December 12, 2005

The Myth of Narnia

I'm studying for finals right now, and don't have time for a full discussion, but I want to give a quick note on this New York Times editorial on the commericalization of "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe," and the ensuing fight between the Christian right and secular Narnia lovers. I think the author of this editorial is right on in taking the middle road with her claim that, on the one hand, the "religious subtext" is obviously present but, on the other hand, C.S. Lewis would not appreciate attempts by Christians to make that subtext overt or to see the purpose of Narnia as "proselytizing" children (much less to capitalize on it financially). I would like to make one further point on this subject: C.S. Lewis would have seen the huge success of Narnia and its ability to reach non-Christians as an argument in favor of Christianity. Lewis believed that God had implanted deep drives and desires in the human soul which are filled only by relationship with God, and that humans have an instinctive understanding of and longing for the things Christianity claims to provide. Lewis, a scholar of Medieval literature, understood myth as being an appeal to these sorts of universal desires and Narnia is, in some degree, a test of this hypothesis (although I do not claim that that is why Lewis wrote them, or what he would have us take from them). The Narnia story takes the themes of Christianity outside of any Christian context, into a fantasy story, and it has been seen that these themes resound deeply with people. Lewis's explanation is that this is due to a deep desire we all have for what Christianity claims to provide, and he hoped that the Narnia stories would awaken these desires in their readers. This may draw people a step closer to Christian faith, and that may have been part of Lewis's intention, but this is much different than "proselytizing" and it is ruined if people go around handing out tracts on the Christian symbolism to secular movie-goers.

Posted by Kenny at December 12, 2005 11:58 AM
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