Huffing Over Narnia

HUFFING OVER NARNIA….I’m not an especially militant atheist myself, but I have to admit that it’s bracing to see one in high dudgeon occasionally. Today, the Guardian’s famously acerbic Polly Toynbee, honorary associate of Britain’s National Secular Society, takes on the Christian imagery of CS Lewis’s Narnia books:

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. I once heard the famous preacher Norman Vincent Peel in New York expound a sermon that reassured his wealthy congregation that they were made rich by God because they deserved it. The godly will reap earthly reward because God is on the side of the strong. This appears to be CS Lewis’s view, too. In the battle at the end of the film, visually a great epic treat, the child crusaders are crowned kings and queens for no particular reason. Intellectually, the poor do not inherit Lewis’s earth.

Does any of this matter? Not really. Most children will never notice. But adults who wince at the worst elements of Christian belief may need a sickbag handy for the most religiose scenes. The Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw gives the film five stars and says, “There is no need for anyone to get into a PC huff about its Christian allegory.” Well, here’s my huff.

Bradshaw is probably right ? as Toynbee herself admits. When I read the Narnia books as a kid I never had the slightest clue that they had anything to do with Christianity, and unless the movie takes considerable liberties with Lewis’s story I doubt that present day youngsters will figure it out on their own either.

Still, if you’re in the mood for an entertaining rant, you know what to do.