Much has been said about the moral quality of the Harry Potter series. Some see the stories as dark at best and subversively evil at worst. Others report being edified and spurred toward deeper worship of Christ by the stories. You likely find yourself somewhere in between the two extremes.
In any case, if you are reading this, you are interested to some degree in the series. It is the best selling book series of all time having sold over 450 million copies. The individual books in the series take up seven of the spots on the list of the twenty best selling books of all time. And the films are as popular as the books. The eight films in the series have made roughly eight billion dollars, two billion dollars more than the third most successful film series of all time, the twenty-five installment James Bond series.
Whether we are fans or not, it behooves us to be familiar with these stories and this series as it has been one of the most popular and influential stories in the world for the past twenty years. This story has shaped a generation.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
It is somewhat ironic that issues of good and evil dominate most Christian conversations about this series as the first film in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, deals very explicitly with issues of good and evil. As Harry is whisked away suddenly to find his place in the wizarding world, he is confronted with examples of evil and good he’d never considered before.
The greatest evil is found in the person of Lord Voldemort who, mimicking the snake in Eden who ellipses the “of Good and Evil” from the forbidden tree’s name, tells Harry, “There is no such thing as good and evil. There is only power.” One of evil’s favorite tricks is to obscure its existence. Evil can’t be evil if there’s no such thing as evil. As Charles Baudelaire quipped and The Usual Suspects’ Verbal Kint famously cribbed, “The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.”
Everyone else in Harry’s life certainly believes in evil and in the greatest manifestation of evil they’ve ever known, Lord Voldemort. They are so sure of evil’s existence, they won’t even speak you-know-who’s name lest they inadvertently conjure him up.
In this first film in the series, Harry is forced to choose whom to believe and who he will become. Will he side with the people who delineate between good and evil and choose good no matter how weak good seems to be at times, or will he join Voldemort’s grey world where only power matters?
Curiously, believing in evil sometimes seems much easier than believing in good. Life is hard. There is much heartache and death in the world. Evil exists in the cancer eating my friend’s lungs, in the earthquake that swallows Haitian villagers, in the hunger gnawing at the belly of the homeless woman on the street corner near my apartment complex, and in the lie I tell my roommate to avoid his disappointment that I used the last of his milk. Evil is everywhere. It presses in threatening to smother us.
Good sometimes seems more feint, but it is there too for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. In particularly dark moments, like when you are standing all alone before the man who killed your parents and tried to kill you too, believing in good requires faith.
Voldemort’s question to Harry is answered by Voldemort’s very existence. Certainly there is evil; evil is the one claiming its non-existence. A more pressing question is, “Do you believe in good?”
Harry does, and I do too. Harry believes in the good of his mother who sacrificed herself to protect him, in the good of his friends who risk their lives to help him, and in the good of countless others in his life who do whatever they can to help him find his way in this wizarding world.
I believe in similar goods in my own life, but I also believe Good incarnated itself into the form of a man and died on a cross and rose from the grave inaugurating a new world where Good reigns without end. I believe Good is breaking out all around us, like in the confession that, yes, I drank the milk, in the meal that satisfies my neighbor’s hunger, in the nurse’s hands that care for the leg crushed by the collapsing building, and one day in the Great Resurrection that awaits all of us wrapped up in the arms of a God who is Good.
1) How does Harry know Draco Malfoy isn’t someone with whom he should be friends?
2) Voldemort tells Harry there’s no such things as good and evil. There’s only those who have power and those who don’t. Is that true? Why or why not?
3) Read Hebrews 5:12-14. What does this passage teach us about how to distinguish between good and evil? The Bible doesn’t contain only one list of what good and evil look like, but it does contain lots and lots of descriptions of good and evil throughout. What are some verses that come to mind that would help us distinguish between good and evil?
Although you should have been teachers by now, you need someone to teach you an introduction to the basics about God’s message. You have come to the place where you need milk instead of solid food. Everyone who lives on milk is not used to the word of righteousness, because they are babies. But solid food is for the mature, whose senses are trained by practice to distinguish between good and evil.