Harry Potter
written by Rev Gary Heard

The last in the Harry Potter series has left the shelves - the much anticipated conclusion to the epic tale of a young boy who discovers himself to be part of a world he had never imagined, with expectations heaped upon him. The series has been something of a watershed in publishing history, introducing an entire generation to reading, and countless others to a world of mystery, magic and intrigue. Unfortunately, many in the church have been turned off by that single middle word, believing that anything of such ilk could bear no good. They have been impoverished.

Without wishing to spoil the much-anticipated ending for those who are still to uncover it, the Potter novels unfold most powerfully around themes of love and sacrifice, power and servanthood, hope and despair. Whilst the practice of witches and wizards appears to be a disturbing prospect for some Christians, it remains the backdrop for what is ultimately the greatest struggle of all: to be human, and to recognise what is the source of life itself.
The chief character has to learn the difference between when to go it alone, and when to recognise the power of community; whom to trust, and what to trust about himself, how to recognise truth and humbly respond to it. As in most of life, these answers emerge through some very murky circumstances – obvious in retrospect, seminal in the reader’s hopes, but as in life, always remarkable in the ways in which life turns: contingent upon circumstances, yet seemingly guided by a power greater than each of us.

Harry – renowned as “The Boy who Lived” – is famed for being the only one ever to have survived a deadly attack, launched by his now-arch-enemy. Tempted to let this nomenclature define his course of action, he is constantly reminded (and rebuked) by his friends that he doesn’t need to do it alone. Bearing a unique burden, Harry struggles to trust his friends with sharing the responsibility and the burden, and at other times is unsure of where true friendships are found. Dealing with the very human flaws of those around us, at the same time recognising our own, is Harry’s struggle also.

It is of the essence of great literature that it touches upon and unfolds the greatest human themes. And that those of faith might be turned off by elements of a story can be found in Jesus’ encounter with the religious of his day: “straining at gnats and swallowing camels” is how he described it.
J K Rowling has embodied something of the human struggle in which we all share in the character and story of Harry Potter, even recognising that little bit of magic which is in us all – which bears the imprint of God.

July 29, 2007
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