World magazine reports on the Lewis fiasco
This week's World magazine cover story is a lengthy piece by editor Marvin Olasky on reported plans by those who control C.S. Lewis's estate "to downplay Lewis's Christian profession." If you like conspiracy theories, you'll love this piece. It's got secret cabals running around from Singapore to Liechtenstein, nameless clandestine puppeteers using the British apologist's corpse for their own personal marionette, a heroic journalist stymied at every turn, and corporate bigwigs challenged to choose all that is good and holy above insidious Mammon. It's The Insider meets The X-Files, Erin Brockovich meets The Pelican Brief.

To World, the controversy is that black and white. "And so the battle is joined," Olasky writes. "Zondervan, HarperCollins, and those who control the C.S. Lewis estate versus those who refuse to adulterate Lewis's ideas." The heroine of the story is Carol Hatcher, "a Christian screenwriter/producer" whose PBS documentary on Lewis reportedly was squashed by the C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. "because … the film script emphasized Lewis's 'Christianity' too much." The villain is the C.S. Lewis Company's Simon Adley, whom World identifies as a former publicist for a leather furniture maker, "a spokesman for the Labour Party's opposition to privatizing Britain's state-owned railroad," and a former employee of Scholastic, "which publishes the Harry Potter series in the United States."

It's all a terribly exciting read, until one takes a peak at the man behind the curtain. (Sorry, wrong children's book series.) Kudos to World for pointing out that the C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. and its C.S. Lewis Company are a pretty secretive bunch—but that doesn't make them nefarious. And World neglects conflicting evidence. As Adley himself recently told The New York Times, "It's fatuous to suggest that we're trying to take the Christian out of C. S. Lewis. We wouldn't have made the effort that we have with Mere Christianity if we felt that way." Indeed, HarperCollins has released special editions of Lewis's nonfiction works with well-known Christian authors providing introductions and forwards. Kathleen Norris introduces Mere Christianity, Madeleine L'Engle writes the foreword to A Grief Observed, Jan Karon and John Updike are also attached to the project.

And though World notes that Hatcher's documentary is only one of three such films in the works, it dismisses one as "a 'Harvard psychiatrist project comparing Lewis and [Sigmund] Freud,' and the beneficiary of 'Simon's enthusiasm'" (the quotes are actually from Steve Hanselman, senior vice president and publishing director for HarperSanFrancisco.) But what World doesn't note is that this Harvard psychiatrist is Armand M. Nicholi Jr., a Christianity Today corresponding editor and board member of both Gordon College and the Family Research Council. His comparisons between Lewis and Freud have long been the subject of one of his classes, as well as an article in Christian Leadership Ministries' The Real Issue. The documentary will certainly examine Lewis's Christian worldview in detail; it won't be an analysis of how the apologist felt about his mother.

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Still, World seems to have the benefit of a smoking gun. If there is evidence that anyone at Zondervan, HarperCollins, or the Lewis estate is trying to, in World's words, "disconnect [Lewis] from the immortal Head," it's that infamous memo from Steve Hanselman. "We'll need to be able to give emphatic assurances that no attempt will be made [in Hatcher's documentary] to correlate the [Narnia] stories to Christian imagery/theology," he wrote—among other incendiary remarks. But Hanselman is no devil, and in fact his review of Hatcher's documentary was generally positive: "As treated, there is no characterization of what 'true conversion' or 'true Christianity' is supposed to be. We'll need to make sure it stays that way." Again: "Lewis was much more than a mere apologist. The script does a good job of walking this line and should be followed closely." Clearly Hanselman was worried about something. Clearly there is a context to his remarks. But what is it?

Also unanswered are questions about the terms of the publishing rights between HarperCollins and the C.S. Lewis Company. "Simon has made it pretty clear that the only way forward (without jeopardizing our business relationship) will include a provision for the Estate's consultation and approval, as well as granting them a stake in the project," Hanselman wrote in the leaked memo about the documentary. So what are the estate's priorities? What are they so on guard against? Right now, these questions remains unanswered, and there seems to be a gag order over at HarperCollins/Zondervan on this issue.

That's mighty unfortunate—especially for HarperCollins/Zondervan. The last word was spokeswoman Lisa Herling's non-denial denial of plans to de-Christianize Lewis and the Narnia series. "One of the issues the correspondence addressed was whether the project would appeal to the secular as well as the evangelical market," Herling said in a statement to The New York Times. "The goal of HarperCollins is to publish the works of C. S. Lewis to the broadest possible audience and leave any interpretation of the works to the reader."

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Meanwhile, Lewis fans and media outlets around the world continue to rend their garments. "For HarperCollins's writers to devise new stories purged of their spiritual content is the rankest kind of political correctness," says a Montreal Gazette editorial. "Even if they were to attempt to sprinkle in some of Lewis's theology, the new novels would by their very inspiration pollute the ideals that this important author stood for."

Have an opinion of your own? Be sure to vote at our online poll this week.

Supreme Court says Christian club can meet in grade school
Good news for the Good News Club of Milford, New York: The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision today that the local school district that banned its meetings "violated the Club' s free speech rights." "When Milford denied the Good News Club access to the school's limited public forum on the ground that the club was religious in nature," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority, "it discriminated against the club because of its religious viewpoint in violation of the free-speech clause of the First Amendment." The Court rejected the school district's arguments that such young students should be protected with extra precautions distancing the school from religious instruction. "We cannot operate, as Milford would have us do, under the assumption that any risk that small children would perceive endorsement should counsel in favor of excluding the Club' s religious activity," Thomas wrote. Quite the contrary: "Any bystander could conceivably be aware of the school' s use policy and its exclusion of the Good News Club, and could suffer as much from viewpoint discrimination as elementary school children could suffer from perceived endorsement."

Justice Antonin Scalia, rarely one to remain silent on such issues as this, issued a concurring opinion to further castigate the school for viewpoint discrimination. Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented. Expect to see columnists, editorial writers, and others issuing their concurring opinions and dissents in the next few days. Weblog, of course, will keep you posted.

American not beheaded after all—yet
The Abu Sayyaf rebels holding missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham and one other American backed out of a promise to kill one of them at midnight (EDT) last night. However, the kidnappers grabbed another 15 new hostages (including two 12-year-olds and two teens), and burned down a Roman Catholic chapel. The missionaries and other hostages are still very much in danger as the situation gets increasingly desperate for both the rebels and the Philippine military.

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