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I'm sure I ought to be able to find millions of erudite essays (or… - Sally's Journal
July 23rd, 2007
09:57 am


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I'm sure I ought to be able to find millions of erudite essays (or at least a lot of rants) on this by googling, but sticking "Harry Potter Christian" into Google just leads to a lot of church-going types bickering about whether HP is
a) a cute book that will entertain the kiddywinks and maybe teach them a bit about good and evil, love, and not keeping slaves in concentration camps
b) the Spawn of the Devil teaching them to be Witches
c) a complicated Christian allagory with Harry Potter meaning "Of the Potter", ie son of God. Apparently Centaurs represent the donkey Jesus road into jerusalem on (puts down the crack pipe and steps gently away)

Anyway, that aside, it struck me when reading HP 7, as the protagonists stood outside the church in the snow singing carols and thinking about their families and friends having Christmas together, all the HP books have Christmas in.

But none of the HP books have any more explicit Christianity in that I've noticed, and their fuzzy ideas about an afterlife (yes kids, when you die you go to Kings Cross Station! We just don't yet have any conclusive evidence whether this is heaven or hell yet) don't tie up with that.

Teh Internet says that JK Rowling is an occassional church goer.

Do people think that the wizarding world does christmas with baby Jesus etc because it's a cute fake muggle tradition, like the tooth fairy? Or that they do something they call Christmas, but without any of the Christianity stuff? Or that some wizards are Christians just like some muggles are? Or that JK Rowling put Christmas in the first book because it was fun to write about Christmas at Hogwarts without really worrying about these problems?

Of course, there is then the major argument that The Wizarding World was Saved by Harry Realising he Had To Die for us all and going calmly to his fate, before Gloriously Not Dying after all. I'm surprised there haven't been more Dawkinists screaming about this already.

(46 comments | Leave a comment)

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[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 09:22 am (UTC)
I asked Susanna Clarke this (about JS&MrN, not HP; there are angels and devils and saints, is there divine intervention, and she said it was unspecified).

I didn't think having Christmas implied any Christianity necessarily; they only talk about the sort of things atheists and British apathists have. But nothing rules it out either. If I had to guess, I'd say they were typical apathists; culturally Christian but hadn't really thought about it.

You might expect it to show up somewhere -- eg. praying when everything's lost -- but even if some or all wizards are that Christian, JKR might not have felt like bringing up that can of worms :)

Come to think of it, logically, some muggle-borns would be Xian, unless wizarding somehow specifically disproves it. But that level of consistency doesn't apply.

Oh dear, my major point's getting left to the last paragraph again. Have you seen: Home on the Strange's prediction of the ending?

That was actually sort of close. Given (as I'd been pointing out to anyone who would listen) the importance of the afterlife to the last book. That whole "Death is the last great adventure to an organised mind" bit seems to speak against it to me; not conclusively, but they definitely seem to have some idea of what happens after death, and the absence of any God in it seems to speak against their thinking there is one.
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 10:55 am (UTC)
Death is the last great adventure to an organised mind

... whereas the disorganised mind neglects to save it for last, and is then surprised and disappointed when they don't get to do the rest of the adventures they had planned?
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 09:33 am (UTC)
I deduce that your journey to work was uneventful :-)
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 09:42 am (UTC)
Not to mention the handful of Biblical quotes/paraphrases appearing on gravestones etc.
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 09:56 am (UTC)
I didn't notice that.
Date:July 23rd, 2007 09:45 am (UTC)
I've wondered about Christmas all the time (in the way that Fr Christmas in Narnia has always bugged me). I think it is mainly there as the British cultural holiday rather than the major Christian festival, but in Goodric's Hollow there was a bit more I think.

I definitely go with a), c) is going to far and b) is just stupid and doesn't get fantasy or children or indeed the books (it seems to come mainly from people who go errrgh witches and refuse to read them). Though I probably go stronger than a) it that I think they teach a lot about good, evil, love and goodies not being able to do nasty things just because they're the goodies (a lesson that the western world needs atm IMO). Harry's 'death' only makes sense to me in the light of 'he who loves his life will lose it, but he who hates it will gain eternal life'. It wasn't King's Cross quite, and there was the comment about Harry being able to catch a train and go on to the true afterlife, but he chose to return.
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 09:46 am (UTC)
I think it's time for non-religious types to point out that 'sacrificing oneself to save others', including 'sacrificing oneself to save others and then luckily not dying' is an archetypal story and the Christian faith does not have a monopoly on it. The books are otherwise very light on religious imagery, and the HP afterlife is all about seeing lost friends and family again, not any kind of reward or punishment.
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 10:33 pm (UTC)
The one bit that struck me as explicitly/obviously/annoyingly Christian is when Harry goes back to Hogwarts, and they're all expecting that this is it - he's come to lead them into the final battle - but actually he's doing something more mysterious and complicated, and they find that hard to cope with.
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 10:03 am (UTC)
Relatedly (NPI) in the Related Worlds of DWJ, the magic-using and non-magic-using both go to church (but practising magic within it is frowned upon for etiquette reasons). Magic is not a religion, it's just another trait one has, like being double-jointed or red-headed.

I concede that some fundamental parts of Christianity and magic appear to clash, but OTOH you can also view certain Christian events/beliefs as magical without much mental conflict. (What's water into wine but a jolly good transformation spell?) I wouldn't be at all surprised at a culture that accepts what fits with known magic and discards the rest. See: scientists who are also Christians.
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 10:08 am (UTC)
I'm not a Christian and I don't read the Harry Potter books, so I'm not in much position to comment.

On the other hand, I've noticed that "Christmas at Hogwarts" scans to the tune of Monty Python's "Christmas in Heaven" so is now earwormed and surely ripe for a filking…
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 10:39 am (UTC)
It also scans to Springtime for Hitler...
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 10:23 am (UTC)
In all honesty, I think that JKR just didn't bother to think it through. I don't think she intended us to think of it as a "quaint muggle tradtion" though because, if that were the case, people like the Malfoys would be very anti celebrating it and we see no evidence of that.
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 11:04 pm (UTC)
I'm with you on this one. JKR does not, in general, make any particular effort to keep her fantasy world consistent, except in minor details - it's quite fun watching her bend backwards to avoid contradicting some trivial detail about potion composition while leaving huge glaring contradictions (but if they've got time travel, why can't they...) wide open. Wizards' religion is exactly the kind of thing she wouldn't bother to think about.
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 10:57 am (UTC)
Never mind Harry Potter; how come they had Christmas in Narnia, eh?
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 11:57 am (UTC)
Cultural cross-contamination by means of a certain Wardrobe. Those Americans get everywhere.
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 04:51 pm (UTC)
I don't think putting Christmas in suggests anything about the Christian content of HP. She also usually has Halloween. She mentions all the things which are usual for Christmas to me - turkey, trees, holly, mistletoe, presents, crackers. I think if she had wanted to suggest they were celebrating it as a Christian festival she'd have had an enchanted nativity scene in the Great Hall as well, or had morning prayers or something. (Though I hate to think what Fred and George would have done to it)

I think she's followed the tradition of borrowing bits of legends from lots of places and you can probably find all the Christian sounding bits in other places too. On the other hand drawing parallels between HP and Bible stories gives me a handy response the next time I get "Harry Potter is Evil", so I'm going to remember them :) I might not try the unicorn/donkey one though.

The internet also claims JKR is a witch - I seem to remember a faintly amused denial about it on her website, but I can't remembered if she commented further on her religion.
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 05:04 pm (UTC)
They also have Easter, with eggs. Because Hermione only gets a tiny egg one year because Mrs Weasley thinks she is Doing Harry Wrong.
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 05:21 pm (UTC)
Isn't Christmas a pre-Christian midwinter festival that was taken up because `hey people like their old festivals let's let them keep them in this new religion but tie them in to the new theme'? At least in terms of date?

And don't you think the pre-Christian Pagan priest types in Britain were clearly all from the wizarding world?

Conclusion: muggles stole Christmas from the wizards. It having taken on general muggle characteristics recently isn't very surprising with the amount of noise and excitement being made by muggles every Christmas.
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 08:05 pm (UTC)
There are books about how HP encourages Christian values. Just for the record.

In general, opinions are divided as to whether HPworld is Christian, pagan, both, neither, or anything goes. I do think it's important to remember that Christmas is as much a secular holiday as it is a religious one nowadays, though.

A friend attends the same church as JKR, though keeps this very very quiet.
Date:July 23rd, 2007 08:24 pm (UTC)
I have known Jews and Sikhs celebrate Christmas (in a Christmas tree, family dinner and giving presents sort of way).
[User Picture]
Date:July 23rd, 2007 08:41 pm (UTC)
I seem to recall that very occasionally it's mentioned as yule, or at least yule-tide, both of which are terms used all over the place (include some Christmas Carols) - yule being, I believe, the original Pagan name of the holiday. None of the holidays mentioned ever seemed to me to be Christian really, except in name - no Nativity scene, no lent/crucifixion fixation around Easter, no celebration of All Hallows after Halloween. I assume she never really thought about it at all, since most people in the UK do all these celebrations without attending church. If she did think about it or justify it at all, perhaps its actually closer to the fact that a community which *didn't* celebrate Christmas (at least with a tree) or Easter (at least with chocolate eggs) would call attention to itself - wizards who have been trying to hide within society would have taken up the holidays as cover. And you only need a couple of generations of that before it becomes a tradition within the wizarding world as well. Anyway, who would deliberatly fight against holidays where you get presents and chocolate?

I also think I read somewhere about one of the students being muggle born and Catholic and having to deal with that, but since no one else has mentioned it it was probably fanfic. Trust me to find the fanfic dealing with the integration of religion into society :-).
[User Picture]
Date:July 24th, 2007 03:32 pm (UTC)
What Christian imagery we saw in HP7 was in two places, neither particularly connected to the Christmas/Easter festivals (which I agree were just included because they're secular British festivals these days):

* Harry's two or three rants about how Dumbledore left him tasks to do but not enough information on how to do them, about how D expected H to trust him but didn't show him enough to earn that trust, etc, followed by a later realisation that there was purpose to his struggles that he didn't see at the time;

* The whole Harry as "prophesied saviour who chooses to willingly give up his life to the Bad Guy, goes to 'King's Cross', then returns from the dead victoriously, and Bad Guy's actions in killing him turn out fundamental to Bad Guy's downfall" thing.
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