Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Last Harry Potter

It's been a few days since I wrote – more on that in a day or two.

I already told you I'm one of those huge Harry Potter fans. My son and I went to our local bookstore on July 20 and stayed up till midnight at one of those Harry Potter parties, waiting for our copy. Actually, we bought three copies. One for my wife and me, and one each for the boys.

There were several of our friends from school and church, and I was glad to see that several adults came in costume (so I didn't feel like a fool).

The book, which took me longer than it might have because I had to work most of Saturday as well as Sunday, took me until 12:30 Monday morning. I finished it sitting in a hotel room with the rest of the family asleep around me. I'm now reading out loud to the family (a tradition, even though my youngest son is already nearly finished).

The real thing for us, however, was what was in the book. If you're not a Potter fan, you won't care. If you ARE a Potter fan and haven't read it yet – well, first, I applaud your restraint. Spoiler Alert: I'm going to reveal possibly more than you want to hear, so read on at your own risk.

The first thing I want to note is the use of scripture in this book. I don't mean loose references to it, but actual quotes (albeit not cited) that were crucial to the foundation of the story. Admittedly, these quotes were on graves, but they were on the graves of important people (Harry's parents, for example). Quotes like, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," (Matthew 6:21) and "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Corinthians 15:26).

Does that prove profound Christian teaching or insight? Of course not. But it does show both Christian influence and a pretty good sense of where Christ led us. Because think about what Harry Potter generally teaches: Death is not the end of it all, nor is it an all-powerful enemy that conquers us. Rather, it is the next stage in life. Those who cling to this life as if there is nothing else (like the archenemy Voldemort) are actually the least powerful, the most to be pitied, as Harry concludes in the end. They are also those who are most likely to cause mayhem in the world (followed closely by those who think they are the only people going to heaven).

The second thing I want to note is that the book ends the way you would want it to. Does Harry live? Does he get back together with Ginny? Do Ron and Hermione finally formalized their relationship? Read the book.

As J. K. Rowling said over and over, several people (and non-humans) die, and it breaks my heart from the first to the last. I got a little weepy at a couple of them because they were characters who have been with us from pretty much the very beginning. But she said wars do not respect individuals, wars often kill and leave alive those we think don't deserve it. And so it is with this book. Nobody is left unscathed. Everybody loses someone.

But in the end, people survive, and those people CAN pick up and live. And even in the darkest of times, people manage to find life and joy and some inner peace. Which is indeed how life works.

In the end, I'll tell you that I loved the book, will probably be disappointed in the movie version (as I have for all of them), and will read and reread it many times. It will also form the basis of countless conversations which will, undoubtedly, shed light not only on J. K. Rowling, but on what it means to live life well.

Last note. I read in TIME Magazine an article about Harry Potter and how Rowling, unlike C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkein doesn't refer specifically to God (though, where Tolkein does, I don't know). Sure, the reviewer admitted, she talks about the power of "love," but he considers that rather wimpy and generic. I wonder if he was looking for specific resurrection references (which, by the way, you can see in the last book) or commandments. To my thinking, Rowling cut through a lot of the words to get to the heart of scripture, the heart of Christ (who, I believe, enjoys these stories immensely). Sure, she references mythology and ancient alchemists and the sort – it's a story! But look at the heart! As scripture tells us, God is love.