Lest we forget, in some circles, the Harry Potter series remains “controversial,” owing to a troublesome passage in the Bible. Firefly fans will recognize it: Excodus 22:18, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”
Aside from presenting real questions about the continued relevance of a literal reading of the Bible — because, really? — this passage apparently interferes with some Christians’ ability to enjoy compelling young adult literature, and the attendant cultural phenomenon, because the dust jacket of The Sorceror’s Stone plainly indicates a world where Exodus 22:18 is blissfully ignored. Like the Dursleys, fundamentalist Christians would prefer the orphaned Potter to stay in his closet where he belongs, thank you very much — and Dumbledore along with him.
To his enduring credit, one Benedictine monk is pushing back on that opinion from a Christian perspective, by, through apparently exegetical research, grounding Harry Potter‘s moral lessons in Christian values. That’s not just fair, it’s overdue. The fundamental lessons of the Potter series center around acceptance, the importance of virtue, and the real, physical manifestations of love, all values that Christian theology espouses — even when some Christians do not.
This is objectively good for modern Christianity, and civil society: religions built around shutting the world out have a way of dying, but tend to drag parts of the secular world down with them. Still, accepting Harry Potter for its confluence with Christianity only would be a bad way of doing things — the literary equivalent of Huck Finn’s “I knowed [Jim] was white inside” — if it weren’t accompanied by this rejection of religiously-motivated isolationism:
I do not think there is any intelligent view out there that says these books are evil. They are the sort of objections that come from people who have not read them. What are they suggesting we do, ban everyone who turns up at a children’s party to do a few tricks?
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: Christian fundamentalism isn’t just out of step with modernity. It’s out of step with its own roots.