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Harry Potter's Christian imagery

By LOU MARANO

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- Christian parents' fears that the wildly popular "Harry Potter" books will corrupt their children with their stories of witchcraft and wizardry are misplaced, a Baylor University philosophy professor said.

There's no necessary conflict between Christianity and the books by British author J.K. Rowling, Scott Moore told United Press International in a phone interview from Waco, Texas.

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Moore identified himself as a Christian who is sensitive to those parents who think such books foster an infatuation with the occult. "But I think those kinds of concerns are quite wide of the mark," he said.

The movie based on the first book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," has opened in the United Kingdom to rave reviews. The $125 million film is to open Friday in the United States.

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Moore said the books show a richness of Christian allusion and symbolism, both classical and medieval. Although they are not explicitly allegorical along the lines of C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, they employ some "deep Christian symbols."

Rowling uses images of the phoenix and the unicorn. Both are ancient symbols for Christ, Moore said.

And in the first book, Voldemort, whose name means "death wish" or "willing death" in Latin, succeeds in killing the unicorn so he can drink its blood and continue to live. "This is a classic image of the atonement, in what's typically called a 'Christus victor' notion that Lucifer seeks to slay Christ under the delusion that in doing so he will live and Christ will die -- and that fails," the philosopher told UPI.

"It's a rich symbolic notion that the unicorn is pursued and Harry attempts to save it."

Moore sees the Christian understanding of the power of love at work. "Presumably the reason that this Voldemort character can't kill Harry is that his mother's love protects him. And yet she sacrificed herself in order to give him this love that is his protecting power. Hers was a self-sacrificial love that he might live."

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Moore called this a "deep biblical allusion."

He disagrees with those who say that Harry condones lying and shows disrespect for the truth. "It's quite to the contrary. Typically, Harry's lies get him into trouble. He can't keep track of his stories and gets caught out. After lying unsuccessfully, his headmaster -- Dumbledore -- calls the truth 'a beautiful and dangerous thing.'"

Throughout the series Harry learns about the real character of the truth and the virtue of truth-telling.

Voldemort is a malicious character, "sort of the head bad wizard," who went around killing people. He killed Harry's parents, and he attempted to kill Harry when he was a year old. "But the love of the mother protects him, and the curse sort of rebounds back to Voldemort," Moore said.

"And for the first four volumes in the series, what you see is the attempt of the Voldemort character to kind of come back to a full existence. He has a shadowy existence. He has to sort of use other people's bodies and try to connive a way back. And so all of the books to this point have been about attempts of Voldemort to kill Harry and to recover his bodily existence.

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"And at the end of book four, while he fails in killing Harry, he does come back to his full power. So the story is at a juncture where the antagonist is more powerful than he's been at any point so far."

The books show very clear lines between good and evil, Moore said. The ambiguity crafted in the books often is the distinction between appearance and reality. "There's no essential ambiguity, between good and evil, although there's a great deal of apparent ambiguity."

Rowling shows signs of having been classically educated, said Moore. The philosopher was unaware of the author's background, but a biography of Joanne Kathleen Rowling posted on the Internet says she studied French and Classics at Exeter University in southwestern England.

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