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Neal Brings Good News to Potter Fans in Intriguing "Gospel"
on August 2, 2003
Evangelical and other devout Christians distrust popular culture and at times see it with outright hostility. This has been true in theater, on radio (Christian rock pioneer Larry Norman's wailing "Why should the devil have all the good music?") at toy stores and bookstands. J.K. Rowling's wildly successful Harry Potter book series is notable here, its themes of supernatural powers, combined with huge sales to pre-teens, inspiring criticism and even misguided protests such as library lawsuits and book burnings.
Recently, however, many conservative Christians have come to respect the Potter books for sophisticated portrayals of good and evil. Connie Neal addresses her Potter interpretation "The Gospel According to Harry Potter" to these Christians plus the few left who remain hostile toward a book series many of them never read.
Ms. Neal traverses through the first four Potter books, summing overlaying themes of each. She selects episodes (standing on the 9 ¾ platform, the shrinking door keys mystery, Ginny Weasley's rescue), character profiles (false faces of Professor Quirrell and Mad-Eye Moody, consistent citing of Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore as a God-like figure) and character quotes. She then relates this at length to a Biblical story or theme, constantly focusing on the panoramic, constant battle between good and evil and subtleties within it. (Neal states on its front cover no one involved with the Potter series proper has authorized this book. Perhaps this is reason Neal provides a teaspoon of Potter followed by two cups of Bible.)
Ms. Neal, perhaps for Christian unity or not wanting to put Christian words into Harry's lightning-scarred head, fails somewhat to directly contradict anti-Potter views or any of the series' darker themes. (In personal asides, she recalls criticism received in radio and TV interviews and dealing with fallout from a satirical story on the Onion Web site relating Potter to Satanism.)
A librarian at a Micigan Christian school and webmaster of one of the larger Harry Potter sites recently said of Rowling,"She is writing extremely moral books that show that evil is real and you have to take a stand against it, even at great cost to yourself." Connie Neal effectively relates that bedrock Biblical truth to Harry's spiritual quest. She also compares friends, enemies, mentors, and wolves dressed as sheep Harry encounters to Jesus' own ministry, while retaining Jesus' divinity and Harry's mortality.
To that end, the "Gospel According to Harry Potter" is useful to homilists and Sunday school teachers wanting to relate today's most popular action-adventure story with the first and truest. This book allows non-Potter readers to effectively discuss the series with those who've read them. It is recommended to Scripture readers intrigued by "the boy who lived", essential for Potter readers intrigued by the One who lives.