Getting our loves in order

I’ve promised before that this won’t turn into a Harry Potter blog, and I intend to keep that promise.  (“I made a promise, Mr. Frodo.  Don’t you lose him, Samwise Gamgee.  And I don’t mean to.”  See?  Not a Harry Potter blog.)  But before I move on to other topics, I want to qualify the main point of my last post, in which I wrote about how one’s family is more important than one’s job.  This is true.  But are there things more important than one’s family?  As difficult as it is to say so, yes.  And tonight I grasped this truth afresh with the help of Xenophilius Lovegood.

I haven’t read a lot of Augustine other than the quick and probably shallow reading of the Confessions that I was required to do in my freshman speech class (yes, speech), but from reading secondary authors I think I’ve picked up a fairly decent understanding of his concept of the ordering of loves.  To put it in simplistic terms, it’s not wrong to love your favorite food, your favorite song, your best friend, or your mom, but these loves must be put in the proper hierarchy, and all must be subsumed under your love for God, for the sake of which you love everything else.  I can assent to this principle when I encounter it in Augustine’s terms, but I tend to resist when I read Jesus’ more stark wording in Matthew 10:37: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Anyone who’s read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows knows that Xeno. Lovegood’s mistake was not loving his daughter Luna but allowing his love for her to be the driving force of all his decisions.  Family is important in the wizarding world as well as in our Muggle world, but it’s not the most important thing.  Because X. made an idol out of Luna, he endangered Harry Potter, the person to whom he loudly proclaimed loyalty in The Quibbler.  I don’t think Mr. Lovegood’s support for Harry was insincere, but it fell apart when put on trial.

Now, I want to be careful in my analogy.  As John Granger points out in The Deathly Hallows Lectures (read it; your mind will be blown), Harry Potter is not precisely or always a Christ figure, but sometimes he functions as one, and I think this is one of those times.  Lovegood loved his daughter more than Harry (or perhaps more correctly, what Harry stood for) and therefore was not worthy of Harry.  And by the way, I think Luna would have understood this if she had known what was going on.  From everything that we know of her character, it appears that Luna, much more than her father, knows how to love well (or love good, if you like puns more than correct grammar).

I don’t have a daughter or a son, but I do have a father and a mother, and Jesus talks about them too.  I also have siblings, whom Jesus mentions in similar passages in the gospels.  As weird as it may sound, we can sometimes make idols out of our brothers and sisters (I do this when I worry inordinately about my siblings), and I think Deathly Hallows has something to say about this too, when Harry and Hermione almost have to physically restrain Ron from vengefully chasing after Deatheaters, rather than following the predetermined plan, after Fred has been killed.

Just so we’re all clear (especially because I know my parents will be reading this): I love my family very much.  But I hope I love Jesus more.  I also hope that I never have to be placed in a situation like Xenophilius Lovegood’s, in which the ordering of my loves is tested.


Maybe because I’ve recently spent some time back home with my family, or maybe because it’s the new year, a time when evangelicals like myself tend to talk a lot about repenting, refocusing, and returning to God.  Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking a lot about prodigal son stories–not that I’m a prodigal in the exact sense of the word, or a son for that matter, but I can identify with the biblical pig-slop boy pretty well.  This morning in church we sang “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” and when we got to the line “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it” I wept a little bit (discreetly), and then I thought of a great blog post, based upon Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  (Would you expect anything else from me?)

I started thinking about how fitting it is that in a book that culminates with a massive high school homecoming (all those Hogwarts alumni and truant students, some coming back to be true to their school, and some coming back to destroy it), we get all these beautiful stories of return and restoration.  Ron coming back to Harry and Hermione, led by a supernatural “tiny little ball of light.”  Snape coming back to Dumbledore, on his knees, with a broken spirit.  Percy coming back to be a Weasley again.  Harry coming back to King’s Cross, where it all began–first in that bright moment of clarity between life and death, and then at the end, bringing his children to board the train to a restored Hogwarts, telling his son that it’s ok to be a Slytherin because things have changed now; broken social structures have been mended. 

This has all probably been said before (by John Granger, no doubt), but it came to me like a discovery, and it’s a discovery I’d like to pursue.  If you think of any return and restoration stories in Deathly Hallows that I’ve missed, let me know.  And I’d love to hear about some of your other favorite homecomings in literature and film.  (I’ll go ahead and state one that seems really obvious to me: The Hobbit, Or, There and Back Again.)