My last post was about the book The Servant and its encouragement to love others in order to be a good leader. Much of the book was devoted to a certain definition of love—a verb meaning to identify and meet the needs of others with patience, kindness, humility, respectfulness, selflessness, forgiveness, honesty, and commitment. While reading this explanation of love, I was struck by the similarity in the way that love is used in the Harry Potter books.
This definition of love, according to James Hunter, comes from the Greek word agape, which is often translated as “unconditional love” and has been appropriated by Christian theology as the love of God for humankind and the love that Jesus was referring to when he said to love your neighbor as you love yourself. As mentioned above, this love is meant as a verb, not a feeling. It’s a set of behaviors that you can choose to enact toward others, even if you don’t “like” them. Thomas Jay Oord even defined agape as “an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being.”
Interestingly, this kind of love sounds a lot like what Dumbledore always touted in the Harry Potter series. He was adamant that love could save the world, if only everyone would love one another. But he wasn’t saying that everyone had to like the villain Voldemort (obviously most people did not). He was saying that everyone should treat one another, including Voldemort, with love (patience, kindness, forgiveness, etc.), and good things would come back to them. It does seem optimistic for love to save the world, but Dumbledore’s lesson is exemplified in many scenes throughout the seven books.
When Voldemort comes to kill Harry as a baby, his mother throws herself in front of him—a true act of love. This love protected Harry later, acting as a magical barrier whenever Voldemort tried to touch him. And when Voldemort comes to Hogwarts in the last book, threatening to kill all of the teachers and students, Harry repeats his mom’s act of love. He goes to Voldemort and lets himself be killed in order to save the others (even his enemies like Malfoy). Finally, when Harry is reborn and is facing Voldemort for the last time, he treats the villain with love. He knows he has the ability to demolish Voldemort, but he gives Voldemort the chance to be remorseful. He treats him with respect, and even forgiveness. This man killed his parents and many people he loved, but Harry still treated him with love. In the end, Voldemort was unable to reciprocate this love, probably because he was not really human anymore. But Harry showed him that love could have saved him, as it saved the rest of the Wizarding World.
I could go on about the similarities between Christian theology and the Harry Potter series, but after reading The Servant, this one really stood out to me. I think it’s interesting that some people ban the Harry Potter books for religious reasons, when the theme at the core of the books is the same lesson that Jesus wanted to teach his followers.
Let me know if you have any thoughts in the comments!