Shulevitz: Don't mess with those racist, sexist Narnia books
Judith Shulevitz's Close Reader column, which regularly appears as the conclusion of The New York Times Book Review, seems at first to be a defense of C.S. Lewis against those who want to "distance the Narnia chronicles from 'Christian imagery/theology,' presumably for fear of scaring off non-Christian parents." It's even called "Don't Mess With Aslan." But after Shulevitz praises the books for "reanimating the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Gospels … which is why so many of us love the Narnia stories so fiercely, whether we're Christian or not," she begins describing exactly how he does so. But wait. "Lewis reproduces the Passion of Christ, complete with nasty Jews" (The White Witch implicitly invokes Shylock's pound of flesh, she argues). "Muslims also haunt Narnia—or rather, cartoon infidels, a turbaned, dark-skinned people called Calormenes, who … are a greedy, cruel, proud, enslaved and enslaving race." Uh-oh. "A rather clerical fear of the female also pervades Narnia. Women are good when schoolgirls, mostly evil when grown. … There's anti-Catholicism here too, at least if you accept one scholar's thesis that the story of the ape who makes a false Aslan out of a donkey in a lion skin is an attack on papist idolatry." Yikes! Who'd want to read such bigotry, especially to children! Somehow, Shulevitz lists all of these odd accusations, then concludes, "The Narnia chronicles are glorious, and they're also very dark, like the literary traditions they're steeped in. No matter how much their outmoded mores may trouble you, you can't alter them without destroying the soul of Lewis's creation. Embrace Narnia or reject it, but don't bowdlerize it." Weblog isn't so sure that Lewis would appreciate the … um … support.

Taliban shuts down two more aid agencies
While members of Germany-based Shelter Now await trial in Afghanistan for promoting Christianity through their relief work, the Taliban has begun expelling other aid organizations. Kabul-based International Assistance Mission has been working in the country for more than 35 years, having survived communist rule and other oppression. Now the agency, which ran two eye hospitals and several health clinics, is closed and the 50 or so workers (mainly American expatriates) have been given 72 hours to leave the country. Likewise, SERVE (Serving Emergency Relief and Vocational Enterprise), a Christian ministry with offices in the Netherlands, Britain, and elsewhere, has done refugee work, housing, health education, solar technology, and disability training. No more. "No one is left here and we are not allowed to let any foreigners in," a Taliban official outside the International Assistance Mission said. "All foreigners left this morning after we closed their offices."

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Mandatory Labor Day link:

  • Religious leaders take on labor dispute | Clergy enter San Francisco's oldest labor dispute—Local 2 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union versus the downtown Marriott Hotel (San Francisco Chronicle)

Religious freedom abroad:

Irish priest murdered in Philippines:

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Other murders:


Sexual abuse:

Sexual ethics:

Law and the courts:

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Life ethics:


  • Spiritual spoofs | The Mantra of Jabez and Right Behind are part of a rarity in evangelical Christian life: humorists who poke fun at churches' sacred cows (The Washington Times)
  • The trials of Jabez | New books say prayer bestseller gets it wrong (U.S. News & World Report)
  • The Prayer of Jabez continues to enlarge its territory | After half a year as a New York Times bestseller, Wilkinson's book continues to be a phenomenon. (The Hartford Courant)
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  • Author angers the Bible Belt | Philip Pullman's humanist tales of good and evil are a far cry from CS Lewis and A A Milne. But to the horror of the religious Right, they are a runaway hit. (The Observer, London)
  • Holy realists | Alan Wolfe reviews Grant Wacker's Heaven Below (The New Republic)
  • When morals bend to personal choice | Alan Wolfe talks about his new book, Moral Freedom: The Search for Virtue in a World of Choice. (The Christian Science Monitor)
  • My morals, myself | Personal rules, as described in Alan Wolfe's Moral Freedom, mean trying to have it both ways (John Leo, U.S. News & World Report)
  • Humor and insight in a Christian's observations about Jewish life | Harvey Cox shares his sojourn in Common Prayers: Faith, Family, and a Christian's Journey Through the Jewish Year (Los Angeles Times)
  • Cupid with a saintly streak | Heroes and heroines don't romp through Christian romance novels, but they do have heavenly encounters (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
  • Bible teachings inspire pictures | Robert Flores' book illustrates the New Testament epistles of 1 John, James and Jude (The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, California)


Science and studies:

Popular culture:

  • D'oh and the deity | The Simpsons has sometimes been called sacrilegious—rather than satirical—for its jabs at clergy and the faithful alike. But religious commentators, especially this year, have looked at the animated series and found plenty to like (Associated Press)
  • Doubts don't deter Christian rappers | Just as Christian hard-rock and metal bands fought for critical legitimacy and retail shelf space in the '70s and '80s, Christian rap and hip-hop artists are now struggling to gain acceptance and support from their brethren (Billboard)
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