Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Harry Potter Saga (2001-2011)

     Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

     You’re probably wondering why I’m writing about an eight-film saga in one article. Why didn’t I write about each film earlier in the year or something? Well, to be honest, I hadn’t seen any of the “Harry Potter” movies until May. I never really got around to watching them until this summer. I feel really stupid for not seeing them, though, because they’re darn good, all of them in their own ways. But at the same time, I’m glad I didn’t see them until now, because I wouldn’t have immediately understood their significance in terms of my faith.

     See, when “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” was released, I was nine years old and dumber than I am now. I think I heard some talk about it being about witchcraft, and since I only knew that witchcraft was bad (I guess I was told something like that in Sunday school), I stayed away from the film and its sequels. If I had seen them at that age, maybe I would have walked into them much more skeptical, thinking it was promoting witchcraft or something. Having seen them all now, I can honestly say that in my opinion, the “Harry Potter” movies aren’t about witchcraft at all. They’re about spiritual warfare.

     If I may, let me go through each film and summarize what happens with Harry and his company:

     “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”: baby Harry, after his parents are killed, is placed in the care of another family that raises him until his teenage years (or so), at which time he enrolls in a wizardry school with other students like him who have special “magical” powers like he.

     “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”: Harry is warned not to go back to Hogwarts, and when he does, he finds other students being attacked and must find a way to save them.

     “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”: Harry meets Sirius Black, whom he believed was working for the evil Lord Voldemort and wished to kill Harry, but who in reality knew Harry’s parents and wants to help him.

     “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”: Harry finds himself competing in a tournament with students from other wizardry schools and discovers that it was a way for the real Voldemort to find him and attempt to kill him.

     “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”: Harry and his friends try to warn others that Lord Voldemort has returned but are not believed until a final attack, where Sirius dies.

     “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”: Harry learns about Voldemort’s past, and his Professor Dumbledore is killed at the hands of Professor Snape.

     “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”: Harry and his friends find tools to end Voldemort once and for all, which ultimately means that Harry sacrifices his own life—only to receive it again and kill Voldemort with his friends.

     Those are, of course, very short and generic summaries, but as you see the story progress, it gets more mature, more complicated, and more apparent that there is some dark stuff going on in this world. When I saw “Half-Blood Prince”, which begins with a bunch of wraiths attacking London in one of the few times where the setting feels like present-day, that’s when I thought: “This stuff’s getting real.” And that’s when I realized that there was more to “Harry Potter” than I thought.

     And I bet some of you who have already seen the films have identified Harry Potter himself as a Christ figure. I don’t disagree with that. But I don’t think he’s the only one. I think he, Dumbledore, Ron Weasley, Neville Longbottom, and so many others have to make choices in the movie to sacrifice their desires, their futures, or even their lives to defeat the Dark Lord (who I’m sure many of you have identified as Satan). But Harry, since the series is about him after all, may be the biggest example of this as he sacrifices himself in “Deathly Hallows Part 2”. As he stands before Voldemort, who strikes him with his wand, Harry finds himself in Heaven—or a train station or his mind or whatever you think of it—talking to the already deceased Dumbledore about what just happened.

DUMBLEDORE: I expect you now realize that you and Voldemort have been connected by something other than fate…

HARRY: So it’s true then, sir? A part of him lives within me?

DUMBLEDORE: Did. It was just destroyed many moments ago by none other than Voldemort himself. You were the Horcrux he never meant to make, Harry.

     (To understand what a Horcrux is, watch the movies. I don't have time to explain it here.)

HARRY: Voldemort has the Elder Wand. …And the snake’s still alive. …And I’ve nothing to kill it with.

DUMBLEDORE: Help will always be given at Hogwarts, Harry… to those who deserve it. Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living—and above all, all those who live without love.

HARRY: Sir? Is this all real? Or is it just happening inside my head?

DUMBLEDORE: Of course it’s happening inside your head, Harry! Why should that be that it’s not real?

     These are but snippets of the conflict in these movies dealing with the real world versus a spiritual one, and it’s really awesome to see in a saga like “Harry Potter”. Better still, when Voldemort declares Harry Potter dead, his friends still fight for him—and his true friends fight harder and his false friends leave once Harry comes back alive. I could go on with the analogies, but to be honest, it’s been a few months since I’ve seen these and I’ve forgotten some of the details—and this article’s a little long already.

     So to wrap up, I want to bring you back to that verse I put at the beginning from Ephesians 6 (which makes me realize, I’ve been citing Ephesians a lot lately and should probably focus on another book of the Bible). Paul writes that our struggle is not of this world, but of a world we cannot see. And in my opinion, that’s what “Harry Potter” is ultimately about. It’s not about magic, exactly; it’s about forces that can’t be seen except by people whose eyes have been opened to them. And in the case of spiritual warfare, that may very well be you and me. And I pray that in our everyday lives, we may be aware of that struggle and have the strength to resist temptation and to run to the Lord instead.

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