Who comes to mind when you think...?
Magic father, human mother
Miraculous birth, foretold by prophecy
Threatened by an evil ruler, had to go into hiding as a baby
Power over animals, time, and matter
Symbolized by a lion, enemy symbolized by a snake
Descended into the underworld
Broke seven magical seals
Went willingly to his death
Suffered and died (or appeared to die) willingly, was mourned
Came back to life
Defeated his enemy in a glorious final battle
I'm no Biblical scholar. And I've never read the Harry Potter series.
But I believe Derek Murphy when he says, early on in his book "Jesus Potter, Harry Christ," that there isn't a whole lot of difference between Christianity's savior and J.K. Rowling's literary creation.
Can this list really be applied to both Jesus Christ and Harry Potter equally? If so, where do the apparent similarities come from? More importantly, why do some Christian groups deem Harry Potter satanic, while Jesus Christ is revered as the Son of God? What key differences allow Christians to make the distinction between them?
In order to answer these questions, this chapter will trace the raging controversy over the Harry Potter series, examine the Christian responses to J.K. Rowling's character, and then explore the potential similarities themselves.
I will conclude by arguing that the key variance between the two is that Harry Potter is obviously a fictional character, while Jesus Christ is almost universally accepted as a historical figure.
Murphy is a fellow Oregonian who shares my irreligious perspective. After finding my blog through a fortuitous Googling, and realizing that I'd likely resonate with his book, he sent me a link that led me to a downloadable review copy.
I'm impressed. A lot.
l figured that "Jesus Potter, Harry Christ" would focus on the commonalities between Jesus Christ and Harry Potter, but Murphy's aims are a lot more ambitious. And interesting.
In a highly readable yet semi-scholarly style, he sets out to examine the origins and evolution of Christianity, seeking evidence for a historical Jesus who is akin to the mythical figure revered by believers today.
(Spoiler alert: there is very little. Evidence.)
This book is not meant as an attack on religion, on faith, on belief, or on God. It is simply an attempt to tell, perhaps for the first time ever, the actual history of the Christian Church -- a history that is clearly discernible even after a millennium of misdirection and wishful thinking; a history that really happened, in one specific, concrete way, and can be reconstructed based on reliable evidence and testimony.
Although some of the ideas in this book have been raised before, much of the evidence and arguments in this book are new.
Moreover, Jesus Potter, Harry Christ provides answers that no other book on the subject has been able to provide: exactly how this transformation from myth to history occurred, why anyone would want to combine Judaism and pagan mythology, how followers of Jesus could believe so fervently in his existence to become martyrs, and how a movement as powerful and long-lasting as Christianity could have begun around a myth.
Yes, a myth.
Just as the character of Harry Potter is imagined, so is that of Jesus Christ. Thus this narrows drastically, and perhaps even eliminates, the variance mentioned above: the supposed historicity of Jesus, as contrasted with the obvious fictional nature of Harry.
The two are seen to be even more alike when each is recognized as being a reflection of our human longing to find meaning in the midst of death, pain, suffering, and malevolent forces.
While unreal in an objective sense, Murphy demonstrates that the myths told in the New Testament and the Harry Potter series can point to personal truths that offer comfort, solace, and courage to anyone (which, really, is everyone) seeking to live life more fully, happily, and boldly.
There is nothing wrong with religion -- so long as faith isn't taken as the Way Things Really Are. We all need a shoulder to lean on, and visions of Heaven can help support us, just as tales of Hogwarts can.
"Jesus Potter, Harry Christ" demolishes part of the foundation of Christianity, Jesus' purported uniqueness and godly heritage, but leaves the most important part: our capacity as humans to become more and better than we are now.
Jesus Christ could still serve as our higher selves, our voice of reason and guidance, our intuition and goodness. This conception of Jesus would truly be eternal and universal: it has many names, and the expression of its faith are as diverse as the world's many distinct cultures.