The Washington Post

About four years ago, the very first piece I did for Religion News Service made it to the pages of the Washington Post (no byline, but a mention), and I've been hooked on freelance religion writing ever since. The Post has run my byline twice since then, and today, they've taken it a step further by commenting on the C.S. Lewis Superstar piece -- thought I can't be sure if the writing liked my Lewis and Elvis comparison or not.

The Post also mentions an eye opening piece column from the Guardian, entitled "Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion" by Polly Toynbee.

Two of Toynbee's points:

  • Over the years, others have had uneasy doubts about the Narnian brand of Christianity. Christ should surely be no lion (let alone with the orotund voice of Liam Neeson). He was the lamb, representing the meek of the earth, weak, poor and refusing to fight. Philip Pullman - he of the marvellously secular trilogy His Dark Materials - has called Narnia "one of the most ugly, poisonous things I have ever read".

    Why? Because here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America - that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right

  • Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to? Poor child Edmund, to blame for everything, must bear the full weight of a guilt only Christians know how to inflict, with a twisted knife to the heart. Every one of those thorns, the nuns used to tell my mother, is hammered into Jesus's holy head every day that you don't eat your greens or say your prayers when you are told. So the resurrected Aslan gives Edmund a long, life-changing talking-to high up on the rocks out of our earshot. When the poor boy comes back down with the sacred lion's breath upon him he is transformed unrecognisably into a Stepford brother, well and truly purged.

In the Scriptures, Jesus is a paradox--both the lamb of God who was slain, and the Lion of Judah. Toybee praises Jesus as a lamb, as being meek, but denigrates the power that sacrificial love has to defeat even the most powerful evil. That's the great irony of Narnia--that in killing Aslan, the witch sows her own doom. Toynbee seems upset that Aslan refuses to stay dead. Would she prefer a story when the Witch, after killing Aslan, did everyone else in as well, and the story should end with in her castle, with the Witch looking over her new collection of statues?

She is right that the idea of God dying for us, and the idea that we need someone to save us is offensive. It may be true, but it is offensive. Narnia lives out Jesus's world--that those who try and save their lives will lose them, and those who give up their lives will save themselves in the end.


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