THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO HARRY POTTER: Spirituality in the Stories of the World's Favorite Seeker
Westminster John Knox Press had a hit a generation ago with The Gospel According to Peanuts, and is now rapidly expanding the franchise, with The Gospel According to the Simpsons released last year and titles on J.R.R. Tolkien and Disney still to come. This entry by Neal (What's a Christian to Do with Harry Potter?) takes on J.K. Rowling's conservative Christian critics with an exhaustive enumeration of parallels—some striking, some skimpy—between Rowling's fictional world and the tenets of Christian belief. Platform nine and three-quarters becomes a reminder of the nature of faith; Albus Dumbledore shows mercy much like the Christian God. Neal is well aware that pagan readers of the series can find plenty of parallels of their own to the world of witchcraft, and she admits that such prooftexting is only marginally more substantial than finding castles and chariots in cloud formations, but she plods on doggedly nonetheless. The overall effect is disappointing on two fronts. Readers will find little here that genuinely illuminates Rowling's moral or literary vision, at least any more than Dumbledore does himself in his more sermonic moments. And juxtaposed with Harry's fantastic world, the claims of Christianity seem to lose rather than gain plausibility, becoming just another interesting fairy tale. Still, Christian fans of Harry will be glad that someone is countering the critics, and Neal's earnest writing may win both Rowling and the Gospels a few new readers. (Sept.)
Forecast:WJKP has sold more than 10 million copies of its Peanuts book and, more recently, 70,000 copies of The Gospel According to the Simpsons. Notwithstanding its flaws, and despite the stiffening competition (the Doubleday book reviewed below will be joined in January by a St. Martin's title on the spirituality of Harry Potter), this could be a hit.