How a “Harry Potter” Podcast Strengthened My Faith
I moved around a lot when I was little, and sometimes I had a hard time making friends. As a result, I grew up using books as an escape. I was also raised in a relatively conservative Christian household. I loved to read from an early age, and I was frustrated that the Bible never resonated with me. However, Harry Potter always felt like my own.
In fourth grade, I was stoked to wear a Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire T-shirt I found at Hot Topic. My excitement turned to a strange feeling of shame when my Girl Scout troop leader asked me not to wear it during our meetings. She told me she thought the series went “against God.” I didn’t have the courage or the words to defend my beloved books back then. I couldn’t explain why, but her reaction made me feel dirty and wrong.
(I would like to add that I have read the books closely once or twice – or 20 times. To this day, I have yet to find the part where Harry, Ron, and Hermione worship the devil or whatever.)
I’ve thought back to this interaction with my Girl Scout troop leader many times. In the meantime, my relationship with Harry Potter has changed. It’s inspired a love of literature that’s scored me an English degree and some pretty steadfast friends. I still found it difficult to put into words why my devotion to the series stuck around. I had favorite characters and moments, but nothing deeper. Then, someone showed me the podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text.
Harry Potter and the Sacred Text helps me name the values that continue to draw me to the books. The practice of listening offers a quiet reflection that reveals new ways I can meditate on the lessons within the text. Although I am not religious, the podcast reinforces my belief that loving literature can be a source of spiritual fulfillment.
Each week, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text encourages listeners to read along and participate in a discussion focused on a single chapter of the original Potter books (they’re on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix now and plan to cover every chapter of the series). This discussion is interactive and guides listeners in meditations about their own lives through the structure of the story. Fans of the podcast are challenged each week to ground themselves within the context of the chapter. I’d describe it as a guided meditation through literature.
If you are new to the practice of sacred readings, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text features competent teachers. Hosts Casper and Vanessa are faculty at Harvard Divinity School. The pair uses different religious methods of sacred readings, historical comparisons, and personal stories. Every chapter is discussed through a specific theme like commitment, loyalty, or generosity. While exploring these themes, Casper and Vanessa bring life to the words on the page and recognize the specific lessons and inspiration available for readers to resonate with. The two hosts form a bond of trust with their listeners too. Both joke, share personal stories, and listen to one another while they navigate through the magic of each chapter. They even give listeners a chance to share their connections with the text through weekly “voicemails.”
It might sound silly, but when two Harvard Divinity School scholars say they trust Harry Potter as a sacred text, I feel encouraged to reflect on the trust I’ve given Harry Potter. I allow myself to claim the part of me that’s connected to the series with authority. When my grandpa passed away suddenly, I could process anger and confusion with Harry in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I allowed myself to reflect on how I could conjure joy in low moments just like Harry learned to conjure a Patronus in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
I found it easy to make sense of the world around me through Harry Potter. These are lessons I learned young. Just like so many readers around the world, I’m lucky to carry them with me as I “grow up.” Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a great tool for expanding upon these lessons, and it brings a new perspective of the story through someone else’s eyes.
As an adult, remaining such a dedicated fan of a book series I loved as a child can feel strange. Casper and Vanessa’s discussions on Sacred Text allow me to reflect on why the series remains so important to me after all these years. It’s restored my faith in myself and reinforced that my love for a children’s series can teach me morals, coping skills, and a sense of context to examine how I live my life. While Harry Potter and the Sacred Text doesn’t align with any specific religion, Casper and Vanessa preach a straightforward message. Allowing yourself to respect and honor the stories you love is worth your time and might unlock some valuable wisdom.