Harry Potter and the Church Part II

By Eugene C. Scott

It’s true, like the old bumper sticker said, that “God Doesn’t Make Junk.” But after 50 plus years of watching the people around me and daily looking in the mirror, it’s plain God certainly created his share of peculiar, screwy, and eccentric people.

I think that’s one of the reasons I liked J. K Rowling’s main setting for the Harry Potter stories, “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.” I felt right at home. Rowling peopled and staffed her school with bizarre and broken people.

Outwardly handsome and cool but secretly unsure of himself, Gilderoy Lockhart, one of the many Defense Against the Dark Arts professors, was a fraud.

And let’s not forget half-giant game keeper and failed wizard Hagrid or the sadistic janitor Argus Filch.

Many of the students too are screwy. Luna Lovegood is loony, marching to a drum that may not even exist. Even the trio of Harry, Hermione and Ron are a bit odd.

These people are largely dismissed by the “main stream” wizarding community but not by their Head Master equally strange Albus Dumbledore.

In this Hogwarts reminds me of the church. After 30 some years involvement in the church, it occurs to me God too has peopled his community with peculiar, screwy, unconventional and downright broken people, myself not being the exception.

Luna Lovegood would not have been friendless in most churches I’ve served.

Dr. Bob was a retired PhD in one church I pastored who truly believed he had evidence of extraterrestrials having come to earth. During a Sunday school class I taught, a man asked to do an announcement advocating adopting orphaned baby Chinese girls. He proceeded to put on a Chinese Queue and sing the Elvis song “My Little Teddy Bear.”

I won’t name the broken, bleeding, angry, confused and disillusioned.

Rowling lends humor to her increasingly dark stories through fleshing out these eccentric characters. God, however, seems to attract them. As popular as Jesus is today, he hung out with a pretty unpopular, scraggly group back in the First Century.

I feel at home, just like when I read Harry Potter, then when I read of these early peculiar, broken students in Christ’s school of life, or look around me in today’s church. You’ve met them too–or are one.

The wonderful thing is God created such eccentrics and loves us despite our brokenness and he wants them/us to people his spiritual community called the church.

This is where I find the pervasive philosophy in the modern church focusing on bright-shiny people false. Years ago I had a college professor who taught that because we were followers of Christ, we should be the best of the best, with the whitest smiles, nicest clothes, best grades. “God,” he said quoting the bumper sticker, “doesn’t make junk.” I bought it until I looked in the Bible or in the mirror again.

Not that I equate, as he seemed to, offbeat, broken people with junk. God made no one expendable. Jesus died for every Lockhart and Lovegood among us.

But, somehow, despite the church’s ability to be filled with outcasts and Jesus’ willingness to embrace them, this is not the demographic the church focuses on nor the image we portray. To our shame.

When was the last time you saw a pastor preach or teach from a wheel chair? Or have any kind of visible disability? I recently attended a huge church planter’s conference where all of the speakers I heard were cool looking and pastored mega-churches. There was not a halting, unsure Harry Potter among them.

Or closer to home, when was the last time you shied away from the Luna Lovegood or Gilderoy Lockhart in your life or church?

You see, what I believe Rowling knows is that we’re all Lovegoods and Lockharts. We just don’t want anyone else to know it. So, we think surrounding ourselves with the cool and the smart and the successful will make it so for us too. What we often don’t see is that they too are not really bright-shiny either.

But God knows our fears and failures and forgives them. God knows too our eccentricities and revels in them.

This is where Hogwarts reminds me more of the church than the church does sometimes.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Harry Potter and the Church Part II

  1. elna

    Yes, I was troubled by my friend who came to God when she was dying…And God showed me that He did indeed come for the paralysed, dying, imprisoned, beggars, thieves, … Ps 107 showed me that God uses disease, depression, imprisonment, trials and tribulations to bring us closer to HIm, because we are stupid, rebellious sheep and the only way He can ‘treat’ us is when we land in situations (or sheep pen to take the analogy further) where we can’t depend on ourselves and our own strength …

    • Amen, Elna.

      Personally I am so glad God welcomes misfits. But it has also been a struggle–even as a pastor–sometimes to fit in to the church. I did not grow up in it. And though I’ve been involved now for over thirty years, I still feel like an outsider, wondering why we do the things we do, etc.

      Donald Miller, in his first book, tells about traveling to OR and spending time with a bunch of cast-off, pot smoking hippies in a camp-ground and just how open and welcoming they were.

      I wonder what it is about us and the church that struggles with this kind of acceptance and openness.

  2. Georgie-ann

    I don’t know if it’s attributable to her English background, with their long and complex and valued literary history dating back for centuries and all kinds of other peculiar “lurking” traditions, but I certainly did feel that she was “tuned in” to some amazingly accurate perceptions — both negative and positive, spiritual and psychological. Considering the bizarre dynamics of any given moment, I was glad to feel the underlying positive theme, where “good” was the important value that would survive victorious — somehow or other!

    I, too, am someone who experiences the inter-twinings of life and personalities as happening on various levels, including some rather mysterious and undefined ones! I have much compassion for the basic surface level of those who are just willing to try to get along and to be pleasant, for the sake of kindness and peace and surviving the long haul together (more and more “the salt of the earth,” if you ask me!); and then all kinds of other scenarios: including the problematic — the obviously so, and then the under the surface stuff that’ll keep you guessing, hopping, and even dodging bullets! And I’m extremely glad to feel that God “has my back” through it all!

    • I agree. Rowling has layered many things and themes into these seven books, especially for children’s stories. The over-all message of the power of love through sacrifice is a positive one.

      I’m glad God has your back, and mine too.

      Eugene

  3. To carry your comparison a bit further, the characters at Hogwarts also displayed Paul’s body metaphor for the church rather well. Without Luna’s unique understanding of conspiracy and pure-heart, Harry may not have been successful, not to mention nearly every character in the book, both bad and good, each added some dimension to helping Harry accomplish his task of defeating Voldemort, whether they intended to or not.

    We are leery in the church-growth movement of having certain people join our churches, let alone participate, because they are not “attractive” mentally, emotionally, or physically. We fear that like Luna, they may scare off the cool kids. and yet, they may be the very people that without, the church will never accomplish its mission.

    And I must say, I am perhaps the guiltiest of all in this.

    Thanks for the GREAT blog Eugene.

    • Georgie-ann

      1 Samuel 16:7 “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”

      It should be part of humility to us, as Christians, to refrain from being overly influenced/impressed by external patterns and physical appearances. But this is difficult to learn, and it is even more difficult to develop accurate “spiritual sight” (or, correct “discernment”). At the very least, we should remain “open” to the possibilities that in all things: “there is more than what meets the eye,” and in actual fact — (as we DO also see in Harry Potter) — this could be “for better or for worse!”

      Sincere prayer before trying to “judge” anything is a good policy. (Also, “buyer beware!”) But developing an outgoing attitude of kindness to be offered to all, at least initially, is commendable.

      Luke 10:2-6 (excerpted)

      2 Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. 4 … 5 But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.”

    • Michael:

      If I do a Part III, the collaboration of gifts and personalities to help Harry succeed would be the core idea. But you said it well.

      I was trained in the “find the good looking captain of the football team and the head cheerleader and get them involved in your ministry and the other kids will come” model of youth ministry. I tried to do that but I always found myself gravitating to the skinny nerd or bookish girl in the corner. I thought I was doing ministry wrong.

      Thanks for the input. Eugene

      • Georgie-ann

        These ideas about Christian-esque lesson-examples demonstrated in the Harry Potter series are very good! She is also not holding back on the intensity of challenges one might face, a wretched enemy, times of doubt, necessary efforts to overcome, and consistently “fighting the good fight.”

        I am flat-out astounded about the football player/cheerleader thing. God came to “seek and to save that which is lost.” That could be anybody. I do enjoy the social aspects of church, but I don’t like it to feel like a “social club.”

        Luke 19:10 “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

  4. Georgie-ann

    Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, ALL you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

    Hebrews 4:15 “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”

    John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.”

    My early personal experience with cheerleading and the rather vaingloriousness of that and the school sports “heroes,” — including the images, prides and illusions thereof (compared to the reality), — finished that chapter of life quest for me at a young age, never to be returned to. Surely there must be something more meaningful and substantial than this, I had concluded. Most of the cheerleaders and athletes would probably have benefitted from some real heartfelt evangelization, I would think, but I’m not sure they were looking to have anyone (God/Jesus) on a pedestal besides themselves.

    Whoever is sincerely looking for/needing God, should hopefully find those who can willingly minister His Word and His Life and His Love to them.

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