Crying Into My Oatmeal: Christianity Talks to Harry Potter (Again)

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The Internet has been abuzz lately with what is perhaps the best-worst Harry Potter fanfic since My Immortal. Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles is, according to its author, a God-approved, kid-friendly rewrite of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series that keeps the good of the original books but inserts wholesome, Christian messages.

I have read all the chapters posted so far and I find myself both thoroughly amused at the execution and tempted to unpack this latest piece in a pop culture debate that I honestly thought was over. As of now, I’m more convinced that this is a satire rather than a sincere effort, especially since the way the author handles the houses shows a level of cleverness that I don’t believe would be present in someone who 100% held the views expressed in the fanfic. That being said, I have known many kinds of Christians and I wouldn’t be that surprised if this turned out to be genuine.

Of all that I could possibly scrutinize, the aspect I find the most interesting is the division of the houses. Essentially, Gryffindor is Protestant (specifically Evangelical/non-denominational given the “we just believe the whole Bible and nothing extra” bit), Slytherin is Catholic, Ravenclaw is supposedly Fundamentalist (though comes across as what many conservative Christians think they’re not like), and Hufflepuff is the Christian Left. With the exception of Ravenclaw, these designations actually work with what’s cannon if different types of Christianity had to be associated with Hogwarts houses. I would think Ravenclaw would be the Christian Left and Hufflepuff would be…something else. Anyway, there’s no sense in putting much logic behind this fic.

So, we’re given these portrayals of Christianity as Hogwarts houses (or Hats, as the author calls them for some unknown reason) and all except Gryffindor are written as evil or fallen in some way: Slytherins/Catholics are bad because they “pray to statues,” an enormous and all too common misunderstanding of the Catholic tradition. Ravenclaws/Fundies/The People We Think We’re Not are bad because they are more overtly misogynistic and uptight than the Gryffindors/Protestants; and Hufflepuffs/the Christian Left are bad because they only believe some of the Bible and don’t listen to the parts that are against premarital sex and socialism.

What honestly surprised me and struck a serious chord with me is how, despite this portrayal, Dumbledore, in all his southern United States reverend glory, insists that Hogwarts has had to become a more tolerant school to help all the Christians stick together in the face of Voldemort, who wants to make Congress end religious freedom. Though I am far from this worldview, I am 100% for Christian unity across denominations. My Protestant UCC church is proudly offering our space and community to an Independent Catholic congregation that meets on Sunday evenings. Our liturgy is traditional, but we may start incorporating some contemporary elements in the future.

But effective Christian unity doesn’t come from what’s portrayed in the fanfic, where Harry the Gryffindor still wants to be friends with Ron the Slytherin but secretly hopes to change his beliefs. That’s merely tolerance and tolerance doesn’t necessitate love. Christian unity goes further than that, and should if we’re talking about living the gospel. Even so, deep within the convoluted portrayal in this fanfic, I do see something legitimate: Sometimes, it seems that Christianity is becoming less relevant and less loving, more nationalistic and more fearful. Stage lights and after-church lattes won’t bring my generation back to church, but it appears that not many churches are willing to do the work of reexamining their approach to the world and to other forms of Christianity.

I’ll stop there before I go on a tangent, but the point is that I’m really feeling this general idea of all of these imperfect forms of Christianity banding together in a community to eventually grapple with greater evils/struggles.

The second aspect I find the most interesting about this fanfic is the ripples it’s making. Sure, it’s 90% a satire, but it’s still making people talk about religion, specifically Christianity. I’ve said before on this blog that Christianity and pop culture are always intersecting in fascinating ways. This fic resurrects the drama of the late 90s and 2000s when so many Christians protested Harry Potter and banned their children from reading the books (I was one of those children). The subsequent fear mongering and apologetics are a separate topic. This fanfic obviously fits into that conversation and perhaps it warrants some serious discussions about religion, although no one seems to have the energy or foolishness to take a satire too seriously. That being said, it’s an exemplar of the loudest voices of Christianity, and Christianity has gotten to a point where people can’t tell if the fanfic is a satire or not.

I’m not expecting a digital Pentecost as a result of all of this, but I’m nevertheless fascinated by this silly thing that gets people to think about faith, even if they end up laughing or just skimming through some of the Bible verses in the author notes. I saw a post one person made who was just tickled that a Proverbs 31 wife is an actual thing that people strive to be and that there are organizations dedicated to making that happen. Something in the story amused them enough to look it up and learn more about what it was, and I think that’s a blessing.

This terrible fanfic could actually spark some very fruitful discussions about faith.

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