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 ...1
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