"Look at this," the bookseller said to her assistant, "a pastor buying a 'Harry Potter.'" She was teasing, of course. Susie knows all about my eclectic taste in literature.
"Oh, we love Harry Potter," I replied. "In fact this is our second copy of the third volume. We have read it so many times that the binding is broken and the pages are falling out."
The first book, which I bought for my daughter, hooked the whole family. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is not only a splendid piece of writing with a gripping plot: I found that in some ways, Harry's experience at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was parallel to my first year of theological seminary.
Like Harry, I was called to be a part of a community completely separate from any I had known before. And it was thrilling, after years of intellectual solitude, to find myself in the company of so many people who were like me -- spiritual people, as we thought of ourselves, or church geeks, as my former college classmates thought of us. After so many years of being completely uncool, I was home at last. So, I empathized completely with poor, bullied Harry Potter, and rejoiced for him when he found a home and friends at Hogwarts.
Like Harry, I found that when I left my school and returned to "the real world," that world had little interest in what I had learned. Harry's family on Privet Drive did not want to hear about Hogwarts. According to one of my seminary classmates, her father wouldn't admit to his friends that his daughter was studying theology. When asked, he said she was pursuing a graduate degree in mythology. Just like Harry's uncle, Mr. Dursley, who told the neighbors that Harry had gone off to a reformatory.
I also discovered with surprise that my vocation seems to strike fear in some people. For example, my Uncle Bob, normally a man of many colorful adjectives and expletives, hasn't said a naughty word in my presence since 1986. So I knew exactly what Harry was going through when he returned from Hogwarts to find that his previously abusive uncle and cousin were being uncharacteristically decent. It's disconcerting.
After finishing the first book, my husband, our daughter and I went on to the second and the third. Before its release in July 2000, we pre-ordered three copies of the fourth book, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," so we wouldn't have to take turns reading it.
While it is not specifically a "Christian" series, I find many reasons to recommend it. Each volume is a resumption of the classic struggle between good and evil. And, as in life, the difference between good and evil is not always completely clear. In the second volume, "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," Harry struggles with the possibility that evil lurks within his own soul when he discovers that he and his nemesis Voldemort have a lot in common. In the concluding chapter, the headmaster Albus Dumbledore assures him, "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." You shall know them by their fruits.
I'm wild about Harry, and Ron and Hermione, too. They are loyal, kind and courageous. I think anyone would be happy to have their children emulate the attributes of these most enduring characters.
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