Commentary on The Theology of Harry Potter
What is evil?
I am continuing my commentary on Dr. Catherine Howard’s course at Columbia College, The Theology of Harry Potter.
One of my favorite lines from The Order of the Phoenix is when Harry is talking to Sirius Black. Harry tells Sirius he is afraid he is changing because he has so much anger and the vision he had about Mr. Weasley. Sirius puts his arm around Harry and tells him that he is not bad. He is a good person that bad things have happened to. Sirius says all of us have light and dark in us. It is which path we choose that makes us the person we are.
Albus Dumbledore also tells Harry when Harry finds out he can speak Parseltongue (the language of snakes) like Voldemort, “It is our choices, Harry, that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.
God gave us free will. Having free will gives us the choice to reflect the image of God or to take the other path. Moral determinism is giving ourselves or those in society an excuse for the path they choose. There is no excuse. Circumstances do not determine the person we become.
Exercising free will
Hermione exercises free will in The Order of the Phoenix when she insists that Harry, Ron, and she must start Dumbledore’s Army. If Professor Umbrage is not going to teach them defense against the Dark Arts than they must do it themselves. This goes against Hermione’s personality of always following the rules. This turning point in the series when Hermione takes responsibility for the wizardry world is an example of doing something for the greater good and the opposite of evil.
Tom Marvolo Riddle (if you change the letters around they become “I am Lord Voldemort”) is the antagonist in Harry Potter and the personification of evil. His fear of death makes him irrational changing him from a human to beastlike. His appearance becomes snakelike. He is bald with no ears, his eyes are slits, his hands clawlike. Rowling depicts her characters on the outside as they are inside.
So what is evil?
If we are created in the image of God then good is when we reflect that image. Evil is when we turn away from the goodness of God. And according to St. Gregory of Nyssa: “It is not sufficient, however, just to merely resemble the goodness of God; rather God created humanity to participate in such goodness.” And we do this in with our relationship with other human beings.
Good is when we reflect truth. Evil is when we reflect untruth.
Good is when we reflect beauty. Evil is when we reflect ugliness.
Good is when we reflect love. Evil is when we reflect hate.
Good is when we reflect mercy. Evil is when we reflect cruelty.
Good is when we reflect justice. Evil is when we reflect injustice.
During The Pastoral Constitution of the Church of the Modern World during the Second Vatican Council, the bishops issued a number of important statements.
“Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torment inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.”
Rowling shows evil in many of her characters
Draco Malfoy and the Malfoy family
Draco is a bully. He is an economic bigot, selfish, a coward always surrounded by his henchmen Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle.. He has no tolerance for Mudbloods, those not born of wizardry parents.
Peter Pettigrew or Wormtail, a member of Gryffindors while at Hogwarts and a friend of Harry’s parents and Sirius Black, betrayed Harrys parents, James and Lily, to Voldemort and framed Sirius Black for their murders. He spent twelve years in the animagus form as a rat and pet of Ron Weasley’s .
Sirius Black’s character shows that we are both light and dark as he said. He disagreed with his parents belief that purebloods were superior, but he treated Kreacher, his house elf as a slave.
Something to ponder: The Prophecy said that Voldemort (evil) and Harry Porter (good) could not both survive. One had to die.
On Monday, October 2, 2011, the students in Dr. Howard’s class will begin their presentations. The four houses of Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw have been researching projects Dining for Women (www.diningfor women.org) has funded in underdeveloped countries. Each house chose one project to present to the class. After the four presentations, the class will vote as to which project the whole class will pursue.