Summertime Greetings Bethlehem,
Okay, so fair warning, I’m going to nerd-out a little in this article. If Harry Potter isn’t your favorite, I apologize, and you are by no means required to continue reading. This also will act as a “spoilers warning” for any who might be still working their way through the series.
For those of you who are still with me, I’ll start by saying that Harry Potter was a huge part of my childhood. My parents and I read all 7 books out loud together as a family. We would go to the local bookstore in Half Moon Bay for their big midnight release parties. It was a big deal for us. I recently checked off something that has been on my bucket list for years – going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Immediately I was transported into a world that I had dreamed of entering for years. We went first to Ollivander’s wand shop. Sadly, I was not picked for the wand pairing presentation, but watching the joy on the faces of the two young girls who were chosen was even better. We went on one of the rides, and then I just wandered around, trying to soak it all in.
This experience reminded me of how much wonderful theology there is in the Harry Potter universe. I know that many religious groups in the past have fought to have the books banned because of whole sorcery and magic thing, but the powerful messages that it contains really do resonate with our faith. Many of the quotes uttered by Dumbledore could easily be attributed to Jesus and I don’t think many people would notice! For example – “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Or … “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” They don’t all hold up as Dumbledore also said, “One can never have enough socks,” since Jesus wore sandals and we all know the rule about socks and sandals.
Moving beyond looking at specific characters from the books, there is also an ever-present emphasis on the power of love. Love is what saved Harry from Voldemort (the main villain) when he was a baby. Love is what helped Harry overcome Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic. And it was because of his love for his friends that Harry sacrificed himself in the forest that night. If someone were to come up to me on the street and ask me to describe God in one word I would, without hesitation, answer “love.” When asked what the greatest commandment of all was, Jesus responds “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”
This experience of revisiting something so important in my life was truly profound. And making new connections between that and my faith has been exciting and thought provoking. But as I said before, you may not be a Harry Potter person. You might be more about the Chronicles of Narnia, or Percy Jackson, or Nancy Drew, or Lord of the Rings. But I would invite you to take some time this summer to revisit what it was that formed you; what it was that helped you to become the person that you are. Look for the guiding principles and messages, and how they connect with your everyday life, as well as your life of faith. You might be surprised by just how relevant these “childhood things” can be.