I did a rare thing for me. With the charming Mrs. Burchett at my side we braved opening day crowds to see the “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. I am a fan of the writing of C.S.Lewis and the Narnia series. My fear was that the producers would stray from the story and the message. They did not. The movie is beautifully shot, the human characters well cast, and the magical figures of Narnia imaginatively portrayed. I loved the movie. I recommend it highly to anyone and especially to fans of the Narnia tales.
On Sunday I browsed online to see how the movie was faring at the box office. The opening projections were very strong and at the site I noticed a link for an online review. I am always curious to compare my reactions to the critics. I have generally found that they genuinely deserve the title of “critic”. Frankly I would not want to party with some of these people. But I clicked on a review by a writer named Scott Holleran. The title for his review was “Literary Fantasy Adaptation is Christian Tract”. I suspected the review would not be glowing. Here are some of Holleran’s descriptions of the plot. My comments are italicized.
“fanciful Christian propaganda…” (it is simply the book on screen…if a film portrayal of a book is propaganda then I guess they are guilty)
“Up until not, Lucy is a nice kid, but, like the movie, she grows less benign as she personifies the self-abnegation theme.” (uhhh…self-abnegation was not something I regularly discuss…primarily because I have no idea what it means. I realize the rest of you know that self-abnegation means renunciation of your own interests in favor of the interests of others. Many English speaking people would simply say self-denial)
“The story remains intact, such as it is, with Narnians prattling on about a prophecy and someone named Aslan…” (they were prattling about the most important character in the book…)
“all Aslan seems to do is negotiate with the enemy and sacrifice himself.” (some would call his act heroic and selfless)
“Narnia stands for death, destruction, and renunciation of self in a poorly disguised Christian fairy tale.” (My take…Narnia stands for good ultimately triumphing over evil, the consequences of sin, and the incomparable love that would give up your life for another in a clearly enunciated Christian allegory).
At this point I really wasn’t sure if we saw the same movie. The movie faithfully reflects the book. It is not a Christian “tract” or “fanciful Christian propaganda”. The movie tells the story of four children in the land of Narnia. It is exactly what fans of the book series expect. This production is no different than what the fans of Harry Potter expect when those books are made into films. I decided to see if Mr.Holleran had addressed faith at other times.
In February of 2004 he wrote about Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” and he flippantly entitled the piece “Jesus Christ Superscar.” Without having seen the movie (by his own admission) Holleran deduced that the movie’s theme is that suffering, not joy, is man’s proper fate. Again, I apparently saw an entirely different movie. Gibson’s message (and the Gospel message) is that man’s proper fate was mitigated by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. I saw the movie as a movie of hope although, admittedly, the suffering of Jesus was difficult to watch. Later Holleran describes the movie as being “religion for what it is – – abject misery here on earth.” Actually on this point Holleran and I agree. That is a consequence of religion. But, at the considerable risk of intellectual scorn, I am convinced that is why the message of Jesus is different. Jesus talked about relationship and not religion. Love and not law. Grace and not condemnation. Perhaps Scott Holleran has never witnessed that type of follower of Christ. Maybe his contempt of all people of faith would blind him to the possiblity of such a relationship. I wish he could get to know some Christians I have been privileged to know. Holleran would likely not change his worldview but I think he would realize his bitterness toward all Christians is unfair and even bigoted.
Holleran’s final quote is honest and I respect him for that. “Whether the besieged culture is ready to renounce reason, yield to faith, and submit to suffering does not depend on Mel Gibson’s fundamentally religious movie.But his box office success, especially for those of us who are infidels, may offer an ominous sneak preview.”
I am saddened by the presumptions that Holleran makes about my faith. I would not call him an infidel for not believing as I do. I don’t feel a need to “convert” him or “argue” with him about my faith. I don’t believe you have to renounce reason to embrace Christianity. I did not enter into my faith relationship with some deep seated need or desire to suffer. And I don’t think that my worldview is ominous to self-described infidels. I wish that I could sit down with people like Scott Holleran and talk. Maybe he would realize I am not such an idiot. And maybe I would understand his disdain for religion. I doubt we could get any further apart and maybe, just maybe, we could find some common ground of intellectual respect. Hey, it is the season of miracles.