Join us as we arrive at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and look for Christian themes in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
The Sorcerer’s Stone : An Introduction to the Wizarding World
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone first hit English shelves in the summer of 1997 and then crossed the pond to America in the following year under the more familiar title Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I remember the book popping up everywhere – the school’s library via the Scholastic Book Fair, Wal-Mart (back when it actually had the hyphen), and soon enough a handful of my friends were reading the pages of the Wizarding World.
Being the later bloomer that I am, I held off from the books until the first movie came out. But by that time, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was the most recent book out. So I made a point to read the HP3 book before seeing the HP1 film. Because, in my mind, they weren’t meant to be experienced in order. It was a book series like The Hardy Boys or Goosebumps – each individual story stood on its own and didn’t need surrounding material to be understood.
Boy, was I wrong. Open mouth…insert foot, right? Luckily, the movie did for me what all page-to-screen adaptations should do: it made me want to read the book.
This world is one of magic. Casting spells and flying on broomsticks are just a part of the norm. But what is it about magic that appeals to us muggles? Do we see it as better in some way? More interesting? More enlightening? More powerful?
All of these and many more adjectives can help explain the emphasis we humans give to the inexplicable, but I think they all boil down to one common thread: change.
A display window in a zoo can disappear. A professor can change into a cat. An orphan child with relatives that despise him can become a hero of love and sacrifice.
In like manner, we can change from being separated and distant from God to being close and in a relationship with Him.
The Foolish, Powerless, and Despised
Michael believes that the three main characters – Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger – represent the Christians as 1 Corinthian 1:26-29:
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.
(See? There’s that theme of change I was just talking about! But back to Michael’s point.)
We have three common traits here: foolish, powerless, and despised (I’ll shorthand that as FPD from here on out). And surprisingly enough, it isn’t just one of those adjectives that describes one of those characters: all three describe each one (but you knew that).
Harry grew up living with his Uncle Vernon, his Aunt Petunia, and his unbearable cousin Dudley. He is considered FPD because of his strange abilities. It isn’t until he gets to Hogwarts until he realizes his true self (does this remind anyone else of CS Lewis?).
Ron is also FPD, and he was already a wizard. His family’s reputation is what causes other wizards to look down on him. If I could paraphrase, “nothing good ever came out of the Weasleys.”
The same thing goes for Hermione. As the class’s resident know-it-all, she kinda rubs people the wrong way. On top of that, she overcompensates when she rubs people the wrong way – making her FPD plus awkward.
And yet, as FPD as they all are, they’re the ones that save the school and ultimately humanity (repeatedly, as we’ll discuss throughout this series).
Which reminds us that even as FPD as we are, we’re still capable of great things.
Neville Longbottom and the Cost of Discipleship
Of course, when I hear the words “foolish, powerless, and despised,” I immediately think of Neville Longbottom. He’s Harry’s forgetful, clumsy, pudgy, bucktooth classmate. Remember the kid’s first flying lesson with Madam Hooch? Remember how the broomstick handle smacked Neville in the face when he shouted, “Up!”? Of course you do. And I’m sure Neville wouldn’t need a Remembrall to help him remember it, either – well, maybe he would, I don’t know.
But Neville gets his moment.
On their way out of the Gryffindor Commons, Harry, Ron, and Hermione run into Neville and his toad Trevor. Neville bravely stands up to the other three, reminding them that Gryffindor has already lost a lot of points and a lot of respect because of their previous actions. He’ll even go as far as to fight them to stop them. Unfortunately, Hermione whips out the Petrificus Totalus spell and petrifies Neville, making him fall to the floor like a dead tree.
Fast forward to the House Cup ceremony. Slytherin was in the lead, but Dumbledore awards some last-minute points to Gryffindor to reward Harry, Ron, and Hermione. These points tie Gryffindor with Slytherin – but it’s not enough to win.
Until Dumbledore awards Neville ten points – not for standing up to his enemies, but for standing up to his friends. This tips the scales in Gryffindor’s favor, and they win the House Cup.
Therefore, we have the image of someone willing to do what is right even if it costs him his friends.
And it reminds me of Jesus telling His followers what it actually means to follow Him. I’ll just emphasize two key verses:
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple…So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26, 33)
The whole passage of Luke 14:25-33 is Jesus telling the people – that is, all those who had been following him for at least the length of that Sabbath day – that following Him is nothing to be taken lightly. In fact, it is very costly; friends, family, and the like are at stake.
Neville didn’t let losing his friends stop him from standing up for what is right; neither should we let our earthly ties stop us from following Jesus back home to God.
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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