Flunking Sainthood

Flunking Sainthood

Harry Potter, Patheos, and the One Book Christians Should Read This Summer

There’s a thought-provoking blog discussion going on today, where lots of Theobloggers have been asked the question:

Apart from the Bible, what book has most deeply affected your faith life in the past ten years?  And, is there any book that few Christians read, but every Christian should read?

Sara Miles does Dennis Covington’s Salvation on Sand Mountain, a book I also loved, and Beliefnet’s own Amy Julia Becker talks about a Kathleen Norris book I’ve never even heard of (about laundry, no less!). The amazingly cool Tripp Fuller talks about Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God. Great suggestions.


Now, I am not a Hermione, and I don’t like reading heavy tomes in the summer. It’s beach weather, people! I am of the mind that great fiction can pretty much teach us all we need to know. So here is what I said:


“Christians pay a lot of pious lip service to the idea that we are
supposed to become like Christ. We want to emulate his ministry, respond
to his teachings, and walk in his ways. Fair enough. But a huge part of
becoming like Christ is participating in the two acts that defined
everything else Jesus accomplished in his earthly lifetime: dying and
being resurrected. I’d be the first to read Resurrection for Dummies
if it were only available as a how-to guide, but I think the folks at
Wiley have had a tough time finding an author who’s been through the
experience. On the other hand, why would I need such a book? I already
have Harry Potter to show the way.


This summer, every Christian should read or re-read Harry Potter
and the Deathly Hallows.
Yes, I know that you thought I was going
to say that every Christian should delve into some obscure medieval
saint or pick through postmodern theological mumbo-jumbo. Nope, just
read Harry Potter. It’s all there: the agonizing decision in Gethsemane,
the preciousness of loving sacrifice, the triumph of resurrection.
There’s even an unforgettable scene in King’s Cross station–get the
double entendre?–in which Harry makes his crucial choice to save
humanity. His victorious return testifies to the Christian truth that
evil will one day be bound–notice how Voldemort’s voice loses its power
after Harry’s resurrection–and finally vanquished. It makes me weep with
joy every time, especially when I listen to Jim Dale reading the audio

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.”

And now to you: what book has taught you the most about God recently? And what did you learn from reading Harry Potter?

  • NCT Harward

    Amen. I’m certain that most people in my Sunday School class thought I was nothing but a raving HP fanatic when I tried to make the same point after The Deathly Hallows came out a few years ago. And I think Harry makes a more affecting literary Christ figure than Aslan because he’s entirely human.

  • SteveP

    Both Aristotle and Cicero wrote about friendship, but no one has brought more insight into its nature and importance than Rowling did in HP. How it works, why it’s important, how vital it is to survival, doing good, and making a difference are all part and parcel of HP’s world. I love these books.
    The book that taught me the most about God is Peter Hobbs’, A Short Day Dying,. I don’t think a book has captured for me the joy/pain of a relationship with God as much this book. It has left me thinking more than any book I can remember reading in a long time. I stumbled on the book accidentally and I’m not sure it is widely known. But I highly recommend it.

  • chris

    I think you’re a genius. May I ask whether these pleasing posts proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study and consideration?

  • Jana Riess

    Chris, I think you’ve been reading too much Jane Austen! Not that I disapprove . . . .

  • Katrina Jones

    This doesn’t answer your questions exactly, but I just wanted to say thank you for pointing out such good stuff in HP. I can’t tell you how many people (including relatives) have said things about how evil the HP books are and how they stay far away from them. I don’t know where they got their misinformation and I doubt very much that any of them have read any part of the HP books. I have certainly never felt that way about them, and now next time I read a HP book again, I will look at it more deeply to recognize this added goodness you have pointed out. It is true we can see types of Christ all around us if we’re looking for them.

  • Jeremy

    Thank you for this post. I have to say it is beautiful. I have had people make comments about reading books on witchcraft when I was reading the Harry Potter books. I would take the time to tell them that if they took all of the witchcraft, wizardry and magic out of it they would still have an excellent story that was not as fun to tell. Then I would tell them what I got out of those books. The whole Harry Potter series is about family, friendship, doing what is right, goodness triumphing over evil, love and so much more. I could teach Sunday School lessons from those books. I definitely believe they are books every christian should read. I appreciate what you have said. It has added so much depth to the morals and truths I already found there.

  • Toni Bate

    Jeremy (the poster above) directed me to this page. I must say that I am impressed with your interpretation of Harry Potter. I hadn’t thought of it like that.
    Thank you.

  • Jana Riess

    So glad to meet a fellow Potter fan! Thanks for your kind words.

  • Pingback: Harry Potter, Christian Hallows, and C.S. Lewis: A Q&A with Greg Garrett - Flunking Sainthood

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