According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Friday, July 15, 2011

Christian Imagery in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One

The Lord of the Hallows
Christian Symbolism and Themes in Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and Narnia

I have seen Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One twice now–first on opening day and again yesterday–and there is something that has been bothering me about the film for a week now. I am profoundly disappointed by the absence of the two Biblical quotations Rowling included in the novel and which were left out of the theatrical version of the film. The first was from Matthew 6:21.


Harry stooped down and saw, upon the frozen, lichen-spotted granite, the words KENDRA DUMBLEDORE and, a short way below her dates of birth and death, AND HER DAUGHTER ARIANA. There was also a quotation: Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows page 325)


This inscription is from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, verse 21, which should be examined in the context in which it appears in the Bible: This quotation is from Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount.”


Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21, NRSV)


We know that the tomb of Kendra and Ariana Dumbledore was designed for the film; a photo of it was published in the book Harry Potter Film Wizardry.



The quotation from Matthew 6:21 is visible at the bottom of the tombstone.


In an earlier blog post I explained the significance of the quatrefoil and the IHS which appear at the top of this grave marker. Here’s a quote from this earlier post:
http://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/christian-imagery-in-deathly-hallows-film-photos-of-godrics-hollow-churchyard/

 
Quatrefoil: ubiquitous in Gothic architecture, the quatrefoil symbolizes the four evangelists, as do the Winged Man (Matthew), Lion (Mark), Ox (Luke), and Eagle (John) — the four beasts of Ezeckiel and the Apocalypse.
IHS: dating from the 8th c., this is an abbreviation for “IHESUS,” the way Christ’s Name was spelled in the Middle Ages (despite popular belief, the monogram stands neither for “Iesus Hominum Salvator” –”Jesus Saviour of Men” — nor for “In His Service.”) Popularized by St. Bernardine of Siena, the monogram was later used by St. Ignatius of Loyola as a symbol for the Jesuit Order.

I really missed seeing this Christian imagery in the theatrical version of the film. I also wanted the film makers to include more information about Dumbledore’s background and personal tragedies. Perhaps this need for more exposition in the film is the reason that the tomb of Kendra and Ariana was not shown in the theaters. Dumbledore felt a great deal of guilt about their deaths, a burden that he had to bear for the rest of his life.

I think that Dumbledore learned a lesson that Voldemort had not been able to comprehend: his “treasures” were not possessions or objects of power, but the people that he loved. If they had included this Biblical quotation in the film, it could have been made to tie in nicely with Ron’s return. The light from Dumbledore’s deluminator went into Ron’s heart and then guided him back to the one he loves most: Hermione. Where your treasure is there will your heart be also.

The “heart” can also serve as a metaphor for the human soul. Where Voldemort’s “treasures” (the Horcruxes) are hidden is where Harry, Ron, and Hermione will find the Dark Lord’s “heart”– that is, the fragments of his torn and mutilated soul. They will be the thieves that break into Gringotts to steal the cup Horcrux in order to destroy it in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two.

The tombstone with the quotation from Matthew 6:21 is discussed briefly in the video game based on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One. (Harry remarks that he did not know that Dumbledore had a sister.) You can see a video of this part of the game in the blog post that I made yesterday: http://phoenixweasley.wordpress.com/2010/11/26/deathly-hallows-part-one-video-game-walk-through/ The Biblical quotation from Matthew 6:21 is not visible in the game walk-through however.

In the video game, Harry reads aloud the words inscribed on his parents’ grave marker–the second Biblical quotation Rowling included in the novel.

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

This is a quotation from 1 Corinthians 15:26. The quote can be seen on the Potters’ tomb in the theatrical version of the film but it is not discussed by Harry and Hermione as it was in the novel.



These photos of the Godric’s Hollow churchyard are from the Panini sticker book.


This is Rowling’s description of that scene which was omitted from the film:
Harry read the words slowly, as though he would have only one chance to take in their meaning, and he read the last of them aloud. “ ‘The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death’…” A horrible thought came to him, and with it, a kind of panic. “Isn’t that a Death Eater idea? Why is that there?”

“It doesn’t meaning defeating death in the way the Death Eaters mean it, Harry,” said Hermione, her voice gentle. “It means…you know…living beyond death. Living after death.” (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows page 328)


The theme of death and of life after death was one of the most important themes in the Harry Potter series. The omission of these lines from the film was a huge thematic flaw in my opinion.

II.

Christian Symbolism in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One: What They Got Right

The theatrical cut of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One did have a certain amount of obvious Christian imagery, which was very well done. Early in the film, when Hermione has erased her parents’ memories of her and leaves home, she walks down the street in the direction of a building which may be a church. (This is a scene that was not in the novel.)


When Harry and Hermione arrive in Godric’s Hollow, the sound of a church bell tolling can be heard as they walk down the street. When they arrive outside the graveyard we do hear the sound of singing inside of the little village church. The congregation is celebrating Christmas Eve. When Harry looks through the iron fence at the church graveyard and asks Hermione if she thinks his parents are in there, she assures him with confidence that they are. Once inside the churchyard there many are cross-shaped gravemarkers that are visible. There is no mistaking it: James and Lily Potter are buried in hallowed ground.



Then there’s the Sword of Godric Gryffindor:

The scene is as I described it in The Lord of the Hallows: Christian Symbolism
and Themes in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.

It is on the day after Christmas that Harry and his friends begin to make real progress in accomplishing their mission to defeat Voldemort. Just as King Arthur’s knights followed the white stag through the forest to find the Grail Chapel, Harry followed the silver doe to a frozen forest pool where he saw a shape like “a great silver cross” (DH 367). It was the Sword of Gryffindor hidden beneath the ice. The sword is one of the most fundamental Christian symbols:

The Cross is God’s sword, held at the hilt by the hand of Heaven and plunged into the world not to take our blood, but to give us His. (Kreeft 224)

Harry, while wearing the locket, tried to retrieve the sword, but the Horcrux around his neck began to choke him. It was when Harry began to drown that Ron returned to save his life. Proving himself to be a true Gryffindor, Ron pulled the sword from the water and severed the locket’s hold on Harry.

Voldemort, like Satan the Father of Lies, made a desperate effort to claim Ron as his own, and Ron, like the weasel who strikes against the venomous serpent, was able to strike the first fatal blow against Voldemort by destroying the locket Horcrux with Gryffindor’s sword.

This quote was from page 81 of The Lord of the Hallows. The quote within the passage above which describes the Cross as God’s Sword is from Peter Kreeft’s wonderful book Catholic Christianity. J. K. Rowling herself described the Sword of Godric Gryffindor as being shaped like “a great silver cross” in the novel on page 367, (emphasis mine).

I gave chapter 8 of The Lord of the Hallows the title “Belief in God in the World of Harry Potter.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“How in the name of heaven did Harry survive?” asked Professor McGonagall at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. (SS 12) This is the first of many examples of how the language of Christianity is used throughout the series.

In book one there is a reference to the concept of sin in the warning given to those who would steal from the Gringotts goblins: “Enter stranger, but take heed of what awaits the sin of greed.” (SS 72) Harry, Ron, and Hermione even manage to escape from a deadly plant called the Devil’s Snare. (SS 277-278)

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Mr. Weasley asks, “Good lord, is it Harry Potter?” (CS 39) Draco refers to Harry as “Saint Potter, the Mudbloods’ friend.” (CS 223) Dumbledore even leads the Hogwarts students and faculty in “a few of his favorite carols” at Christmastime. (CS 212)

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban the manager of Flourish and Blotts says “thank heavens” (PA 53), Draco Malfoy says “God” (PA 113), Hagrid utters “Gawd knows.” (PA 274), and Remus Lupin says “My God.” (PA 363) Lupin also helps Harry learn the difference between losing one’s life and losing one’s soul. (PA 247) In these numerous references and in many others, there is evidence of a belief in the Christian God in the world of Harry Potter. (The Lord of the Hallows pages 69-70)

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rowling’s use of Christian references and images becomes more obvious than in the previous novels. Good wizard characters say “thank God” (Harry on page 74, Molly on page 78, Ron on page 142), and there are jokes about a wizard being “saint-like” or “holy” (George on page 74). That George Weasley would call himself “holy” (“hole-y”) refers to his missing ear, which was cursed off during a battle with the Death Eaters. St. George was a Christian saint, who, according to pious legends, was a dragon slayer, taking up arms against Satan, who appeared to him in the form of a mighty serpent. (The Lord of the Hallows pages 72-73)

George’s “holy” joke is in the film, in a particularly well-acted scene between the Weasley Twins. I also noticed two exclamations of “Oh my God!” in the movie. The first was uttered by Ron Weasley when he is in disguise as Reg Cattermole at the Ministry of Magic. The second exclamation was made by Hermione Granger in the tent when she makes the realization that the Sword of Godric Gryffindor can destroy Horcruxes.

The Deathly Hallow known as the Resurrection Stone is also mentioned by Xenophilius Lovegood after Hermione reads aloud “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” I loved the animation which accompanied her narration, particularly the appearance of the Angel of Death who ascends to Heaven with the third brother at the tale’s conclusion. We have seen the Angel of Death in a Harry Potter film prior to this one, in the graveyard scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.


Yes, there are action figures.
Is this the “Harry Potter and the Angel of Death” playset?

I am eagerly looking forward to the Christian themes and imagery that inevitably will be present in the film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two. If you are interested in the topic of Christian symbolism, imagery, and themes in the Harry Potter series, please consider reading my book, The Lord of the Hallows, which is available from www.outskirtspress.com/thelordofthehallows.




Five Things We Can Learn from Severus Snape

 
 
[Spoiler Alert: If you've not read Deathly Hallows
or watched the final movie, you should go and do that,
and then come back and read this post.]



http://newwaystheology.blogspot.com/2011/07/5-things-we-can-learn-from-severus.html

by Mason Slater
posted July 15, 2011



Last night, as I sat waiting for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to begin, I was looking forward to one character's story more than any other.

It wasn't Harry's, or Ron and Hermione's, or even Voldemort's.

No, the story I wanted to hear was the story of Severus Snape.

By the end of movie 7 part 1, the audience has been set up to hate Snape, and with good reason. Always a shadowy figure with questionable loyalties, in Half Blood Prince Snape kills Dumbledore. Soon after, with the rise of the Dark Lord, he is placed in charge of Hogwarts. As headmaster he oversees a brutal and oppressive school which lacks any of the light and magic of earlier years.

Yet things are not as they seem, and in Deathly Hallows we learn the true story of Snape. The story of a man who was tormented by lost love, who played his role for the greater good, and who was in the end one of the greatest heroes of the story.

Didactically, I think Snape's story provides a sort of traction that some of the others do not, and I want to look at five things we can learn from Severus Snape.
__________________

1. Our judgments about people are often wrong. In almost every book Harry and his friends suspect Snape is in on whatever evil is threatening them, all the more so after he kills Dumbledore. As it turns out he was on their side all along, and did more to protect and aid Harry than almost anyone else.

2. Rough exteriors are not the whole story. Admittedly, Snape is my favorite character in the Harry Potter series [so I was glad to see him vindicated when I read book 7]. But that isn't to say I find him to be a pleasant person, quite the opposite really. We learn some of why that is later on, but from beginning to end Snape is cold, short tempered, and at times rather cruel. Yet this exterior hides a person who dedicated his life to defeating the forces of evil.

3. Sometimes heroes are silent. At the moment of his death, the only person who ever knew how good Snape really was, was Dumbledore, who Snape had killed. He died as an enemy of all that is good in the world of Harry Potter, and it was only after he could no longer be thanked that the true story was revealed - why he betrayed Voldemort, how he did the difficult thing no other wizard could have done and deceived the Dark Lord, how he gave his life selflessly for people who might never know what he had done for them.

4. True loyalty comes at great cost. Sure, we all want loyalty and put forth some effort to be loyal to others, but we rarely consider the cost. For Snape, loyalty to Dumbledore meant living a double life, sacrificing everything he held dear, and even killing Dumbledore when Dumbledore commanded him to. In the end we find out that he was never a traitor, but instead had played his part perfectly to the very end.

5. Love changes everything. Snape was originally a Death Eater, a true servant of Voldemort. We learn in these last chapters that what drove him to Dumbledore was love, love for Lilly Potter. He had loved Lilly since childhood, and though his personality and obsession with the dark arts had driven her away, he never stopped loving her.

When he learned that Voldemort was searching for the Potters, he went to Dumbledore in an effort to protect Lilly. When she died, he spent the rest of his life ensuring her son was safe. The redemption of Severus Snape was, like so much in Harry Potter, because of love. In the end his one request was to look into Harry's eyes, because he had his mother's eyes.
__________________

- Have you seen the final film? What did you think of it?
- Who is your favorite Harry Potter character? Why?
- Be honest. Did you trust Snape?

__________________




The Bravest Man I Ever Knew






Severus Snape's Farewell







Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Requiem
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLozcBo8TxY&feature=related










 
 

Pastor: Clergy can love Harry Potter epic tale of good vs. evil

J.K. Rowling’s tale correlates to Ephesians  6
Friday, July 15, 2011

It seems as if the whole world has been holding its breath in glorious expectation until they could once again enter into the magical world of Harry Potter. Advance ticket sales for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two, reached more than $25 million.

It seems as if the only enemies in the world that Harry has are Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters. But that hasn’t always been the case. It wasn’t all that long ago when not everyone was wild about Harry.

When the first Potter movie came out, The Augusta Chronicle was flooded with letters to the editor denouncing the Boy who Lived. Why? Because there was concern that reading or watching Harry Potter would lead countless scores of people into the dark arts.

The movie was denounced as anti-Christian and a bad influence on children with its portrayal of magic and sorcery. Passages from the Bible were quoted to bolster the argument that to enter the world of Harry Potter was to enter the world of the devil. It’s hard to imagine now, but whether a Christian should see the movie or read the books was a real controversy in evangelical circles.

Fast forward 10 years and the biggest controversy is to decide whether to brave the opening-weekend crowds or wait a few days to see the final film.

So, what has changed? For those of us who have always loved Harry, even amongst us clergy, there was always the understanding that this was an epic tale of good vs. evil.

At one point in The Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry asks his godfather, Sirus Black, if he (Harry) is a bad person. Sirus replies that Harry is a very good person to whom bad things have happened. It’s the goodness and courage of Harry in the face of evil that has made him so attractive.

Not long after The Sorcerer’s Stone was first released, America faced pure evil with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. You didn’t need to enter a magical world to face a power that did not wish us well; it was right here in our own back yard.

For many, especially children, Harry was the face of resistance against evil; it didn’t matter how young you were, you still had the power to fight darkness and win.

Ephesians 6 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … the powers of this world … against this present darkness. Therefore take us the full armor of God that you may be able to resist in that evil day.”

That was the fight of Harry, Ron and Hermione and remains the struggle for each of us today.

What might be the biggest controversy with Harry today? That it is the last installment and the deep wish that J. K. Rowling would go to her keyboard, unleash her talent and once again lead us into the magical world of Harry Potter.

The Rev. Cynthia Taylor is pastor of Church of the Holy Comforter, an Episcopal congregation in Martinez.











Things I Have Learned from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

A film publicity image release by Warner Bros. Pictures showing
Daniel Radcliffe in a scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2."



















[SPOILER ALERT]

That J.K. Rowlings writes wonderfully and that her movies were enjoyable good fun;

That J.K. Rowlings has a wonderful imagination;

That movie goer geeks love to dress up for a good movie;

That there will always be evil in the world to stand up against;

That sometimes evil wins but sometimes it can be defeated;

That childhood is a traumatic event for children;

That childhood responds enthusiastically to respect and love, challenge and wrong;

That childhood requires the closeness of friends in order to get through it;

That our darkest days and our most light-filled moments can be found in childhood;

That there are cowards in life, and those with weak wills, who can easily be influenced by fear and uncertainty;

That those seeking world power and domination get killed;

That those lusting for world power and domination are ruthless and always want more;

That those who hate and do bad things harm not only themselves but everyone around them;

That the concept of justice is an untiring theme in the world in which we live in;

That might does not make right;

That survival is the most right thing that can be imagined in times of evil;

That Harry Potter has two very good friends;

That Harry Potter was both severely misunderstood and doubted, but never doubted himself;

That Harry Potter later proved to be a tremendous inspiration to many;

That an eighth book by J.K. Rowlings was mercifully never written because its too hard to wait for it to be published;

That all sagas begin with good, a struggle with evil, and have a big war in the end;

That Disney has played this plot line for 75 years from cartoons to movies and has made a lot of money from it;

That light and darkness, truth and lies, pure hearts and evil spirits are always a constant;

But, personally, I liked J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbit & the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) series infinitely better (my excuse? It was read earlier in my youth and I loved the legends and complexities!);

And, that I personally like the ending of the Hobbit and the LOTR infinitely better (though J.K. Rowling's series conclusion was quite acceptable);

And finally, that J.R.R. Tolkien's sagas, like J.K. Rowlings series, were both influenced by Christian themes and large world events (sic, WW2 and world-wide terrorism respectively).

(Oh, and great fictional saga authors use multiple initials in their names, and that their first names always begin with the letter "J" ! ).

- skinhead
[SPOILER ALERT]







J K Rowling: 'Christianity inspired Harry Potter'

by Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent
Breaking her silence on the much-debated question as to whether religious themes permeate her books, Rowling confirmed that they echoed her personal struggle with faith.

Speaking in America this week, she was open about the Christian allegories in her latest book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The author said that she had always deflected questions on the issue in the past to avoid disclosing the direction in which the books were heading.

"To me, the religious parallels have always been obvious," Rowling said. "But I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going."

At the end of her latest and final installment in the series, there are specific references to Christianity and themes of life after death and resurrection.

At one point Harry visits his parents' graves and finds two biblical passages inscribed on their tombstones.

"They are very British books, so on a very practical note, Harry was going to find biblical quotations on tombstones," she said.

"But I think those two particular quotations he finds on the tombstones ...they sum up, they almost epitomise, the whole series." (for more see - http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/2011/07/christian-imagery-in-harry-potter-and.html)

However the author, who was brought up an Anglican and is now a member of the Church of Scotland, said she still wrestled with the concept of an afterlife.

"The truth is that, like Graham Greene, my faith is sometimes that my faith will return. It's something I struggle with a lot.

"On any given moment if you asked me if I believe in life after death, I think if you polled me regularly through the week, I think I would come down on the side of yes - that I do believe in life after death.

"But it's something I wrestle with a lot. It preoccupies me a lot, and I think that's very obvious within the books."

Christians have been divided about the books, with some claiming that their popularity should be exploited to spread the Christian message.

Others, however, have demonised them for what they claim to be occult content, and Pope Benedict XVI described them as "subtle seductions" capable of corrupting young Christians.