What Harry Potter taught me about evil

A Christian Science perspective: Harry Potter's battles with Lord Voldemort provide a helpful analogy for dealing with the question of evil.

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In addition to providing me with at least a decade’s worth of entertainment, J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series has also given me a fresh and hopefully meaningful way to explain my not-always-easy-to-explain religion to others.

First a little background... As a Christian Scientist, I’m often confronted, by others and within myself, with some tough questions – questions such as, “If you believe that God is all good, all powerful, and ever present, how do you explain natural disasters, famine, war, and violent rampages? What about sickness, disease, and death? Why do bad things happen to good people?” In short, “How do you deal with the question of evil?”

Although I’m very far from having anything even approaching a complete answer, I can tell you that one thing I don’t do is close my eyes and pretend it’s not there. Simply avoiding evil or wishing, hoping, or praying that it just goes away is not the answer.

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On the other hand, something I may be getting better at is choosing between what I consider to be effective and not-so-effective ways to defeat evil.

And this is where Harry Potter comes in.

As every Potterphile knows, there comes a time in Book Seven when Harry has to choose between two courses of action in his quest to deal with the evil Lord Voldemort.

One path involves the acquisition of three “Deathly Hallows”: the “Elder Wand,” a weapon considered undefeatable; the “Resurrection Stone,” a substance that can bring the dead back to life; and the “Cloak of Invisibility,” which enables the user to become completely invisible.

The other path – the course Harry ultimately chooses – is to track down and destroy seven hidden “Horcruxes.” These are objects in which Voldemort has placed a part of his soul as a means of achieving immortality.

Now, I realize that any analogy between Harry’s quest to defeat Voldemort and the practice of Christian Science may seem a little loose. But hear me out.

Metaphorically speaking, the acquisition of the three “Deathly Hallows” can be seen as a way of merely coping with evil by trying to beat it, cheat it, or hide from it altogether. In a way this approach reminds me of the mostly matter-based ways we’ve devised to deal with the evils called sickness and disease. As effective as these methods may be for some, I think it’s safe to say that most of us would prefer a more “Horcrux-like” strategy in order to get rid of these evils once and for all.

And this is where Christian Science comes in.

Christian Science is all about getting at the root of the problem. No, not by tracking down bits and pieces of an evil wizard’s soul (if this were even possible) but by addressing – not with magic, but through inspired prayer – the mental nature of all evil, sickness and disease included. By challenging long-held assumptions about God, about each of us as His sons and daughters, and even the apparent invincibility and inevitability of evil itself, those who rely on Christian Science for their health and general well-being have found that they’re able to defeat evil in much the same way that Jesus did.

Although modest by comparison, the healings they’ve been able to effect include a wide variety of ailments – everything from everyday aches and pains to more serious, medically diagnosed conditions. The result of this healing process – this battle, if you will – is the destruction of at least some small element of evil that would suggest that man has separated himself, by choice or by design, from God’s care.

Getting back to Harry, perhaps the biggest lesson for him – and for us – is what these evil-defeating experiences can teach us about the presence and power of love; a word that Episcopal priest and Yale lecturer Danielle Tumminio, in her superb analysis of the Potter series, equates with God.

But still we’re left with at least one unanswered question: If what Christian Science teaches is true, why do we still have all this evil to deal with?

This is a question I continue to contend with. But while I may not have entirely grasped the why of evil, I’m grateful to have caught at least a glimpse of the how of evil’s destruction.

“I have never supposed the world would immediately witness the full fruitage of Christian Science,” wrote Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, “or that sin, disease, and death would not be believed for an indefinite time; but this I do aver, that, as a result of teaching Christian Science, ethics and temperance have received an impulse, health has been restored, and longevity increased. If such are the present fruits, what will the harvest be, when this Science is more generally understood?” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” pp. 348-349).

Indeed, imagine what the world will be like as we discover, as did Harry, that evil in whatever form it presents itself can and will be defeated once and for all.

Adapted from a blog by the Christian Science Committee on Publication for Northern California.

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