Why Narnia Matters
Haven’t you heard? “Aslan is on the move!”
Unless you’ve been in a sensory deprivation chamber over the past few weeks, you’ve no doubt heard about the upcoming screen adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. With the movie set to premiere on December 9th, the excitement and expectations accompanying this release are reminiscent of the pre-Passion days of early 2004 which were characterized by a flurry of media coverage, both postive and negative.
In the past week, media attention has focused on the life of C.S. “Jack” Lewis and whether or not his personal morals were in perfect alignment with the Gospel that infused his writings. While I believe he would be the first to say, “They most certainly were not,” several reports, such as this one and this one, have dredged up a few old, half-baked accusations of Lewis’ alleged indiscretions which could have the effect of disappointing many of his fans, as well as eliciting a cynical “aha!” or two among his critics.
Now such reports are fair game when considering the life of a famous author and are open to investigation for those who care to examine their truthfulness or lack thereof. As for me, I never thought of Lewis as “St. Jack” in the first place. I figured all along that he put his pants on one leg at a time and then proceeded to walk on “feet of clay” just like the rest of us.
In fact, when I first encountered him in college, it was precisely because he didn’t fit the typical mold of the “perfect evangelical Christian” (he was an infancy-baptized Anglican who was converted from atheism, smoked a pipe, hung out at pubs and abhorred teetotalism) that I was so attracted to his writings in the first place (well, that and his lucid prose). I figured if he quaff a pint of ale now and then and still produce works that were so obviously true to Christ, then there must be hope for me as well.
But such reports are also missing the main point–why Narnia matters. To the rescue rides NPR (which has been recently doing a good job on other stories as well) and a Morning Edition report which aired Tuesday and can be heard here. Rather than digging up dirt on Lewis, reporter Kim Masters focused on more substantive issues and spent a good deal of time interviewing Lewis’ stepson, Douglas Gresham, who has become Lewis’ leading advocate in recent years. She concluded:
“Gresham says that his stepfather did not set out to write a Christian book for children. The real question he posed to readers, Gresham says, is how they would measure up if they found themselves fighting a battle in Narnia.”
That question is precisely the reason that Narnia matters. The fact is, we are in Narnia, with eyes wide open and mouths agape, just like Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. Like them , we are traveling through our own strange land, fighting the good fight, celebrating in song, dance and poem, mourning when compatriots fall, weaving together our own Story which others will tell after we are gone.
While such epics as Beowulf, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia may not be true in precise detail, they do ring true and resonate, pointing to larger Truth–that we are all part of a Grand Story whose cosmic conflict between good and evil is easily recognized in the events of our own lives and in which we all have some role to play.
Lewis would not want us to simply stand around, waiting for heaven and the “by and by.” He believed our present actions and deeds on this earth matter greatly and will produce consequences that will echo into eternity. For Lewis, Christianity was a “myth” or epic story which happened to be true, and Narnia a “good dream” designed to “prebaptize the imagination” making it easier to accept the larger Truth occuring around us every day.
So, again, bully for NPR! If they keep this up, they’re likely to earn a preset on my dial for the morning drive to work. After years of yucking it up with Rick and Bubba on their morning show, I’m due for something a little more sophisticated, and, it would seem, spot on correct.
About 6 months ago I gave a friend of ours one of the books I suggested to you and inscribed it:
“Further up, and further in.”
My kids are chomping at the bit already.
I read the Times article and could not believe it. I can only say the Times ignorance of American Christians exceeds the supposed ignorance American Christians have of Lewis.
Well written and well reasoned. We will need you for the onslaught which will certainly come. I am a huge fan of Lewis, but he is not my God; therefore, some sinfulness is assumed!
Of course, if the Lord can use Balaam’s ass, He can use anyone, can’t He?
Thanks, I appreciate that. I think that when it’s all said and done in a few weeks, the tsunami resulting from the success of the movie will have swept away the nitpickers and naysayers without much help from me.
Yes, very eloquently put! A quick survey of the OT shows a variety of asses, rogues, drunks, naysayers, bullies, murderers and sexual libertines who God employed to assist in carrying out his Redemptive plans.
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