I saw the latest installment of Harry Potter last night and thought it the best of this series of movies. Mature themes dealing with death and the consequences of our actions as well as beautiful cinematography and a surprising burst of good acting from the main characters make this a film worth seeing. But that doesn't mean that all is well at Hogwarts. Lev Grossman in a great article in this week's issue of TIME, Harry Potter and God, sums up the problem I've always found in the books and the movie.
At the end of this film, Harry Potter says something like this as he's standing with all the students who support him: "We have something that Voldemort doesn't." The problem is, What is that something? J.K. Rowlings really doesn't have room for metaphysics in her books. There is no real need for God. And there's the rub. Harry's good because she says he's good. Voldemort's bad because she says he's bad. But why? What governs this literary and cinematic universe? That's why Lev Grossman in his article posits that the one who dies in the last book will really be God, because there is no need for a Supreme Being in Harry Potter's universe. (What a suprise for God?!) That's just fine with our secular culture, but in the end, it's not going to sit well with those of us who like our myths deeper, touching eternal verities.
As those who read this blog know, I'm not one to condemn outright literature or film that doesn't march lock step with Christian values. There is much that is good in Harry Potter. But not enough, I think, to really make this creation a classic. J. K. Rowlings says that everything good in Harry Potter comes from love, but love that is not rooted in Eternal Love, namely God, degenerates into sentimentality and risks being used by us selfish humans who often do what we want and then say we act out of love. Enjoy the film, relish the last book, but keep your wits about you: there is a God even if Harry hasn't discovered Him yet.