Defending the Lion

On a lighter, but still Narnia-related, note, Zoe Williams (of all people) came out with rather a refreshing column on this subject in the Guardian last week. With articles such as Polly Toynbee’s recent “huff” in her sights, Williams comments that:

It bothers me that there seems to be no discussion of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that isn’t prefixed with “Besides the dodgy Christian subtext” or “Dodgy religious allegory aside”. The critical variations are many, the only constant being the word dodgy, as if Christianity were inherently unsound, as if it had, without our noticing, ascended to the ranks of anachronistic wrong-headedness, like Nazism or hissing at single mothers.

(Let’s set to one side the obvious point that “Christianity is as inherently unsound as Nazism” is more or less the default Guardian position…)

Williams points out that the Christian parallels that some object to are only going to be noticed by those already familiar with the original biblical narratives. As for the objection that the series “equates raw, physical power with righteousness” (particularly in the depiction of Aslan), Williams observes that:

Maybe it’s a crass rendering of the Christian message but, again, surely this is one for Christians to worry about? No one outside the religion needs to worry about its interpretation from within, unless one of its interpretations is “let’s blow up all those outsiders”.

As for the objection that the climactic battle scene is “reminiscent of the Crusades” (because Peter uses a sword), Williams describes this as “mindless offence-seeking”.

As Williams concludes:

The Bible is a narrative blueprint for a lot of western culture – if everything referencing it is dodgy then the nativity is dodgy, a lot of Shakespeare is dodgy, some of The Archers is dodgy, everything is dodgy. To what do we object, then? That CS Lewis’s allegories are too obvious? That there are too many of them? That he didn’t bother disguising them, as Tolkien did?

Anyone holding to this “dodgy” orthodoxy, especially those who don’t explain why, is treating Christianity as inherently underhand. This is unfair to all Christians, not just hardliners. And it is not the time of year to be unfair to Christians. We’ve pinched their festival. We can hardly talk about “underhand”.

Oh, and anyone taking issue at Williams’ statement about non-Christians having pinched a Christian festival (“blah, blah, Saturnalia, blah blah, appropriated by early Christians, blah blah”) should check out this post on the subject from last year.

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