Remember all the fuss last year before The Passion of the Christ was released? Critics called Mel Gibson’s film about the last hours of Jesus Christ anti-Semitic. They said it would spark violence against Jews. They scoffed, saying no one would watch such a religious movie.
With the imminent release of a new big-budget blockbuster, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, they are now attempting to smear C.S. Lewis, who created the classic 20th century seven-volume series for children, The Chronicles of Narnia.
Grand Inquisitor in this regard is Philip Pullman, who also is classified as a children’s writer. I say “classified as” because Pullman’s dark, three-volume series, called His Dark Materials, poisons young minds every bit as much as any stratagem of the White Witch. Pullman accuses Lewis of being a propagandist for religion. Indeed, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe encourages faith and provides a beautiful picture of Christ dying and rising again.
And what’s wrong with that? Most works of literature, and indeed most movies, come out of particular worldviews and attempt to influence people’s thinking about everything from animal rights to Zen. What’s wrong with a series—and, indeed, a movie—that seeks, among other things, to communicate Christian truth past society’s “watchful dragons” in the fantasy genre?
And Pullman, who is an outspoken atheist, should talk. He has declared, “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.”
The church, according to Pullman, “has tried to suppress and control every natural impulse. … That’s what the Church does, and every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling.” God, according to Pullman, “was never the creator. He was an angel like ourselves … [who] told those who came after him that he had created them, but it was a lie.” Near the end of His Dark Materials, Pullman’s god dies: “Demented and powerless,” Pullman wrote, “the aged being could only weep and mumble in fear and pain and misery.”
Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Michael Nelson notes, “Every Christian character in the series is rotten to the core, and none of them bothers to pretend otherwise. ‘The Christian religion,’ one of Pullman’s main characters blandly explains, ‘is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all.’”
Perhaps that anti-Christian bias is why Pullman is taking the extraordinary step of publicly trashing a fellow author, and a dead one at that. Pullman accuses Lewis and the Chronicles of being sexist, racist, “poisonous,” and having a “sadomasochistic relish for violence.” Talk about projection!
John J. Miller, in National Review, has a more realistic assessment. “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” Miller says, “is both a fantastic adventure story and a profound expression of Christian belief. Because of this, C.S. Lewis’s famous tale not only stands on the threshold of blockbuster success, but also holds the potential to become the next great battleground in the culture wars.”
I’m happy to report that, $370 million later, the critics were wrong about The Passion of the Christ, and Mel Gibson is a very rich man. When it comes to C.S. Lewis’s fantasy, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I expect that the critics are about to get another refreshing dose of reality.