H.P. and the Deathly Hallows 2: A Great Movie, Fair Theologically

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Image by WorthingTheatres via Flickr

On an entertainment/story-telling/aesthetic level the  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2  gets an A+.   Spiritually speaking, it gets a C+.  I’m reflecting on some of those spiritual themes of the final book… and how they were changed for the film. 

If you don’t want the ending of either the book or the movie spoiled it’s probably a good idea to stop reading here.

It seems to me that this last book in the series was where J.K. Rowling sort-of came out of the closet.  It was growing increasingly clear that the books were quite spiritual.  But it’s not until the last third of the last book that things become quite specifically and inarguably Christian.

Most generally of course is the surprising idea that Dumbledore, who appears as a God-The-Father figure has been orchestrating the sacrifice of Harry to save everybody else from the incarnation of evil.   Further, Voldermort is identified with a snake.  Harry essentially comes back from the dead after going to “King’s Cross.”  And in the book, Voldemort has no power over Harry when he returns.

The movie was different on this count.  And a bit disapointingly so. 

When Harry comes back from the dead Voldermort continues to have power over Harry.   It was visually exciting but theologically disapointing.   

A profound truth that is difficult to put into words but was well-captured by the book: In yeilding, in weakness, we aquire this great strength.  Evil loses its ability to impact us when we submit in this way.

The movie redeemed itself somewhat on this count when Voldemort more or less disinigrated.  If Harry had used the groovy ultimate-power wand this action would have cared a profound implication.  The movie further redeemed itself when Harry broke the wand… but I still wish they’d kept these features of the book.

 A similiar theologically disapointing change was the scenes right before Harry’s death.

In the book a great spectacle is made out of kicking the crap out of Harry.  He is beaten bloody.  Theologically this was disapointing because I thought that the scene in the book was a really powerful paralell to the Jesus story, a bit like the scene in the Narnia movie where they shave Aslan before killing him. 

I don’t think you can even make the case that this change made for a better movie if you disregard theology.  Watching Harry got trashed would have heightened the drama.  And scenes like that one, where the antagonist trounces the protagnoist in such a public, humiliating, and flamboyant way heightens our hatred of the bad guy: it makes it clear that the villian is a sadist, doing the deed merely for the enjoyment.

Finally, the film seemed in some ways more reminiscent of Stephen King’s “The Stand” than the book it was based on.  In “The Stand” the Satan figure has appeared omnipotent through out the whole book.   Yet as the climax nears he begins to fall apart.  Stephen King has spoken some about how he wanted to potray the idea that evil can seem so powerful and yet is something of a paper tiger.

I respect this view.  But I also disagree.  And I don’t think the idea wpowas really in the book at all.  But in the whole second half of the movie we see Voldermort doubting himself and looking like he’s on the verge of falling apart.  While I believe that Good is inherently more powerful than evil, I also believe that Evil is way more powerful than me under my own power.

However, the movie was great fun.  And spiritually challenging.  I can’t ask for too much more than that.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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