McKenna and I received the Harry Potter films on Blu-Ray for Christmas this year, so, of course, we’ve been watching one every couple of days. As we’ve made our way through the years, I’ve been reminded of why I loved the books. I’ll come clean and say I was late to the game when it came to the Harry Potter franchise. I put off reading the books for a long time, and then blazed through them in a month and a half right after seminary. (I was suffering from a serious fantasy fiction-deficiency.)
Of course, even when watching/reading Harry Potter, I can’t turn off the theology-grid, so it’s been interesting for me to see how much spiritual wisdom there is to be found in both the books and the films. It’s not too surprising given Rowling’s confessed Christian beliefs. I was particularly struck by a conversation in the 5th film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix between Harry and Luna (Looney) Lovegood, an eccentricly spacey, but insightful classmate of Harry’s at Hogwarts. He’s feeling particularly discouraged about his situation, having been the victim of a smear campaign seeking to discredit his claims that the dark Lord Voldemort (He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named), the satanic antagonist of the series, had returned and was seeking to take over the wizarding world again:
Luna Lovegood: [about her father] We believe you, by the way. That He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back, and you fought him, and the Ministry and the Prophet are conspiring against you and Dumbledore.
Harry Potter: Thanks. Seems you’re about the only ones that do.
Luna Lovegood: I don’t think that’s true. But I suppose that’s how he wants you to feel.
Harry Potter: What do you mean?
Luna Lovegood: Well if I were You-Know-Who, I’d want you to feel cut off from everyone else. Because if it’s just you alone you’re not as much of a threat.
To anyone with ears to hear, it isn’t hard to discern this bit of insight into the nature of spiritual warfare. I’m not a “there’s a demon hiding under every bush”, kind of guy, but still, Jesus took the reality of the demonic seriously, as do the rest of the NT writers, in which case we ought to as well.
One thing to keep in mind is that while the devil is a roaring lion, looking to devour his prey, and shipwreck your faith, (1 Pet. 5:8) he doesn’t always do it in an obvious, open fashion. As Luna points out about Lord Voldemort, one of the easiest ways for him to tear at you is to isolate you, to whisper lies that you’re all alone, that nobody cares, that you will go unvindicated, that you must ultimately care for yourself, rather than trust in the one who holds your life in his hands–which, of course, is the root of sin. And it’s easy to get discouraged, isn’t it? It’s easy to believe lies. Our guilty hearts and consciences are only too ready to fall for them, especially when they’re so believable. He is the father of lies, you know. (John 8:44)
This is one of the many reasons we go to church. Without it, the lies creep in and take root. Christianity is not, and never has been, a Lone-Ranger faith, where you and Jesus are off fighting the whole world together. No, Jesus founded a community. He said to the community of disciples that he would be with them to the end of the age. (Matt 28:20) You can’t do this by yourself and you were never intended to.
Instead, the author of Hebrews warns us to not neglect meeting together, so that we may “encourage one another”, especially in light of the approaching Day of truth. (Heb. 10:25) It is only through hearing the regular preaching of the Word, receiving the Gospel in the sacraments, and the community itself that the evil one’s lies are vanquished in our hearts. It is through the church that we are reminded that we have full assurance to approach the Lord in faith, because of blood of Jesus. (Heb. 10:19, 22) The church is how we know we’re not alone.
Soli Deo Gloria