Avril at Romsey

… and Lancefield and Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon

Death no longer has dominion

Warning: this article contains spoilers for Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.

‘We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.’ (Romans 6:9)

I had just finished reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and was discussing its devastatingly unexpected ending with another fan over lunch at the Theological College.Image

“I just can’t believe Dumbledore’s dead,” I said. “Characters like Dumbledore don’t die – not forever, not completely. Look at Obi-Wan Kenobi being struck down and becoming more powerful than ever, or Gandalf the Grey returning as Gandalf the White, or the Doctor constantly regenerating.”

“Yes,” said the Professor of New Testament with whom I was speaking. “Not to mention Jesus.”

Once I got over that small embarrassment (imagine forgetting Jesus when talking returns from the dead!) I worked out what was behind my belief that Dumbledore would return in some form after death. I was assuming that J. K. Rowling, like many other writers of fantasy and science fiction, had been influenced by the myth of the ‘dying and returning god’. It had been with this myth that J. R. R. Tolkien, Catholic author of The Lord of the Rings, had contributed to the conversion of C. S. Lewis, Protestant author of the Narnia series. Lewis had always been drawn to pagan myths of dying and rising gods: Balder in Norse mythology; Bacchus in Roman; Adonis in Greek. What Tolkien suggested to Lewis was that the story of Christ was a true myth, a myth as moving as all the others, but one that actually happened.

Where Lewis and Tolkien saw ancient mythology as forerunners of the story of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, I see echoes of the Easter story in the stories told by modern creators. Buffy the Vampire Slayer sacrifices herself for the sake of the world; the Doctor dies to save his companions; Obi-Wan Kenobi warns Darth Vader: ‘If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine’; Gandalf the Grey returns as Gandalf the White, for a brief time, until his task is done. Rowling has perhaps made most obvious use of it in the final book in the Harry Potter series, as Harry Potter walks willingly to his death and then discovers that love is more powerful even than death. (And while dead he has a conversation with Dumbledore, because I was right and Dumbledore’s death was not his end, either.)

Some of these modern creators are Christian; some, like Joss Whedon who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, are Christianity-haunted atheists; some, like Russell T. Davies of the modern Doctor Who, are deeply anti-Christian. To me that doesn’t matter. What matters is that in their stories we get hints, glimpses, of the overwhelming power of the myth of the dying and returning god, and we can use those hints and glimpses to illuminate the power of the crucifixion and resurrection that is for us the one true myth.

This year, on Sunday the 22nd of April, Romsey Uniting Church will once again be hosting a church service that draws on science fiction and fantasy to illuminate the Easter story. Last year’s service was a lot of fun; there’s nothing like having a church full of children and young people all eager and excited to be there. And despite the concerns of some people it wasn’t fun at the expense of the gospel. The church has always drawn on the best of the surrounding culture to disseminate our message; as a committed geek I believe that ‘the best’ of twenty-first century culture includes fantasy and science fiction. I invite fellow geeks to join me at this slightly unusual, but utterly orthodox, event.

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April 12, 2012 - Posted by | Ministry | , , , , , ,

4 Comments »

  1. I was actually fine when Dumbledore died.. i didnt want him to come back either. I never liked him.

    Comment by Jeyna Grace | April 12, 2012 | Reply

    • Ouch, harsh! Poor Dumbledore.

      Comment by avrilhj | April 12, 2012 | Reply

  2. Just checking what time the service is on Sunday. I’m sure I read about it in more detail elsewhere but have no idea where to find the details now!

    Comment by Liz Hudson | April 20, 2012 | Reply

    • It’s at 3.30 pm at Romsey Uniting, 25 Pohlman Street, Romsey. Hope to see you there!

      Comment by avrilhj | April 20, 2012 | Reply


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