The Burrow: Sunday School Lessons from Harry Potter

by Robbie Fischer

Martin Luther is reported to have said, “Why should the devil have all the good songs?” Even if there is something evil about the magic of Harry Potter—as some Christians fear there is, though I doubt it—there is no denying its popular appeal, and the fact that kids of all ages are reading these books. Meanwhile a lot of kids—and some grown-ups even—could obviously stand to brush up their Scripture. So why not alter the Luther quote a bit. Why let the devil have all the good stories? Why not take advantage of their popular appeal to draw young eyes from the ripping good fun of Harry Potter to the dwell on the Good Book itself?

There are a lot of Bible stories you can tie in with the Harry Potter phenomenon. For example:

  • “Harry and Voldemort as David and Goliath.” Heap big powerful bad guy is running rings around all the good guys, terrorizing them so that no one is brave enough to come forward and face him. Then along comes a little boy, too small to walk in a grown man’s armor, and fells him like an oak tree. Of course in the Bible, Goliath didn’t come back for a second helping. But David had already survived the threats of wild animals before he went to face Voldemort. King Saul (say, Cornelius Fudge) may have thought he was sending the boy to his death, but he could not deny that the boy was a survivor. As David (Harry) said, “The LORD, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul (Fudge) replied, “Vaia con Dios!” Take a lesson, Cornelius!
  • “Harry and Dudley as Jacob and Esau.” What can I say? Their father Isaac loved Esau rather than Jacob. But Mom (and God) had it the other way around. Jacob turns out to be the man of a great destiny, whose descendents would turn a pivot point in world history. Esau sells his destiny in order to fill his tummy. Hmmmm….Sort of like how Vernon Dursley puts all his bets on the wrong kid, too….
  • “Harry and the Dursleys as Jephthah and the sons of Gilead.” Jephthah’s father Gilead was a happily married man with oodles of sons, but Jephthah was, ahem, an illegitimate child. So when they grew up, Jephthah’s brothers drove him out saying, “You shall have no inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” But a little time goes by and they’ve changed their tune to, “Come and be our commander, that we may fight against the people of Ammon.” Isn’t that rich! So Jephthah becomes a great war hero, and he does OK without help from the folks who brought him up. Kind of like Harry, maybe? Maybe the Dursleys aren’t the only ones who will come to depend on the child they rejected to save them. Maybe Fudge should take note of this, as well!
  • “Peter Pettigrew as Judas Iscariot.” Do I have to explain this one at all?
  • “Sibyll Trelawney as Balaam.” You remember Balaam, from the book of Numbers? Most of the time, his Ass was a more accurate prophet than he was. But when it came to the Chosen People, he couldn’t help it; he even tried to curse them, but got carried away by the Spirit of prophecy and blessed them instead. And bad King Balak, after trying several times, finally had to give up on using Balaam to his advantage.
  • “Tom Riddle as Lucifer.” The Star of the Morning has fallen. He who was once bright, beautiful, and full of promise, has turned toward darkness. The former Head Boy and Prefect has become the rallying-point of all the foul and evil creatures in the world. Yeccchhh.
  • “Neville Longbottom as Doubting Thomas.” Thomas was a pretty gloomy guy. He always sounded like he was preparing for the very worst, and when the very best happened, he was the last person to get excited about it. For instance, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16). And then, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). And everyone’s favorite: “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25). But once he saw, he believed! (John 20:28). After that, his confidence grew and grew, apparently. He fought fearlessly for the Lord, finally laying down his life for the truth. Legend has it that he did some really cool things. It’s amazing what suddenly seems possible when you have hope and a purpose. Right, Neville?
  • “Ron Weasley as Simon Peter.” They’re pretty close, aren’t they? And Ron can get pretty rough-and-tumble, can’t he? And when Ron separated himself from Harry, and sort of “denied” him (in Goblet of Fire), it was one of Harry’s darkest hours, wasn’t it?
  • “Cedric Diggory and the Slaughter of the Innocents.” Like the innocent babes in Bethlehem who got in the way when King Herod was looking for somebody to take it out on, only the one he was really after (Jesus) got away. Voldy got Cedric, but not Harry.
  • “Dumbledore as Pharaoh’’s Daughter.” Now this one is really going out on the limb. But Pharaoh’’s daughter saved the baby Moses from being drowned in the river, or worse, and brought him into her own house. Sort of like how Dumbledore keeps looking out for people who have deadly enemies after them (like Harry) and inviting the outcasts to live under his roof (like Firenze).
  • “Sirius Black as Samson.” For a biblical hero, Samson comes off as a pretty dumb guy, all brawn and no brains. And his behavior is rather poor, and his downfall comes about because of one weakness: love for a woman. Now, no one will deny that Sirius acted unwisely and immoderately, and this got him into a lot of trouble. According to Snape’s memory that Harry saw in the Pensieve, Sirius sometimes acted pretty badly. But in the end his true weakness turned out to be his love for Harry, for whom he blindly and intemperately rushed into danger, to his doom. But maybe his death will be a catalyst that leads to the downfall of the dark wizards, by setting Harry on the path of vengeance.
  • “Dobby the house-elf as an angel of the Lord.” This is pretty thin, but have you noticed that Dobby always shows up to warn Harry about something that’’s about to happen? He’d make a pretty ugly angel, though.
  • “Centaurs as the Magi from the East.” You know, all that stargazing and stuff. Though Harry has yet to see the tiniest bit of gold, incense, and myrrh from them.
  • “Dumbledore as Solomon.” Wise man, that Dumbledore.
  • “The Wizengamot as the Sanhedrin.” That would make Fudge and Umbridge the High Priests, Caiaphas and Anna(s). Didn’t they seem determined to find Harry guilty of something? Umbridge in particular just wanted to shut him up, and they would believe anything anyone said against him but wouldn’t listen to anything said in his defense. Fortunately we saw “Dumbledore as Gamaliel,” counseling the Sanhedrin to leave the Christians (Harry) alone, and persuading them for the moment. Too bad we also had to see “Percy Weasley as Saul of Tarsus,” holding Fudge’s lime-green bowler hat while he persecuted Harry, as Saul held the coats of the Sanhedrin as they stoned Stephen to death. Then there’s “Hagrid as Elijah” (they’re both hairy, anyway), “Kingsley Shacklebolt
    as Elisha”
    (they’re both bald, but you’d best not mention it), “Filch as Belshazzar” (they were both unnerved by the handwriting on the wall), “Prof. Binns as St. Paul” (someone fell asleep during one of Paul’s sermons and fell out of a second-floor window), “Delores Umbridge as Jezebel” (ish!), and “Moaning Myrtle as the Flood of Noah,” until I finally come to “Lily Potter as a Christ figure.” By willingly giving her life for her child, she gave him such a protection that the enemy could not touch him. And as long as Harry makes his home where his mother’s blood is, he is still protected from the evil one. So you see, you can weave a lot of “Harry” threads into your Sunday School lessons, to help young readers of good books pay more attention to the Good Book. Why let the opportunity go to waste? As Ron memorably said, “Accio brain!”

    Robbie Fischer,
    who is still more tall than wide (except when lying down)