Like many others, I was eagerly awaiting the Harry Potter reunion that aired this New Year’s day. And as I watched the reunion, I was met with a familiar feeling. Often when I watch, read, even just speak about Harry Potter I am slightly overcome with emotion as I remember again how much this story means to me.
Throughout my struggle with depression, Harry Potter has been a comfort and a light for me. In the darkness that mental illness cast around me, here was a story that spoke of light, of the triumph of good over evil, a story that has provided me with a needed escape from my own mind, a door into a world in which there is adventure, community, belonging, acceptance. A story that points me to something bigger than myself, to a greater cause, to life beyond death, to the end of suffering. Ultimately, though I didn’t always realise it, it was pointing me, and continues to point me, to an even greater story, a greater reality. The reality of Christ.
In the Bible we see a grand narrative in which a loving and powerful God creates, well, everything in creation. In which he creates humankind and yet humankind rejects him. In which we have turned away from him and so are rightly worthy of his rejection too. A narrative in which, even in our sin, God the Father sent his Son Jesus into the world. In which the Son, who lived a life without sin, gave his life so that we could be restored to our relationship with our Heavenly King. In which Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve for turning away from our Creator, yet was raised to life, triumphing over death. A narrative in which we are given the same hope that death will not defeat us if we place our trust in Christ. In which God’s people look to a future when there will be no more pain, or suffering, or death. A future with him.
A central part of this story, a story I believe to be true and life changing, is the self-sacrificial love of Christ, and his act of laying down his life for us. This sacrificial love is echoed throughout the pages of literature, across the scenes of film and television, in the stories that speak to us and shape our lives.
I have always love tracing the narrative of the Bible and the theme of self-sacrificial love through the stories that I read, watch and hear. Over the next few days I’d love to share some of my favourite stories in which I’ve seen Christ’s self-sacrificial love echoed most clearly. Today of course will be about Harry Potter, but do look out for some more stories, from Doctor Who to one of my favourite Disney films, over the week to come.
One quick note: As sacrificial love can so often play such a key role in the development of a story’s narrative, you may want to skip over the books, films or TV shows that you haven’t seen yet – I really don’t want to spoil these for you! Just in case your scanning this blog post quickly, I’ll put this in bold capitals too:
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books are centred around an ongoing battle between good and evil, a battle which reaches its climax in the closing chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry Potter, the force of good, faces Voldemort, the force of evil, in a final showdown where good triumphs over evil.
If you’ve never read or seen Harry Potter before the next bit might be confusing, but I’ll do my best. In order for Harry to defeat Voldemort, he must destroy every Horcrux that Voldemort has created (each part of Voldemort’s scattered soul, divided again and again through murdering individuals, with the goal of giving himself eternal life). When Harry learns that a part of Voldemort’s soul lives inside him, that he himself is a Horcrux, he faces the reality that in order for Voldemort to die, he must die too. As the Battle of Hogwarts reaches its climax, Harry willingly walks to his death, giving his life so that the wizarding world, the wider world even, will be saved from the evil of Lord Voldermort. In his act of self-sacrificial love sacrificing, of sacrificing himself for others, Harry become a Christ-figure within the narrative. And he continues to reflect Christ in his return from death and re-entrance to Hogwarts, where he overcomes evil in defeating Voldemort once and for all, securing the triumph of good.
The Bible presents a clear tension between good and evil, between God, the good Creator and Saviour, and Satan, the force of evil in the world. The forces of good and evil, however, are not presented as equal. Throughout the biblical narrative, good is demonstrated to be more powerful than evil and is shown to ultimately triumph over evil in Jesus Christ’s loving sacrifice. The reality of evil pervades the Harry Potter novels, particularly the latter ones, and yet it is good that is celebrated, and it is good that triumphs in the end. To quote my own dissertation (yes I did my dissertation on Harry Potter, and it was a great decision!):
The biblical account of good and evil is manifested in Harry Potter through the portrayal of a fallen world, through the longing for a saviour and sacrifice, and its fulfilment in the character of Harry, and through the search for home and the longing for heaven that Rowling communicates.
As I started my research for my dissertation, a friend recommended me a really great book: Echoes of Eden by Jerram Barrs. Most of the blog posts over the next few days are shaped by his reflections, and if you’re interested in what I’m babbling on about here, I highly recommend reading it! This is his reflection on self-sacrificing love in Harry Potter:
‘Harry wins his battles not by wisdom and not by strength but by things thought foolish and powerless by the world. He wins by commitment to the truth, by loyalty to his friends, and by serving them… Above all, he wins his battles by self-sacrificing love. At the climax of the book he walks calmly to his death, and his enemies laugh at his folly. He does not draw his wand; he does not fight; he simply gives himself up and Voldemort curses him with the curse of death. Precisely because he offers himself up to death and to defeat – just as does Christ – he conquers death, for it cannot hold him.’
Precisely because he offers himself up to death and to defeat – just as does Christ – he conquers death, for it cannot hold him.’