Spoiler alert: This article contains information about events in the last Harry Potter movie.
In the desperately named “Relevant” magazine for Christians, is an article about Harry Potter. Apparently, the Harry Potter series is drenched in Christian symbolism and values.
Take, for instance, support for the oppressed, or the emphasis on deep bonds of friendship and community, and sacrificial love. All values born of the Christian tradition, right? Right. This kind of thing annoys me no end. How arrogant must Christians be to think that these fundamentally human, and extremely ancient (pre-Christian) concepts belong to them? It boggles the mind. Christianity may certainly have done well by adopting some of the good moral ideas that were available to it at the time, but it cannot lay claim to these ideas as its own. But that is the nature of religious traditions: they boldly proclaim to have invented the universe and everything in it. Ironic that such a sweeping view of the world is born of such acute factual myopia.
The article in “Relevant” (we really are relevant, honest!) goes on to discuss events in the final installment of the Harry Potter movie series. Harry dies and goes to a place called “King’s Cross” (the author of the article nearly swoons at this religious reference), where he is counselled by a very god-like Dumbledore before coming back to life and slaying Voldemort (Satan, presumably).
This scene is, indeed, quite reminiscent of the resurrection story in the New Testament. There is, however, one very important change. In the Harry Potter movies, the need for Harry to die and then return to life and slay Voldemort is brought on by circumstances (and magic) beyond anyone’s control, including Dumbledore’s.
This makes all the difference. It is one thing to sacrifice one’s life for people when circumstances leave you no other way of helping them. It is quite another when someone deliberately sets the entire thing up, and refuses to change his mind and relax his rules unless someone dies. The God of the Bible does just this: instead of forgiving us for our sins in a straightforward manner, he insists that someone die to pay the price of these sins. He is a jealous, just God, and will extract every drop of blood due to him. Jesus is, essentially, held hostage: if he wants to save mankind, he will have to die in order to do it. (I could add the confusing element that Jesus and God are supposed to be of one mind, but why further muddy a perfectly bad theology?)
The Harry Potter story has no such central, controlling figure who insists on sacrifice while simultaneously claiming to be compassionate and merciful. This is what makes the Harry Potter story line morally tenable, and the Bible story morally shameful.