On this episode of Finding Christ in Cinema, we enter the Room of Requirement as we look for Christian themes in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Voldemort’s influence over Harry is becoming more and more powerful. How does this compare to Christians who are “saved” but still struggle with sin? All that and more in 3, 2, 1!
Harry Can’t Do It Alone
While Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is an installment unique to the rest of the film series for several reasons, our sole focus is on the relationship between Voldemort and Harry. Specifically, we examine the former’s indwelling of the latter and how that relates to Christians who struggle with sin even after they’ve been “saved.”
To set the scene, the Wizarding World has gone topsy-turvy by believing Harry Potter is responsible for Cedric Diggory’s death (you know, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and refusing to believe that He Who Must Not Be Named has returned. Only a select few know the truth: that Voldemort is back, that he killed Cedric, and that he is plotting to take over both the Magical and Muggle worlds once again.
Harry is thus established more as a pariah in this film than in any other before it. Not only is he the Boy Who Lived, but he is now a plotter, a schemer, a conspirator, and a murder. At least, he is these things in the eyes of the Ministry of Magic and the Daily Prophet and thus the eyes of wizards and witches everywhere.
Despite what he thinks, however, Harry is not alone, and it is in this accompaniment that he ultimately finds his solace. It is Luna Lovegood that first plants the idea that Voldemort wants Harry to feel lonely and powerless. It is Sirius Black that reassures Harry that he isn’t a “bad person” but a “a good person who bad things have happened to.” And it is Dumbledore that encourages Harry not to dwell on how he and Voldemort are alike but how they are different. These others who love Harry are the ones that help him defeat (for now) the Dark Lord; without them, he would be dead.
Alone, Harry feels guilty and ashamed of anything that he believes he did under Voldemort’s influence, so much so that he is literally crippled and paralyzed with fear when Voldemort manifests himself from within Harry. It is the love of Harry’s friends and family that saves him from his guilt, his shame, and his capacity to give into his sinful nature.
This Is What The Church Is Like…And What It’s For
Harry’s predicament – trying to do the right thing on the outside despite a sinful nature on the inside – should not be unfamiliar to anyone. After all, if someone who has been living in sin for years converts to Christianity, it possibly can (and probably will) take at least years for that sin to be eroded from the day-to-day operations. This is what it means to “struggle with sin.”
Unfortunately, some Christian congregations/denominations/cultures do not believe and loudly speak against “struggling with sin.” For these communities, you are either saved and then sinless or you are sinful and cannot be saved (this, of course, also calls for more discussion on what it means to be “saved,” but we can do that elsewhere). Either way, there is no middle ground and therefore no room for grace and ultimately no room for love.
For Brother Paul, the chief of sinners, there was a middle ground. He describes it best in his letter to the Romans:
14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
This passage is wrought with Paul’s groanings of guilt and shame. He knows what he should do, but he sometimes stumbles in doing it because he is still working out his sinful nature – his “thorn in his flesh” as he calls it in another letter – and thus working out his own salvation.
At times, we will also groan with guilt and shame whenever we sin while within Christ’s salvation. Furthermore, because of the aforementioned legalistic upbringing, some Christians will feel a sort of “meta-guilt” and “meta-shame” (guilt and shame about feeling guilt and shame) and dive into an endless cycle of guilt and shame all founded upon doubt.
But Paul wraps it up wonderfully:
Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
By the grace of God and the love He demonstrated through Jesus and by the love of others, we can and will expel any remaining sin. Eventually, when the veil of this world is lifted and we are back home with God, we will be fixed. Until then, however, we have the Holy Spirit and each other to help us carry these burdens. That’s what the Church – as the body and the bride of Christ – is supposed to be like and what it’s for.
Reel News and Other Links
- Martin “Bilbo Watson” Freeman is Now a Part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
- Blackhat, The Cobbler, and Still Alice in Home Entertainment
- BYU’s Combined Choirs Album The Pilgrim’s Journey Home
Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.
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