Sunday, November 18, 2012

So You're Mad About Christianity... (Week 11?)

In my youth, my parents read us the full Narnia series, and being the smart children we are, we liked them. Growing older I became more and more aware of the Christian symbolism through out (especially in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe), but I became even more aware of the anger at the symbolism that people seemed to have developed over time.

The general source of this anger seems to be the fact that the Christian symbolism is so blatant. I actually know people who refuse to read the series, because of the symbolism. Imagine choosing not to read something because of the Christian symbolism. Sure, the character Aslan screams "I'm an image relating to Jesus Christ", but it does not stop the story from being interesting. Nor does it stop Lewis from using pagan symbols as well, as an online article from  that Columbia University seemed to find interesting enough to re-post: 

"If it is meant as Christian propaganda, one has to wonder if it is subverting its own goals through the inclusion of witches, fauns, centaurs and other creatures drawn from the ranks of mythology. Furthermore, the return of Christmas in this tale seems closer to the pagan roots of this holiday than to celebrating Jesus' birth. After all, putting up a pine tree as a symbol of the oncoming spring would owe more to Nordic ritual than the sort of austere Anglican theology favored by Lewis."

The author, who I had issues locating the name of, has a valid point: Lewis does use pagan imagery along side of Christian imagery. This mimics most of the religious growth we see. Christianity and Paganism basically have grown up together,  essentially teaching other and each taking bits and pieces of the other. Does knowing this help calm the outrage of the over board Christian themes? 

Besides that, if we stop reading pieces just because of blatant Christian themes, think of how many authors that cuts from our reading pool: Tolkien, Chesterton, Koontz... Heck, even Rowling admits to Christian themes in the Harry Potter series. The fact of the matter is that Christianity is a large part of our culture and had been for quite some time. Even those who are not Christian know the themes and references, making them universal. While it seems like the references are slowing down in our culture, it still makes sense to use them and to try and avoid them? Well, that's just impossible. 

Links on the Symbolism


  1. Speaking as someone who has never particularly enjoyed Narnia (yeah, yeah, I'm a horrible person who strangles kittens for a living, I get it), my objection isn't in the Christian symbolism in and of itself. I just don't think it makes a convincing argument in favor of Christianity. I mean, what's the point of rewriting the Bible if you aren't going to offer us any sort of alternate analyses of it, right? You're not going to win any converts from the other side of the fence, and a Christian reading Narnia is essentially flexing in front of the mirror. Therefore, I'm gonna raise the argument that it would've worked a lot better without the Christian aspect because nobody except children unfamiliar with the Bible is gonna get a lot out of this, intellectually speaking.

  2. I don't mind religious symbolism and allusions, but I think they are a bit over the top in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." The "Passion of the Christ" scene is particularly interesting, I think, in that Aslan is both all-powerful and yet simultaneously gets to be a helpless victim that we feel sorry for; compare this to Jadis, who gets mauled to death by a lion, which we are supposed to feel glad about, because she is an evil witch. This sort of thing can only happen in a narrative where Good and Evil are embodied by characters, which characters are thereby denied any character development.

    You do make an interesting point about the non-Abrahamic mythological creatures that are good, but I think we should note that they are co-opted by Christianity and take their place below Christian characters. Actually, the very neatly stratified hierarchy is pretty interesting. Aslan-Jesus is the spiritual patriarch, Peter ascends as the human patriarch, the humans are obviously above all the other creatures, and the 'natural' animal creatures seem to be above the untrustworthy pagan creatures, which Mr. Beaver rants about. This reminds me of ancient and later medieval theological hierarchies where God > Angels > King > Lords > Nobles > Peasants > Man > Woman > Animals > Plants ect.