Thursday, December 15, 2005

Slice of Narnia

I haven't seen it, so don't worry about any spoilers in this post. In fact, this post isn't so much about the movie as it is about the criticisms I hear so much of lately about Lewis and, specifically, Narnia. I was walking by the Slice today and overheard some unfriendly words being spoken about Jack. The post there was titled "Narnia and Paganism." Here are some of my thoughts (basically the comment I nailed to their door).

Lewis was fascinated with mythology - the stories it told about the people who created it and the stories it tells about us. Mythology for a literature professor has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with story - I'm not sure how to explain that. Lewis does blend his faith with mythology in much of his work (one of his greatest works, Till We Have Faces, is a re-telling of the Cupid-Psyche myth). But he did it as an English professor whose study, whose work, was literature - he saw God, the Christian God, revealed in stories that aren't explicitly Christian.

Mythology for Lewis, I suspect, had everything to do with metaphor. It was his language. Just as a Sunday School teacher whose profession is Coach might use sports metaphors to convey spiritual truths, so Lewis used literary and mythological references to convey spiritual truths. And the result, I believe, is beautiful. Of course, it's my language too.

We write because we are writers. It's who God made us to be and we glorify God in the writing. Lewis's theology is not perfect (glaringly imperfect at times), nor does it have to be in order for it to be suitable for us. If you strip away imagination, even "sanctified" imagination, from the church, then I think you will lose far more than you realize in the end. Our imaginations are gifts from God, and I would bet that God was pleased with Lewis's use of his gift.

Now maybe some of you think we should read just the Bible all the time. If that's the case, then there's not much we can discuss. Because at issue then is not Lewis's use of mythology so much as it is that Lewis was a professor of literature. It is not a discussion of whether Lewis can use his imagination to create a story about redemption so much as it is that it is not the redemption story. I don't want Lewis to write a gospel, I want Lewis to write Narnia and the Space Trilogy and Till We Have Faces. I want The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters from Jack, not the 95 Theses or Augustine's Confessions. Don't you understand? He gave us something unique and something good. Not perfect, but nontheless good. Not Luther, but Lewis. He resonates strongly with some of us, not because we're pagans wearing Xian Tees, but because he was authentically Christian and sought to authentically follow Christ. Just as we do: as best we can, as best we know how.


Jamie Dawn said...

We did see the Narnia movie, and it is wonderful. I am so pleased that it stayed in line with the book, and even some of the dialogue is directly from the book. You will not be disappointed when you see it. I was struck by how closely the characters and even Narnia itself looked like what has been in my imagination since I was in the fourth grade and first read the books. I have read them all more times and listened to them on tape over the years. I am a true Narnia fan, and a fan of CS Lewis.
I'm glad that Lewis and his works are being disussed out in the world today. It's a good thing, and I believe his works stand up under criticism and scrutiny.

If I lived close by, my daughter would probably be willing to babysit so you could go see Kong, or you could drop them off at our house while you go. Sorry to tell you this (not really), but my kids and I are going to see the 3:30 showing of Kong today. Jealousy is a sin, you know.

Scott said...

*lol* You're an evil woman, Jamie. Enjoy the movie: Kong is King after all. I might have to wait until Christmas break, but it will be seen. Oh yes, it will be seen.

And thanks for the thumbs-up for Narnia, I'm looking forward to that movie as well. Do you think it would be appropriate for all my daughters (ages 3-6), just my older daughters, or none of them?

alison said...

SCOTT, are you going to let your kids see the movie BEFORE they read the book?

Say it isn't so.

Regarding the post: beautifully said.

Scott said...

Alison, before they read the book? Yes. I've actually already read Wardrobe to them (in fact I was planning on starting it again today), so they are familiar with the story. Therefore I'm more concerned with the scare-factor than anything else. Sophie is very tender-hearted and wept during March of the Penguins because of the frozen baby penguins. So that's my concern with her. But then I think to myself, "I sure would like to see that movie." And they saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and were okay with that, though it was scary. So perhaps the Stone Table might be frightening and sad all at once, which it ought to be, but I don't want it to be too frightening.

So I need advice, because I am weak.

alison said...

My concern was about them not having read it, but if you read it to them...I might be able to sign off...

I heard it was very violent, not gory, but definitely frightening. Paul heard this from a coworker, that a numbrer of times she jumped because she was startled.

We aren't going to see it until the 23rd so I can't be more help than that.

Jamie Dawn said...

The Narnia movie is not gory or bloody, but the part where Aslan is killed on the stone table is scary. It is the evil of the bad creatures that is scary. It would depend on your kids. I think the 6 year old would be fine, especially if you talk about it before hand. The others might get afraid during that part. Sorry, I can't give a solid yes or no, but I would lean towards no for the younger ones.

King Kong is very good. It is LONG too. I won't spoil a thing, but I will say that they made a change in the story line that I didn't like very much. It is a real blockbuster!

Dan M said...

I posted on that site--I find it a bunch of unadulterated poo. I'll see if it gets through, and if it does, I'll post it on here.

I wasn't terribly charitable.

idjits. ;-)

Scott said...

lol, Dan - excellent comment over at the Slice. It's crazy over there, eh?

Scott said...

Jamie, thanks for the advice (hey, you tried). I can't imagine it being better since you don't know the girls' personalities real well. We'll get there sometime, I suppose. The earliest will probably be over break, unless I break down and take one or two tomorrow.

Dan M said...


"It (Till We Have Faces) makes for an incredibly seductive and romantic work, one that I believe any feeling person would find hard to resist the spell of and I do believe it requires a firm grounding of faith to not fall into a position where one might be tempted to explore things that are not of the Christian faith but to an ancient evil that disguises itself and therefore is not always obvious. "


These people are a little crazy...thanks for the link to them. I'm finding it fascinating and immensely entertaining.

Sherry C said...

Hey Scott,

We took our kids to see it on opening night. They have had the book read to them and are very familiar with the story.

We talked all the way to the theater (and we live 40 minutes out) about the fact that there would be scary parts and it is no shame to look away or cover your eyes when you just don't want to look. We reminded them repeatedly that they already knew the ending, so that took out the suspense factor for them. We explained also that evil is ugly and would (and should) be portrayed as such. Although we don't usually let them see scary, intense flicks, they were well-prepared.

My five year old daughter covered her eyes during some of the Stone Table scene and again during parts of the battle. My eight year old son loved every minute, ESPECIALLY the battle scene, but admitted that he did turn away when the witch struck the final blow to Aslan on the Table. It wasn't because of the gore, but rather the emotional intensity just got too much for him.

I thought it was very well done and my family gave it four enthusiastic thumbs up.

Scott said...

Thanks, Sherry. I may take my two oldest to see it. I still haven't decided, but I appreciate the info, especially about how Elli responded to it. That's helpful.

Dan, the Slice can be entertaining. The crazy thing is that I know people who think like this - I'm related to some. Oy vey!