Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
June 25, 2001
Christian imagery to be vandalized
C.S. Lewis's legacy to be purged of Christian references
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
Clive Staples Lewis was a Christian. Not only that, he was an evangelical, proselytizing Christian who believed that ideally everyone should be a Christian.
C.S. Lewis didn't buttonhole strangers on street corners and ask them if they were saved. He did lectures and radio talks, and wrote essays and books eloquently arguing the case for Christianity. Lewis's Mere Christianity is the book I would most recommend to anyone seriously checking out the Christian faith on a personal level.
For younger readers, Lewis produced a wonderful series of children's fantasy novels, The Chronicles of Narnia, which have sold more than 65 million copies in more than 30 languages. The final book, The Last Battle, won the Carnegie Award, the highest honour for children's literature in the United Kingdom.
All seven books in the series, written between 1950 and 1957, carry a clear, although not overbearing Christian theme, imagery and theological message. Aslan, the lion character in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, the best known and most popular of the set, is an analogue of Jesus Christ, who volunteers to be killed by the evil Witch in place of one of the story's protagonist children, who has betrayed his siblings.
The latter chapters of the book are a clear allegory of Jesus' arrest, torture, crucifixion, death and resurrection.
"'And now, who has won?' the Witch taunts Aslan. 'Fool, did you think that by all of this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you instead of him, as our pact was, and so the Deep Magic will be appeased.'"
After she stabs Aslan to death with a stone knife, the Witch chortles: "It will not take us long to crush the human vermin and the traitors now that the great Fool, the great Cat, lies dead."
But in the morning when the children return to where Aslan's lifeless body had lain, it is gone.
"'Oh, it's too bad,' sobbed Lucy. 'They might have left his body alone.'
"'Who's done it?' cried Susan. 'What does it mean? Is it more magic?'
"'Yes!' said a great voice behind their backs. 'It is more magic.' They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger then they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"'Oh, Aslan!' cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad.
"'Aren't you dead then, dear Aslan?' said Lucy.
'Not now,' said Aslan."
This is of course not politically correct in the post-modern, pluralistic, multicultural, relativist '00s.
Which is presumably why HarperCollins, current publisher of the Narnia books, is reportedly planning to purge Christian content from a proposed continuation of the series that HarperCollins hopes will cash in on the phenomenal success of J.K. Rowlings' Harry Potter books.
An introduction to the books on the narnia.com website contains just one passing reference to Lewis's Christian inspiration for the stories.
A leaked HarperCollins internal memo, reportedly issued by an executive from HarperSanFranciso, an imprint of HarperCollins involved in the development of a television documentary C.S. Lewis: An Examined Life, read: "We'll need to be able to give emphatic assurances that no attempt will be made to correlate the stories to Christian imagery/theology."
The documentary's producer, Carol Dean Hatcher, told The New York Times that negotiations unravelled due to pressure from the publisher and the C.S. Lewis estate to eliminate references to Christian imagery in the Narnia series.
Hatcher is quoted saying that doing a documentary about the life of C.S. Lewis without mentioning Christianity would be "like doing a video biography of Hank Aaron and refusing to acknowledge he was a baseball player."
A HarperCollins spokesperson responded that the issue being addressed in the memo was "whether the project would appeal to the secular as well as the evangelical market," and that the publisher's objective is to expose "works of C. S. Lewis to the broadest possible audience and leave any interpretation of the works to the reader."
That argument may sound reasonable, but one wonders how it would set with Mr. Lewis himself, who never flinched from preaching the Christian Gospel "in season and out," so to speak. In 1954, Lewis wrote that the Narnia chronicles were based on his ideas of what might happen if the Son of God became a lion in an imaginary land.
In any case, even the suggestion of meddling with the Narnian legacy is going over like a lead balloon with Lewis aficionados. In an unscientific poll on the major Into The Wardrobe Lewis website, 80.4 per cent of respondents opposed adding new titles to the Narnia series.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.