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The Harry Potter Phenomenon: What a Post-Potter World Might Mean for Religion and Society

by Nicolas Cable
from State of Formation

It is in most instances quite difficult to gauge cultural and generational shifts in society through the present lens. Social movements, political or otherwise, that we have witnessed throughout the ages, have oftentimes been labeled as such years or decades after the fact. Most times they are immediately recognized as meaningful points in history, but the full awareness of their actual grandeur and social impact are not felt until the dust has settled.

Last night marked the end of an era for millions of people worldwide, as the final installment of the Harry Potter film series opened at midnight. The Harry Potterphenomenon has been alive and strong since the first of the seven part book series was released on June 30th, 1997. The young, British novelist J.K. Rowling could never have imagined what magical journey she was about to lead the world on over the next 14 years. I wonder now what early reflections can be made on the effects this literary and cultural global movement has had on us as people in states of formation and reformation. I want to know specifically how, if at all, the existence of the HP phenomenon has affected our relationships to religion.

To take the former inquiry first, it is evident that young people, both youth and young adults, are coming of age and finding their place in this world in a most complex and challenging time in world history. We have grown up with multiple wars, fluctuating economies, strong political tensions, environmental catastrophes and other concerns. As a result, the concept of stability in this fragile world was never really present in my adolescence and years so far in young adulthood. However, many things were stable for me: a loving family, a nice group of friends, and a supportive religious community. There was also another consistent factor in my life growing up, the magical adventures of Harry Potter.

I think it is not too much of a stretch in argument to say many children were raised with this book series. Subsequently, our coming of age stories may have paralleled that of Harry Potter and the countless other characters we have come to love throughout the years. We grappled with the same issues of fitting in, finding our importance and place in the world, learning about love, good, and evil, and the ways to approach these issues effectively and morally. I learned about death and loss and the importance of finding ways to process these experiences with love and compassion. Retrospectively, I could say that the Harry Potter series is perhaps one of the main places where I have learned the ethics and morals that continue to guide me through life today.

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August 5th, 2011 at 10:26 am