narnia: evangelizing through a lion puppet

The Guardian has an interesting piece on Disney’s upcoming Narnia film. Here, because I don’t really have anything original to add, is an extended quote:

Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion…

Disney is deliberately promoting this film to the religious – it has appointed Outreach, an evangelical publisher, to promote the Christian message behind the movie in British churches. The Christian radio station Premier is urging churches to hold services on the theme of The Gospel According to Narnia. Even the Methodists have written a special Narnia-themed service. And a Kent parish is giving away

This entry was posted in Art and Culture. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  1. Stella Magdalen
    Posted December 7, 2005 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    I dug Narnia as a pagan kid. Even when it was explained to be Christian re- mythologizing to me I was mostly OK with that.
    After all Bacchus shows up and dryads and naiads and fawns and satyrs.
    Except The Last Battle, that one was too stupid, obvious and preachy to ignore.
    But I mostly liked the time travel and magics and I was all about lions at the time too. And I do like a good morality play, when it’s about basic human ethics. As evidenced by my attachment to Alcott.
    But I was having a big discussion of it with my hipster Mom friend and when she has read them to her kid she skips the battles and the the racist bits, can’t blame her for that. She thinks its a bit too black and white, good vs evil. She likes The Moomintrolls.

  2. sandy
    Posted December 7, 2005 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I liked all of them except the last one, too, at least partially for the British-ness of it. I wanted a wardrobe even if it wasn’t magic. And some turkish delight, whatever that was.

    The Christian themes obviously didn’t have much influence on me, since I’ve been an atheist for the last thirty years (since about age 13). Reading the books again before letting my kids read them now, the symbols are obvious, and detract a bit from the story. I liked it better when I didn’t think about it so much.

    Frankly, I encourage almost anything that gets my kids to read on their own (including movie tie-ins). Maybe someday they’ll make a Captain Underpants movie.

  3. It's Skinner Again
    Posted December 7, 2005 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I read most of the Narnia books as a kid; I remember thinking they were kind of creepy and humorless, especially the later ones. I got some of the Christianity, but didn’t understand why it was all veiled. If he wanted to talk about sin and Jesus, why not just do it? I preferred “Mad,” Pogo, the Oz books, Twain, Verne, lots of other things.

    I also liked E. Nesbit and Tove Jansson’s Moomin books: more imaginative, and healthier ideas. I suspect, though, that our Christian pals don’t much care for a socialist freethinker and an anti-consumerist lesbian. To the Aslans with them!

  4. Anonymatt
    Posted December 7, 2005 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I read all of the Narnia books after the cartoon TV movie of LW&W was shown in the late 70s. I don’t remember noticing much Christianity besides the obvious Aslan/Jesus parallels, and I probably only noticed that because I had read about the supposed Christian parallels in Narnia. At the time I was going to Sunday School regularly so Christian overtones would have registered as a good thing.

    My favorites were the 3rd and 4th books, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Silver Chair, because they explored areas of the world Narnia was in that were unmentioned in the other books, and involved journeys with a lot of weird characters and situations. (The plots concerned a voyage to the edge of the world (Narnia’s world was flat) and a trek into Narnia’s subterranean underworld.)

    If you like Narnia books fine, if not, that’s fine with me too. You can ignore or embrace any Christian overtones as you see fit.

    I’ve never read the His Dark Materials books but they sound interesting. Not surprising that they would go over better in the UK than the US.

  5. Shanster
    Posted December 7, 2005 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    The most interesting thing about that piece by Polly Toynbee is that it shows how she can hate Islam and Christianity with such laudable equanimity.

  6. Brian
    Posted December 7, 2005 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Narnia has always been a thorn in my side. I find the books boring as hell and lacking any sort of excitement.

    On the other hand I love His Dark Materials trilogy, but I’m not surprised to hear that the film versions will lack any refrences to religion…which I think is the crux of the story.

    Once again, Mark did you get my Zombie Claus logo?

  7. Stella Magdalen
    Posted December 7, 2005 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    I LOVED the Dark Materials and the the idea of taking the religious questioning out of it sounds like a total copout.
    I agree that Prince Caspian was the best Narnian book it was also my first.
    I gotta get these Moomin books. I’ve already got all the Nesbitt.

  8. Anonymatt
    Posted December 7, 2005 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Regardless of the actual religious content of the film, it’s hardly surprising that it’s being marketed to Christians. Passion of the Christ proved they’re willing to spend their money, and
    Hollywood is only to happy to market a film to them in order to get more of their money. They’d probably do it with any film that has a tenuous connection with Christian principles.

    I’d also like to point out that even though it’s a kid’s film with religious overtones, it probably has a hell of a lot of beaver shots in it.

  9. Brian
    Posted December 7, 2005 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    I think that we can blame the poor box-office year on a lack of crucifixions.

    I know I would have gone seen more movies if I would have known that Bruce Willis would be fighting terrorists only to die for my sins in the end.

  10. ol' e cross
    Posted December 8, 2005 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    The December 2 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education has a nicely reasoned critique of Pullman

  11. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted December 8, 2005 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    One wonders if the books would have been as popular had Jesus been portrayed as a small feral cat instead of as a majestic lion.

    One also wonders if perhaps Disney will release a sequel that’s just an extended, graphic depiction of the Lion as he meets his end – a Passion of the Lion – if you will.

  12. RosieQ
    Posted December 8, 2005 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    I just reread The Last Battle. Lewis does clearly outline the core of his faith towards the end. Aslan speaks to a devotee of another god charecter, saying something along the lines of, “Because you loved him with a pure heart, I heard your prayers.” In other words, there’s only one Jesus but even if you believe in something else (say, Allah) if you are a good person you can still be saved. This is hardly the message of todays ultra conservative Christianity! Lewis is compassionate towards animals, too (more than one can say for JK Rowling).

  13. Anonymatt
    Posted December 8, 2005 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never thought of JK Rowling as compassionate towards animals, but I’ve also never thought of her as discompassionate towards animals. I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

    I’d like to read His Dark Materials, and I’ve also thought of rereading all the Narnia books. On the other hand, I bought The Artsy Smartsy Club over the summer and haven’t read it yet. So much children’s literature, so little time for an adult to read it.

  14. mark
    Posted December 8, 2005 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Unless someone can give me a reason not to, I’m going to order reissues of some of the old Oz books for Clementine tonight. the thought of reading them to her at night makes me really happy… So, if there are any hidden messages in them (Christian or otherwise) that I’m not aware of, please tell me now.

  15. It's Skinner Again
    Posted December 8, 2005 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    As I recall, one of them (“The Land of Oz”?) is pretty hostile to women’s suffrage, with an army of militant women taking over the Emerald City. Clementine may also come away with the message that Oz is more fun than Kansas.

  16. lynne
    Posted December 9, 2005 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    I loved the Narnia books as a kid. I know that I didnt really think of any Christian themes when I read them although I did get that Aslan was some kind of Godlike creature who was in charge. What I liked most about the stories were the talking animals. And I loved The Voyage of the Dawn Treader because it had so many of the same qualities that I found that I like in a good epic story of adventure and exploration.

    It doesnt bother me too much if those on the religious right in this country want to use this movie or the books to teach things to their kids. If I had kids, I would use these books to teach my kids my values too even though mine are not the same as C.S. Lewis’s.

  17. danandkitty
    Posted December 9, 2005 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Aren’t the OZ books all about killin’ injuns? Or maybe that was Baum’s newspaper editorials?

  18. It's Skinner Again
    Posted December 9, 2005 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Those editorials are nasty. I understand they’re baffling to Baum fans, since he was otherwise pretty tolerant.

    I hear the anti-suffragette bits of “The Land of Oz” weren’t serious; he was actually pro-suffrage, but looking for a way to get a lot of chorus girls on stage for a theatrical version. Once again, the stage led a nice boy astray.

  19. mark
    Posted December 11, 2005 at 12:10 am | Permalink

    (Thanks for your thoughts, and the link, Ole East Cross. It’s an interesting article.)

    As for Baum’s editorials, you can find them here:

    I will now spend the rest of the evening looking for images of the chorus girls of Oz.

  20. [steph]
    Posted December 11, 2005 at 4:02 am | Permalink

    I took a pretty rad Children’s Literature course a few years ago. We read Narnia in it. I’d seen the movie as a kid and liked it okay, but as a little Jewish girl I had no idea who Jesus was or any allegories at the time. Obviously reading it again as a college student I saw what was going on.
    In that class we also read The Wizard of Oz. I hadn’t read that one as a kid, but I’d seen the movie and I was surprised by how different they are. The paper I wrote on the book was about how it is really a rather unpleasant, depressing book at its core. The general message seems to be ‘know your role.’ I’m trying to think of what my supporting evidence was, but it was a few years ago. I’ll look around for a copy of the paper. I got an A so it must’ve been at least a little convincing…

  21. Shanster
    Posted December 11, 2005 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    I saw the movie last night; it was very true to the book. You can see tons of Christian imagery if you want to, but you can probably overlook or reinterpret it all, even the resurrection of Aslan, and still enjoy it.

  22. Stella Magdalen
    Posted December 11, 2005 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    I was reading some article somewhere, which was saying that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in particular seemed more Mithraic than Christian…..hmmm

  23. mark
    Posted December 11, 2005 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know if it holds as true for the Oz books, but whenever I see the film it occurs to me that Dorothy must have been the offspring of a very young, unmarried woman (who was then left with her older, childless aunt and uncle). That thought always makes me a bit sad.

  24. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted December 12, 2005 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    OK, I’m working on a book now in which the Buddha is a Tyrannosaurus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.