

    This is a fun story – unfortunately it begins by associating two books (Jesus Potter, Harry Christ / God and Harry at Yale) which make opposing claims. While “God and Harry at Yale” is yet another Christian interpretation of Harry Potter, “Jesus Potter Harry Christ” uses the fictional Harry Potter as a lens to refute the historical Jesus. Since the first four chapters are free to download, and since reading the first sentence of the introduction, or any of the website’s material, would have tipped you off that “Jesus Potter Harry Christ” is the antithesis of all the other Harry Potter/Jesus books, the article is predicated on very poor research that’s hard to excuse.

    http://www.jesuspotterharrychrist.com

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Thanks for commenting. Just because I referred to both books as “silly” does not mean that I regard them as silly for the same reasons. I think you were assuming that, by placing them in the same sense (“associating” them), I was equating them with one another. But of course mentioning two things in the same breath, and equating them, are not the same. The only claim I made was that they are both silly.

      Listen, I’ve read sections of each book (I’ll confess I haven’t read the whole of either), actually, and I regard them as silly for different reasons. God and Harry at Yale struck me as theologically superficial, while your book strikes me as historically superficial, essentially an attempt to hitch a ride on the Harry Potter train in order to promote the “Jesus myth” hypothesis. I looked at your book a little while ago, when it seemed as though the advertisements were everywhere I looked online. I spent 14 years as an undergraduate and as a graduate student reading biblical texts (as well as philosophy and theology, much of which in the modern age dealt with the problem of history and the historicity of the gospel accounts), in addition to my own personal readings. I have not spent a lifetime on these things, as some people have, but my point is that I spent a lot of time with a lot of historians, and in thoroughly secular settings where anything remotely plausible that undercut traditional Christian belief was given a lot of air time. The Jesus myth hypothesis has a certain superficial plausibility to it, but the more you look into the logic, the argumentative strategies, all the bad history and bad data on which it’s based, the more it falls apart. That’s why, even among the most anti-Christian professors I had, not a single one of them took the Jesus myth hypothesis seriously.

      I’ve published some pieces from James Hannam that address it (here’s the last part), but the best full-length treatments come from R. T. France (“The Evidence for Jesus”) and Ronald Nash (“The Gospel and the Greeks”). Since few historians take the hypothesis seriously, few have undertaken full-length responses. But those are decent ones.

      And one piece of advice: if you’re going to accuse someone of “very poor research,” you should make sure the logic of your argument holds up. To use the word again, it’s “silly” that you assumed I was equating the two books. That’s a thin reed on which to level an accusation.

      All that said, if you can put together a tightly-written argument for why you believe the Jesus myth hypothesis, I can see whether Dr. Hannam would be willing to publish a rebuttal and debate at Patheos. It would have to be 1200 words or fewer.
      -Tim

  • Elfin

    Are you guys serious?! This is hilarious, and OBVIOUSLY a joke! Please, please, please tell me you aren’t actually taking this in seriousness. It’s a joke, a JOKE, people!!!


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