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Monday, November 14, 2005

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Culture War Continues

I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time when I was in first grade. Reading this book and the rest of The Chronicles of Narnia contributed immensely to my lifelong love of reading. Not only did the fantasy elements resonate with me as a kid, but the fact that this was an allegory of the Christian faith contributed greatly to my love of these books that are second only to The Lord of the Rings.

My anticipation is rising for the movie coming out this Christmas and so I have been reading a lot about it. Unfortunately I have read some ill-informed things about the books.

Yesterday, Charles McGrath wrote an article in the New York Times about the upcoming movie and some background on the books. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by anything ridiculous I read in the NYT, but this is high up on my list.
"Actually, the books are better when read without the subtext. Aslan, for example, is much more thrilling and mysterious if you think of him as a superhero lion, not as Jesus in a Bert Lahr suit. And though central to the Narnia books, Aslan is not the real draw."
Charles, did you even read the books? What would be left without the subtext, a fairly explicit allegory of the Gospel of Christ? Aslan is more thrilling and mysterious as a superhero lion? Aslan is a pretty stupid and confusing character if you see him as just a lion.

I'm guessing that C.S. Lewis would have enjoyed the delicious irony in McGrath's statement here. McGrath falls right into the ol' "Lord, Liar, Lunatic" conundrum. In Mere Christianity, Lewis said:
"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg - or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us."
I also found an interesting story about a state reading contest in Florida that includes The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
the group Americans United for Separation of Church and arguing that the contest violates the First Amendment because it promotes a "religious story."
At least Americans United for Separation of Church and State recognizes correctly that it is a religious book. But last I checked, there are many "religious books" on public school reading lists. Here is a small sampling
  • Hermann Hesse -Siddhartha
  • Chaim Potok - The Chosen
  • Khalial Ghibran - The Prophet
  • Madeleine L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
  • Barbara Kingsolver - The Poisonwood Bible
  • Dante - Inferno
So should we remove all books that are even vaguely about religion from public school reading lists? Or is that really the issue? I just wish that groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State would be more honest and just say that they are opposed to orthodox Christianity.

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