Novak (novak) wrote,
Novak
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Theological Notebook: War in [over] Narnia

Well, with The Passion of the Christ a good year-and-a-half in the past, the newest furor about Christianity in mainstream film is starting to heat up with the approaching release of the adaptation of the first volume of C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. lunaedraconis pointed me in her LiveJournal toward an article by Carnegie Medal award-winner Philip Pullman. Identifying himself with "those of us who detest the supernaturalism, the reactionary sneering, the misogyny, the racism, and the sheer dishonesty of his narrative method" he attacks Lewis with admirable gusto, if woeful dishonesty. But wait--he said "dishonest" first. Who am I to say he's the dishonest one? Especially since all of Lewis' admirers are clearly brainless ideologues, right?

Ah, once again the truth can only be found in reading all the material, and that's work that too many people are unwilling to do, particularly those fond of canned opinions and party-mentalities. I certainly invite you to read Mr. Pullman's essay "The Darkside of Narnia" if you are at all interested in the matter. As to his litany of accusations against Lewis, it strikes me that I've yet to hear of such accusations against him by anyone who actually knew him, saving perhaps the "supernaturalism," or accusation that he was an orthodox Christian in his beliefs. As for such ugly slurs as "misogyny" or "racism," certainly those who knew him have had every opportunity to step forward to make these facts known about the man. Those who manage to decode such tendencies out of his writings, forty-odd years after his death, might be suspected of an impolite recklessness at best. Or seeing what they want to see at worst.

Certainly Lewis' "legend" is problematic and there is certainly uncritical, or sub-critical, readings of his work. I submit, however, that legends are best tamed by wise tempering, not by crass assassination. I include my response (slightly edited) to lunaedraconis's entry below. Back to the studying!

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I see what you mean. Yes, writing Christianity off as a "life-hating ideology" and cheering the excellence of A.N. Wilson's biography is more than a bit over-the-top and one-sided of Pullman. I've read Wilson myself, and was thoroughly embarrassed by the work, which not only was a flat-out awful, banal, Freudian reduction of Lewis' life, but by all indications seemed to be playing fast-and-loose with the sources, to the point of making up stories about Lewis and putting them into the mouths of witnesses who would later deny them in print. I'm a professionally-trained historian, myself, so some of the reading public knows a thing or two about what is legitimate sourcework and what is not.

That aside, my reaction to the issue of Susan is a bit different. Granted that if the Chronicles suffer from anything, it is perhaps hasty writing, Susan seems more-or-less plucked at random to illustrate among the key characters the very real danger involved in the spiritual life. In our secular world that relentlessly pushes for the existence of no other vision but its own, the threat Jesus illustrated in the Parable of the Sower, where the thorny ground of the worries and cares of this world choke out and kill the Good Seed, is more powerful than ever. Everyone of us struggles with the temptation to make an idol of ourselves, and if we do--and Christianity is true--we will fall. Susan in the story is seduced by nothing other than what we are genially told is "real life."

Pullman is, to his own mind, heroically standing up for that "real life" in the face of Lewis' claim that something else is Real Life. Rather than effectively arguing against Lewis' point, it seems to me more that Pullman is illustrating it.
Tags: books, cultural, historical, media, movies/film/tv, theological notebook, writing
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