When I wrote about all the things that led to me questioning and leaving Christianity, I forgot to mention one thing: Harry Potter. Harry Potter wrecked my faith.
But it wasn’t because of the witchcraft.
In 2011, when Luke and I had been married three years, we finally decided to read the children’s book we weren’t allowed to touch as children: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It was witchcraft, it promoted rebellion, it wasn’t godly and uplifting, so my parents didn’t allow me to read it. I don’t know Luke’s parents’ reasons.
But, having been adults and out from under our parents’ roofs for several years, we decided it was time for us to experience the book for ourselves. The last Harry Potter movie had just been released when we checked the first book out from the library.
We took turns reading it; I finished it first because I’m a SAHM with more time to read. And I was hooked. It was a fascinating story of friendship and bravery with an orphan, a bookish girl who reminded me of myself, and an arch-villain whom I could already tell would be an amazingly evil character.
The story wasn’t at all what I expected. I had been told that Harry ran away from his guardians to become a wizard. Which is not true — the children were all already witches and wizards when they went. Honestly, people made it sound like children were selling their souls to the devil to gain special powers.
Instead, the children were all specially talented with magic. No devil was present in that world, although witches and wizards had a great capacity for evil, as well as good.
We read the whole series and watched the first seven movies in time to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 in the dollar theater; it was an exciting summer.
I was surprised by all the religious themes in the movie; trust, sacrifice, undying love, and the idea that ‘the last enemy to be defeated is death’.
The trust Harry had to place in Dumbledore’s plans reminded me of the trust people place in God.
The hatred that some pure-blooded wizards showed for half-bloods and Muggle-borns reminded me of the unkind behavior of some Christians for anyone different.
The grace Harry extended towards Voldemort, encouraging him to show remorse, reminded me of what I wanted to be like. The Death Eaters, who believed they were doing the right things but were acting out of hate, reminded me of what I could be like.
The core of love throughout the series shook my fundamentalist beliefs, and shook me out of the complacency of knowing the ‘right things’. This ‘evil’ book series got love more right than the Christians I was surrounded by often did.
I often wished other Christians would read the books, and learn to question their prejudices and love their neighbors better.
But the Christians around me all judged a book series that most of them had never even read a word of, instead of benefiting from the rich themes of the series.
I didn’t want to be like that any more; my ideas of being steadfast in my own rightness were replaced by a desire to love radically, no matter where that might lead me. And so my fundamentalism began to crumble.
Thanks, J.K. Rowling.