With The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe opening tomorrow, here are a few more stories to whet your appetite. I know Melanie and I are getting prepared to see it tomorrow night (if we don’t get snowed in; yet another Nor’easter forecast is being made for Friday.) The Boston Globe last Sunday had a set oF articles on C.S. Lewis, including “The professor, the Christian, and the storyteller.”
At first I thought this was another hit piece on Lewis and his Christianity, but as I read further I discovered it wasn’t. In fact, I think it is an attempt to rescue Lewis from the over-schmaltzy Christianity-Lite that is being imposed on it.
The author of the piece, Lewis biographer Alan Jacobs, actually pushes back against those who want to use Lewis as a Bible study tool as well as those who want to use him to bash Christianity.
To many churches, the movie presents itself as an irresistible ‘‘evangelistic tool.’’ (If you’re at a loss to understand how that might work, check out the dozens of Narnia-focused sermons at sermoncentral.com; if ‘‘Christ: the Overcoming Lion’’ doesn’t appeal to you, then perhaps ‘‘Ten Tasty Tidbits about Turkish Delight’’ will.) But some other folks-remembering the role supposedly played by evangelicals in the 2004 presidential election-think that the last thing we need is a greater role for religion in American public life, and are ready to punish Lewis for the crimes of his admirers, or at least to instruct those admirers. Thus Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker uses an essay on Lewis (in which, I must admit, he dismisses my own biography of Lewis) to explain why religious people like fantasy writing: ‘‘because it is at odds with the necessarily straitened and punitive morality of organized worship.’’ (Thanks for clearing that up.)
Instead, Jacobs wants to focus on Lewis as a serious scholar of Medieval and Renaissance literature in his own right, finding elements of that work in the Chronicles use of all kinds of imagery you wouldn’t normally find in a straight Christian allegory: fauns and centaurs and talking beavers and so on.
Losing Narnia to adult cynicism