Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Awakening Love

Theological Reflection

Love is in the air and even in the chocolates in this sixth installment in the Harry Potter film franchise. Harry and his friends have reached the apex of their academic career at Hogwarts, and their hormones have them twitterpated with each other and distressingly inexperienced in knowing how to handle their fluttering emotions.

“Love” might be too strong a word to call most of the romantic displays present in this movie. “Infatuation” might be a better term. The teenagers are ablush with the idea of being with one another and thrilled to explore the physical expressions of their amorous ideas. Furthermore, a new professor has arrived to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, and he is infatuated with Hogwarts’ best and brightest. Professor Slughorn is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the most esteemed students close.

These infatuations make everyone a little blind to the world around them. Ron is so distracted by his girlfriend’s lips, he doesn’t notice Hermione’s pain. Slughorn is distracted by Tom Riddle’s flattery and foolishly shares with him the fateful secret that will cement Voldemort’s eventual power. Love as infatuation does indeed make one blind, it seems, to the faults in others and to the faults in oneself.

Another kind of love is practiced in this story though – love of the unromantic kind. Harry shows love-as-friendship to Hermione when he sees her pain and comforts her. Harry and Professor Snape show love-as-allegiance to Dumbledore when they keep their promises to him even when it causes both them and him pain. Dumbledore performs the ultimate act of love-as-sacrifice and literally gives his life to save the lives of everyone else.

Love is, indeed, complex. It appears in many forms, and all of them are valid and necessary. Love-as-infatuation, amour, romance, eros, is powerful and consuming and dangerous. It compels people to do crazy things like commit to honor and serve one another for the rest of their lives. Song of Solomon, the Bibles poem to eros, both celebrates and cautions against this passionate form of love.

We give so much attention to infatuation in our lives and in our cinematic stories, but beyond Song of Solomon, it’s barely mentioned in the Bible. Love-as-friendship, -allegiance, and -sacrifice is celebrated, not just in one book of the Bible, but in all of them. The love that spreads throughout scripture is not love that flares up and then fizzles out. This is love that sustains and that is proven by its steadfastness.

Infatuation is demanding. It is barely kind. It is envious. It boasts. It is proud and often rude to others. It is blindly selfish. It does not forgive wrongs, because it never sees them. Infatuation does resort to evil at times. It doesn’t care about the truth. It is reckless, distrusts, quickly despairs, and cannot persevere. Infatuation fails.

Infatuation has its place. It is a spark, but it is not real love. It is not agape.

Love is patient. It is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud or rude or self-seeking. It forgives all wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. Love, real love, never fails. That’s how you know it’s real.

Discussion Questions

1) Read Song of Songs 3:1-5. Describe your early experiences of infatuation. What’s it like to “like” someone? What is positive about that experience? What is negative? Did that infatuation mature over time? If so, how? If not, how should it have? What kind of person does infatuation inspire you to be?

2) Read 1 John 3:16-18. How is what Dumbledore does in this story an act of love? How is what Harry does in this scene an act of love? How are what Dumbledore and Harry do like what John describes in the scripture passage?

Related Scripture

Upon my bed, night after night,
I looked for the one whom I love with all my heart.
I looked for him but couldn’t find him.
“I will rise now
and go all around the city,
through the streets and the squares.
I will look for the one whom I love with all my heart.”
I looked for him but couldn’t find him.
The guards found me,
those who make their rounds in the city.
“The one whom I love
with all my heart –
have you seen him?”
No sooner did I depart from them
than I found the one whom I love with all my heart.
I held on to him
and now I won’t let him go,
until I’ve brought him
to my mother’s house,
to the chamber of the one
who conceived me.
I place you under oath,
daughters of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles or the wild deer:
don’t rouse, don’t arouse love

until it desires.
Song of Songs 3:1-5)

This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. But if a person has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care – how can the love of God remain in him? Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.
(1 John 3:16-18)