Christianity Today Weblog earlier noted reports that HarperCollins/HarperSanFrancisco/Zondervan is commissioning new books based on C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. We called it "the really big story." Now comes a development that makes that revelation the mere tip of the iceburg: HarperSanFrancisco says the new books shouldn't be Christian. As one exec puts it, "We'll need to be able to give emphatic assurances that no attempt will be made to correlate the stories to Christian imagery/theology." (The New York Times attributes the quote to "an executive from HarperSanFrancisco," but Christianity Today was leaked the same memo the Times received. It apparently came from the executive of HarperSanFrancisco: Steve Hanselman, senior vice president and publishing director for the HarperCollins religion imprint).
The memo was written by Hanselman regarding a PBS documentary produced by Carol Hatcher (who, the Times reports, had also negotiated contracts to create an illustrated companion book and teaching video for the Narnia series). "I was appalled," says Hatcher. "I think there are ways to approach C. S. Lewis and Narnia that have nothing to do with religious background. However, it is astounding to minimize that part of this; it's like doing a video biography of Hank Aaron and refusing to acknowledge he was a baseball player."
To be fair, Hanselman was referring to how Narnia should be treated in the documentary—not the new Narnia books—but the strategy seems clear. And it reportedly comes from Simon Adley, managing director of the C.S. Lewis Company. Adley denies it: "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. It's just crazy. I suppose you could get a little depressed by this. I'm trying to get more people to read."
HarperCollins also says the strategy is part of broadening Lewis's readership. "One of the issues the correspondence addressed was whether the project would appeal to the secular as well as the evangelical market," spokeswoman Lisa Herling said in a written statement. "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."
We'll keep looking into the story for you, but in the meantime, join the lamenting at the alt.books.cs-lewis newsgroup and MereLewis e-mail list.
Missionaries still held hostage
The Philippine military went in with guns blazing Friday to free 20 hostages—including Martin and Gracia Burnham of New Tribes Mission—but only nine escaped. The bodies of two other hostages were found yesterday, one of them headless. One of the escapees was a Roman Catholic priest, Rene Enriquez, who says a shaking Gracia Burnham, asked him, "Can you pray for us so that we will be saved?" The Burnhams were reportedly seen alive during the melee but were under heavy guard.
- Bomb kills 10 in Bangladesh church | At least 25 wounded in country where Christians are less than one percent of population (Associated Press)
- China's chief Protestant is a survivor | Over the past half-century of Communist rule, Wenzao Han has survived decades of fear and persecution to emerge as a leader of the government-sanctioned Protestant church. And, for that, he is sometimes called a fake Christian, a government lapdog and worse. (The Dallas Morning News)
- Religious belief spreads in face of China sanctions | Freedom greater, but crackdowns continue (The Dallas Morning News)
- French 'anti-cult' legislation seen as threat to religion | Bill, likely to pass this week, is "dangerously ambiguous and could be used against legitimate religious endeavors" says U.S. assistant secretary of state (The Atlanta Journal-Contitution)
- Church in second gunfire attack | For the second time in four days, Tokaikolo Christian Fellowship Church in Australia shot at by unidentified gunmen (The Sydney Morning Herald)
- Christian leaders complain to Indian Human Rights Commission | Mob prevented church community from burying deceased member (The Times of India)
- Test of faith for Survivor contestant, and viewers | Dirk Been, a God-fearing, 24-year-old son of Wisconsin dairy farmers, has returned to the spotlight—this time as a key figure in a fierce battle to discredit the show that made him famous (The New York Times)
- Oliver North signs fiction series with Baptist publisher | Broadman & Holman will publish series about Marine/assassin (Associated Press)
- UPN :We don't need no stinkin' network censor | Network says other key company officers can handle the review process, without a full-time arbiter like other broadcasters. (Los Angeles Times)
- The Holy Land Experience: Blending 20 centuries into a living Bible museum | Now that the furor has died down about some covert plan to convert Jews, it's possible to look at Holy Land Experience as its owners wanted people to: as another theme park in Orlando. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
- Balancing Star Wars and the CBA | Science fiction novelist Kathy Tyers writes for fans of the Force and of Jesus. (Breakpoint Online)
- Faith can be a funny thing | Humor has always been a part of religion. A cable TV special, 'The Joke's on Thee,' shows that pulpits and punch lines can mix. (Los Angeles Times)
- The Door is broke | Not enough money to put out the May/June issue of religious satire magazine (About.com)
- Also: What, us worry? (The Door)
Religion and sports:
- Between the seams: Chapels' demands worry some coaches | The team chaplains or men who run chapel services steer as far from the limelight as they can, but they have been pushed out of the shadows in recent weeks. (The Seattle Times)
- Shouting 'Jesus Christ' gets high school tennis team thrown out of championship final | Rules don't prohibit use of the two words separately, but together they're grounds for expulsion. (Ananova)
- Surveys show growing use of internet for religion | 8 percent of adults and 12 percent of teen-agers in the United States use the Internet for religious or spiritual experiences, says Barna (Reuters)
- Worshiping at the digital temple | If the numbers from a recent Barna Research report are to be believed, the Internet is about to be born again. (The Industry Standard)
- Online religion goes mainstream | "By the end of the decade we will have in excess of 10 percent of our population who will rely on the Internet for their entire spiritual experience," says Barna (CBS)
- Surveys show growing use of Internet for religion | Evangelicals as likely as non-Christians to use Internet, but Catholics and mainline Protestants are more likely (Reuters)
Other stories of interest:
- Religion briefs | Federal court on graduation prayer, Episcopal Church exodus, Disciples of Christ domestic partner benefits, religious response to energy plan, Vietnam travel ban, and Assad's anti-Jewish remarks (Associated Press)
- 'There's no real freedom for a person in Zambia' | Jubilee-Zambia says country's massive poverty limits liberty (The Post, Lusaka, Zambia)
- Misspelt saint lives on in names of Scottish schools | Was St. Ninian really St. Uinniau? (The Times, London)
- Also: Ninian may have brought Christianity to Scotland but he was really St. Uinniau (The Scotsman, Edinburgh)
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