They're paving Narnia to put in a strip mall—or so say recent news stories. The front page of The New York Times, the editorial page of The Boston Globe, and op-ed pages around the English-speaking world—not to mention C.S. Lewis devotees—have been decrying not only reports of plans to commercialize Narnia, but what some say is a deliberate effort to play down Lewis's Christianity in marketing efforts.
Unfortunately, stories have become conflated. Concerns about a leaked e-mail regarding how to portray Narnia and Lewis's Christianity in a PBS documentary became enmeshed in news about HarperCollins's efforts to publicize both the children's series and the author's other books. In time, fans believed HarperCollins was going to reissue the Chronicles of Narnia with all religious imagery excised. But, in the words of Lewis's stepson Douglas Gresham, the report was an "evil lie."
Let us separate the truth from the lies. First, the HarperCollins memo never says that the planned PBS documentary went too far in addressing Lewis's faith. On the contrary, HarperSanFrancisco executive Steve Hanselman praised the script: "I think the documentary and its broadcast on PBS will doubtless have the effect of broadening Lewis' recognition and appeal and boost the sales of all his books." Nor does the memo explicitly indicate plans either by the publishing company or the Lewis estate to downplay Lewis's faith.
What has riled so many people is the memo's discussion of how HarperCollins thinks the Lewis estate wants Lewis presented: 1) "No attempt [should] be made to correlate the [Narnia] stories to Christian imagery/theology"; 2) Lewis's ...1