No Heaven for Harry

I was wondering where God is in the Harry Potter books. Don't get me wrong. I've read them all and I plan on reading the next one when I can get my hands on it - all seven thousand pages, or whatever monster volume J.K. Rowlings comes out with, because nobody edits her anymore. (I'm not such a huge fan, but I find these books pleasantly diverting enough so that I read each one all the way through).

But as to my question, after reading all of these books I was just struck by the fact that nobody ever goes to church in her books. Even the cruel Aunt and Uncle who care for young Harry in the muggle(non-magical) world never go to church. It seems to me that she Rowlings posits a sort of agnostic or secular type of England where no one much seems to have any sort of spiritual philosophy, outside of perhaps just the existence of magic.

There are ghosts in her books which indicates some sort of after life. They function sort of as a comic relief and they don't do much of anything except basically hang around and make conversation every now and then. There's no indication that they ever faced judgement or will or might go either to Heaven or Hell or even what unfinished business they might need to finish on the Earth. Major characters who have died, Harry's parents, Sirius Black, don't become ghosts. So, what happens to them?

There's never any mention of God. There's also no mention of the Devil. And there's never any mention of where magic comes from or why there's even magic in the world. (I know. The evangelical answer is: The Devil. But these are her books and it's for her to answer). This finally makes her books rather unsatisfying because she lacks a unifying framework to put all of her stories in.

I haven't dismissed the idea that her books are in themselves metaphors for a Christian theology. In this case, Hogwarts schools would represent the world, the students are us, Lord Voldemort would be the Devil (obviously) and Dumbledore would be God, you know with his long white beard and all-knowingness. Maybe then Harry is Jesus. Well, I'm sure I'm not the first person to come up with this interpetation.

Generally, I don't think Christian symbolism works too well in fantasy. I'm thinking of C.S. Lewis's Lion, Witch and Wardrobe books, whichI read when I was eight or nine. I read a few of them and then stopped when I figured out what was going on. The fantasy elements were fun, but the preachiness turned me off. And I got enough of that in church, anyways.

About the Author

Steve Sommers is the author of Breakfast with the Antichrist