To add to my analysis of the final installment of the Harry Potter (movie) saga, I’d like to turn to the subject of Harry as Christ. Let us examine the concept of the support of the believers, the symbolic community, more closely. Of course, first we must take a detour through (who else?) Žižek. Please forgive the perhaps excessive length of the following quote!

In Metastases of Enjoyment, pages 39-42, he outlines Hegel’s examination of Christianity:

the ‘death of God’ designates for Hegel the death of the transcendent Beyond that exists in itself: the outcome of this death is God qua Holy Spirit – that is, the product of the labour of the community of believers. The relationship between cause and effect is dialectically reflected here. On the one hand, the Cause is unambiguously the product of the subjects’ activity; it is ‘alive’ only in so far as it is continually resuscitated by the believers’ passion….

On the other hand, these same believers experience the Cause as the Absolute, as what sets their lives in motion…Subjects therefore posit the Cause, yet they posit it not as something subordinated to them but as their absolute Cause. What we encounter here is again the paradoxical temporal loop of the subject: the Cause is posited, but it is posited as what it ‘always-already was.’….

[Christianity] involves the absolute mediation of both sides in the person of Christ, who is simultaneously the representative of God among human subjects and the subject who passes into God. In Christianity, the only identity of man and God is the identity in Christ – in clear contrast to the pre-Christian attitude, which conceives of such an identity as the asymptotic point of man’s infinite approach to God by means of his spiritual purification [e.g., paganism, the great Eastern religions, Judaism, etc., in which God is a mystical ‘Beyond’ that can be approached but never reached]….

[The content of Christian Doctrine is the death that happens to a particular individual who achieves reconciliation with the universal]. Here the death of Christ is “still experienced as the force of negativity that affects a particular, finite being; it is not yet experienced as the simultaneous death of the abstract Beyond itself….

[The content of Christian Faith, however, is] salvation, accomplished by Christ when he took upon himself the sins of humanity and expired on the Cross as a common mortal – salvation thus involves the identity of man and God. This identity, which in the Doctrine was a mere object of knowledge, occurs in Faith as an existential experience….How do I, a finite mortal, concretely experience my identity with God? I experience it in my own radical despair, which – paradoxically – involves a loss of faith: when, apparently forsaken by God, I am driven to despair, thrown into absolute solitude, I can identify with Christ on the Cross (‘Father, why has Thou forsaken me?’)….[M]y personal experience of being abandoned by God thus overlaps with the despair of Christ himself as being abandoned by the divine Father….

What expires on the Cross is thus not only the terrestrial representative of God (as it still seemed in the first syllogism of the Doctrine) but God himself, namely the god of Beyond, God as the transcendent Substance, as the divine Reason which guarantees that our lives have Meaning….

The content of the Ritual, finally, is the Holy Spirit as the positive unity of man and God: the God who expired on the Cross is resurrected in the guise of the Spirit of the religious community. He is no longer the Father who, safe in His Beyond, regulates our fate, but the work of us all, members of the community, since he is present in the ritual performed by us….

Conceived this way, the ‘death of God’ can no longer appear as a liberating experience, as the retreat of the Beyond which sets man free, opening up to him the domain of terrestrial activity as the field in which he is to affirm his creative subjectivity; instead the ‘death of God’ involves the loss of the consistent ‘terrestrial’ reality itself. Farm from heralding the triumph of man’s autonomous creative capacity, the ‘death of God’ is more akin to what the great texts of mysticism usually designate as the ‘night of the world’: the dissolution of (symbolically constituted) reality.

In the Christian faith, Christ’s resurrection is the resurrection and continuation of the principles that Jesus stood for, not of Jesus himself. But in the final stage of the Harry Potter saga, Harry must literally be brought back to life.

So the most unfortunate aspect of the movie is that, instead of exemplifying the triumph of the revolutionary Cause (Good vs. Evil), with the transmission of the Cause to the Holy Spirit, sustained through the ritual action of the community of believers,  the plot takes the shallow turn of Harry’s actual, corporeal ‘resurrection.’

Worse still is that this resurrection requires a magical/mystical supplement; the community doesn’t have any part in Harry’s resurrection – the magic of the Resurrection Stone is a kind of ‘deus ex machina’ that relieves the community of its own, existential despair, and of the hard work of keeping the Idea/Cause alive, taking away the most fundamental sacrifice of any revolutionary/religious commitment.

If Harry had died, we wouldn’t have the cop-out happy ending. Rather, we’d have utter despair within the community of believers. Harry’s death could then symbolize for the community the fragility of their own way of life, the non-assurance of their safety in the world, even, yes, the possibility that they will die (literally or figuratively), forsaken by what they’d thought was a secure life, held in tact by an everlasting guide/father figure (Dumbledore).

So while we do get the death of Dumbledore, who stands for the God of the Old Testament, the father figure for Harry and the rest of Hogwarts, the movie never runs its full course; the New Testament and its hero, Jesus Christ, with his Good News — the news of the community’s salvation in their own, collectively sustained (and never guaranteed) belief system — never arrives!

Harry never made the ultimate sacrifice for the community, thus sabotaging the birth of the Holy Spirit.

In a sense, Harry, since he somehow comes back from the dead, becomes, for all intents and purposes, a new Dumbledore. So this moment of ‘ressurection’ is not a moment of triumph, but, rather the ultimate failure of the series’ guiding force.

Rather than accomplishing the radical gesture of faith, Harry’s survival signals the series’ regression toward a kind of pre-Voldemort world.

For a contemporary analogy, this is the same kind of regression into premodern beliefs that’s been frighteningly successful among Christian fundamentalist groups. These groups search for material evidence of the Bible’s authenticity. They want hard evidence, proof. They take the Bible literally, as if the Bible’s literal meaning were even half as important as its existential meaning.

When Harry survives, the community’s freedom dies. Instead of the ‘death of God,’ in other words, we get the opposite, the reassurance that there really is a God: Magic.

Thus instead of accomplishing the radical gesture of Christian faith, the Harry Potter sage ends with a regression into the myth of the God as a mystical, metaphysical Beyond that one can’t ever fully grasp, but which nevertheless has enormous consequences for human life. Even the best wizards can only approach ‘asymptotically,’ as it were, the possession of the ultimate, universal power of Magic.

This is why Christians might rightly oppose J. K. Rowling’s remarkably successful franchise. But not for the cliche, stupid obsession with magic as some kind of metaphysical alternative to the ‘real’ world as ostensibly posited by the Bible, the obsession with Harry Potter as some kind of anti-Christian evil. Rather, Christians should remark that the message of Harry Potter doesn’t offer half the ‘good news’ of the Bible. (But it’s still a lot of fun to read. And damn, what a great movie! Five stars).

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