Friday, July 27, 2007

A reflection on Harry Potter and the Kingdom of God

At the risk of being tarred and feathered by my more conservative friends, I would like to offer a short reflection on something I read in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Whatever your views on these books, I hope we can agree that all truth is God's truth. That is to say, anywhere truth arises, anywhere something truthful is portrayed, it belongs to God because God is the author of truth...even if its found in the pages of J.K. Rowling's bestselling series.

What follows is a short interchange between the young Harry Potter and his friend Hagrid, whom he has just met. Hagrid is the groundskeeper at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and a trusted friend of the Hogwarts headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. Here, Hagrid explains what the Ministry of Magic does on behalf of the school. "Muggles" are normal humans, non-magic folk, most of whom do not know that Hogwarts exists. Consider this carefully:

"There's a Ministry of Magic?" Harry asked, before he could stop himself.
"'Course," said Hagrid. "They wanted Dumbledore for Minister, o' course, but he'd never leave Hogwarts, so old Cornelius Fudge got the job. Bungler if there ever was one. So he pelts Dumbledore with owls every morning, askin' fer advice."
"But what does a Ministry of Magic do?"
"Well, their main job is to keep it from the Muggles that there's still witches an' wizards up an' down the country."
"Why?"
"Why? Blimey, Harry, everyone'd be wantin' magic solutions to their problems. Nah, we're best left alone."


Almost 2,000 years before J.K. Rowling penned these words, a homely rabbi named Jesus of Nazareth was teaching his students about the secrets of God's Kingdom. Jesus' students had difficulty understanding his simple stories, which were layered with meaning, and repeatedly had to request interpretation from their master. Finally, presumably fed up with the mysteries and secrets, they asked, "Why do you speak in parables?" Jesus' response was just as perplexing as his stories: "The secrets of the kingdom of God have been given for you to know, but to the rest it is in parables, so that 'looking they may not see, and hearing they may not understand'" (Matt 13:10-12;Luke 8:9-10).

Jesus went on to explain: "For this reason I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:
You will listen and listen,
yet never understand;
and you will look and look,
yet never perceive.
For this people's heart has grown callous;
their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
otherwise they might see with their eyes
and hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn back—
and I would cure them" (Matt 13:13-15).

In the world of Harry Potter it is the job of the Ministry of Magic to ensure that the secrets of the magic realm remain secrets. The Muggles cannot and would not understand the ways of witches and wizards because they are different people from a different world. They are governed by different rules, led by different values, and loyal to different causes. So, it is best that Muggles are not aware of what is going on in the world of Hogwarts, Dumbledore, and Hagrid. In a sense, until they have "ears to hear," they cannot understand. And, because they're Muggles by nature, they will never have "ears to hear." While Muggles go about their business in what they think is the "real world," Harry and his friends discover and learn to live within what is the real world.

In a parallel way, in the Kingdom of God, followers of Jesus are governed by different rules, led by different values, and loyal to a different cause. Those outside the Kingdom cannot and will not understand our ways because they are different people from a different world. Although touched by the working of God's Spirit and God's people every day, most people remain ignorant of what is going on in God's world. Because they do not have "ears to hear," because they are "looking but do not see," they will go on about their daily lives in what they think is the "real world." But, followers of Jesus discover and learn to live within what is the real world.

There is one important difference, however, between the world of Harry Potter and the Kingdom of God. By Hagrid's testimony, not only can Muggles never understand the magic realm, but also they should be completely shielded from it. In his mind, it is best both for Muggles and the world of wizards that Muggles remain "in the dark" about the nature of reality. Yet, the message that the Kingdom of God is here and Jesus is King must be proclaimed through all the world. Although many will continue "to look and not see" and "listen and not hear," some of the spiritual "Muggles" in our lives will, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, respond to the good news of God's reign and submit themselves to the rule of Jesus.

I'd love to read your thoughts on this reflection. Just be sure I can read it through the tar and feathers.

6 comments:

Janna said...

Well I had to think back a few years to this book, but I do like the way you've found Christian concepts. I know that other friends have also pulled out concepts to make lessons for. The other very important thing is that (well in the first book) Harry has to learn to be a great Wizard but not call on those powers when he lives with the muggles again. I think sometimes we have to just have our inner strength to also have power in the muggle world.

peter lumpkins said...

Emily,

Thanks for the reflection. I come only with feathers. Walmart's tar department was fresh out.

I do understand how you may feel it inevitable that our Conservative brothers would peel back the sola scriptura label accompanied by a pointed finger. We can be such dad-blasted cusses sometimes.

I agree with you about the all truth = God's truth equation. In fact, I do not think we can consistently hold the sola scriptura principle if by that we mean Scripture alone in the quantitative sense. Though it may be a cliché, I think sola scriptura is better understood in a qualitative sense. But, of course, that is not that about which you wished to pique our response.

Know your point about living illusions vs. living "in the real world" is noteworthy, Emily. The parallels between Jesus and the Kingdom are striking.

As I read through your post, I could not help thinking of Francis Schaeffer's assessment of non-theistic worldviews as accepting, by implicit faith, the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.

For him (and I am confident both you and me), the closed system is precisely the less inspiring world of Muggles. No spirit, no non-tangible reality, no magic. But plenty of dull gray.

On the other hand, real reality--a cheap copy-cat of Schaeffer's "true truth"--is an open system where Magicians with strongest powers raise themselves from the dead. Colorful...Enchanting...But best of all, true.

Grace, Emily. I trust your evening a restful one. With that, I am...

Peter

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Peter,

I appreciate your thoughts very much. I love your assessment of "real reality": colorful, enchanting, and true. Song writer and musician Andrew Peterson has a Christmas album that tells the story of Jesus the Messiah from Moses all the way to the birth of Christ. Its called Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. I like that a lot.

For the record, I have no problem with sola scriptura--I am a Baptist, after all. I just want to appreciate good literature and story-telling, too, especially when the authors have some meaningful things to say. I know you understand what I mean.

Thanks again for your thoughts. They are always insightful.

Grace and peace,

Emily

a fifth of addition said...

To questions regarding such topics, there is no wrong view. With that in mind it seems that it would be right hard, if not impossible to come up with an answer as to whether or not muggles would be able to handle the reality of wizards and witches living amongst them. so while i don't mean to skirt your question posed to readers, it would seem more accurate, or a wiser option to treat people as individuals. After all a muggle who practices magic is still a muggle. A muggle who foolishy believes tomatoes to be an evil fruit capable of posessing the soul of thou that eats it.

These are just two examples of two different muggles beliefs, between the two positions (which are poles, but not what I would consider extreme) there are many different places where one opinion might fall.

to touch on the Jesus the Christ teachings, it would seem that even more important then the assumption of where a muggles mind might rest, of more importance would be the knowledge of "whow much does said muggle already know.

Mean to say, ones ability to rationally comprehend the world a magic and spells. Deciding for someone as to whether or not they personally will be able to rationally understand the situation and informing them of your assumption is still subscribing to the religion of truth. While doing the same thing in thought... but two deny that it exists, or that you have non part, is infact no longer a truth, and indeed noe a becamoes a deception

peter lumpkins said...

Dear Fifth,

My pleasure to read you. I confess my knowledge of Potter's escapades woefully lacks depth. Yet I understood from Emily's post that, pertaining to knowledge of magic, Mugglism owns a hollow shell. And, it's precisely the role of the MofM to keep it that way.

Given that, your strange assumption that a "muggle who practices magic is still a muggle" seems baffling. If Muggles lack power (knowledge = power) for magic, how can Muggles perform the practice of magic?

Peace. With that, I am...

Peter

sk said...

so glad to see something written about harry potter. i just finished the last book about a week ago, and have re-read it this week. if this book does not show the truth of the gospel, then i do not know what does. it troubles me to see so many christian mothers worried about the occult infiltrating their child's mind through jk rowling's words. why do 4 children, a faun and a lion make a story with a witch more palatable than one with 3 children, an owl and a half-giant? as a christian mother myself,i am saddened by the fact that many will miss out on this book. they will miss the great storytelling. they will miss the magical world of hogwarts and hogsmead. and they will miss harry, walking to his undefended and sacrificial death, to save those that he loves.