At midnight last night/this morning I saw the last and final movie in the Harry Potter series. Don’t judge me.
Actually, on second thought, judge me all you want. I don’t care. It is a fine story, fairly well made movie series and it has some fantastic British actors in it, not the least of whom are Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Helena Bonham Carter, Maggie Smith, Julie Waters, Robbie Coltrain, David Thewilis, and Gary Oldman. If you just had Emma Thompson, it would be nearly unbelievable. Wait….yes, we do have Emma Thompson as well even though she’s really only a cameo in this one. These are worth the price of admission alone. (Actually, Alan Rickman and/or Gary Oldman would be enough for me) Mix all of that up with pretty good young actors and an epic journey tale of good vs evil cannot miss in my book. Besides, I’m on vacation.
I’ve preached about Harry Potter several times. By that I mean that I have used characters or scenes or items from the HP universe to illustrate a particular point. I will confess to be mystified by those who seem to think it is a bad thing to watch or read this series. As I understand it, their concern is related to the use of witchcraft. Of course, it does not take much exploration of the story to see that the truly important and meaningful pieces of the story have nothing whatsoever to do with witchcraft but are centered around friendship, loyalty, teamwork, determination, and not surrendering to evil even when things look their worst. And love. Remarkably, quite a bit of love.
I suppose (and this is no new brilliance on my part but the simple observation many have made before me) if we are to say that the Potter stories are evil for containing such magical components as spells, wands, hexes and the like, we must also condemn a good many things that nearly no one would think were evil. Are we to say that JRR Tolkien’s mythological books about Middle Earth are also works of evil? How about the Narnia series from CS Lewis? I think not. Lewis’ allegory is more transparent, certainly, but there is no mistaking that both are metaphorical stories of good vs evil and both have been lifted up to Christian over the years as excellent reading for the faithful. Yet they, too, contain spells, wands, wizards and all manner of magic. Seems pretty thin to condemn Harry Potter on these qualities when other grand and time honored Christian fictions wield the same story-telling devices.
Speaking of CS Lewis. Since I have been pondering the possibility of a DMin dealing with Hamartiology, I’ve done some reviewing of my seminary readings on exactly what sin is. One thing kept returning to me was this: disordered pursuit of love. This was derived in some way or another from Augustine’s assertion of sin as an attempt to pursue a good but the attempt is actually disordered. I am not prepared at the moment to go into that further so I’m just going with it as disordered pursuit of love fore the time being. I remembered reading Lewis’ The Four Loves but I could recall next to nothing about it, so I checked it out of the library last week. This was the context in which I saw the last Potter movie, with the question in my mind: What actually is love? And, as often happens, it became the lens through which I heard this last installment of the story.
[potential spoilers ahead]
There are nearly countless examples of love here; some healthier than others. For example, Molly Weasley and Bellatrix LeStrange love in contrasting ways. Molly in the mothering and the Mama Grizzly Bear way of protecting both her biological and gathered family, and Bellatrix loving Voldemort in a manic, obsessive, destructive and self-destructive way. Harry, Hermione and Ron’s friendship is a kind of love we are familiar with in stories like this, but even within that trio, there are subtleties of relationship as well. Harry’s love of Dobby, and of Dumbledor, Sirius and all who were mentors to him are also relationships we, if we are lucky, have in our own lives.
Even Snape, perhaps most surprisingly and significantly Snape, loves. Loves, though obsessive and distorted, to the point of his own kind of self sacrifice and loves in such a way that eventually leads him to have compassion and care for one he seems for so long to hate. And Lilly Potter, arguably the most significant act of love in the entire story, sacrificing herself for her son and using the “old magic” of love to protect him.
The only character as far as I can tell who does not love someone or something is the personification of evil in this story, Voldemort. I’m not so sure one could even say he loves himself or his pet snake (which may be the same thing) so much as he quite simply fears death and seeks power to prevent his death.
The Harry Potter story has given me new things to ponder. How connected are evil and the absence of love? How twisted or ‘disordered’ can love be and it still be love? Is it possible that our own disordered love can lead us to do evil in the world or, conversely, can even terribly disordered love still provide an opportunity for us to do good?
And, is it really love that saves us?
I think I know the answer to that last one.