Narnia isn't racist or sexist—just universalist
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, it seems like Weblog should be discussing C.S. Lewis's "Learning in War-Time" rather than The Chronicles of Narnia. Nevertheless, no one is debating whether Lewis's October 22, 1939, speech (reprinted in The Weight of Glory, The Essential C.S. Lewis) is being bastardized by a greedy cabal. And despite the 9/11 horrors, the not-quite-last battle for Narnia continues. The latest volley comes from prolific commentator Gregg Easterbrook in The Atlantic Monthly. "Although Narnia has survived countless perils, the Chronicles themselves are now endangered," he begins. "On one front they face the dubious honor of corporate marketing. On another literary voices have begun to denounce them as racist and sexist works." Since the former front has garnered much more publicity in America that the former, Easterbrook quickly sums it up and moves on. He'd rather address "a fad of anti-Narnia writing in Britain" led by Philip Pullman, whose His Dark Materials trilogy "are driven by the premise that God is evil—a celestial impostor who pretends to have created the universe and who so intensely hates flesh and blood that he wants people to live a repressed, joyless existence followed by hell, even for the righteous."
Like a recent "defense" of The Chronicles of Narnia by The New York Times Book Review's Judith Shulevitz, Easterbrook admits that in reading the books to his children, he winced at certain points. "But does having characters say darkies make Lewis racist?" he asks. "Does leaving Susan back in London attending dull parties make him sexist?" His rhetorical question suggests that it does not. But then Easterbrook goes on to defend Narnia because, above all, it seems to deviate from Christian orthodox teachings:
In Narnia, after all, heaven has an open-door policy. In the final book of the Chronicles, Emeth, a noble Calormene, dies trying to save others. Emeth (Truth in Hebrew) then finds himself in heaven, being praised by Aslan, and asks why he has been permitted to enter when in life he worshipped in a rival faith. Aslan tells Emeth that the specifics of religion do not matter: virtue is what's important, and paradise awaits anyone of good will. This seems an up-to-date message—and a reason the Narnia books should stand exactly as they are.
Maybe it's time for a moratorium on people "defending" C.S. Lewis.
Outlaw miracles, says Kenyan columnist
Here's an idea from Nairobi's The Nation newspaper: hold faith healers to truth-in-advertising laws. Columnist Wycliffe Muga argues it's the only way "to put an end to the evangelical conmanship which has been a thriving industry in Kenya for so many years now." He also calls for "a Miracle Verification Centre established by an Act of Parliament and operating under the independent control of the Kenya Medical Association." Those whose miracles cannot be regularly authenticated "could thereafter continue to preach the gospel if they so wish; but they should not be allowed to advertise miracle crusades or to publicise their claims to being able to perform miracles." After all, Muga argues, Jesus told a healed leper to show himself to the priest for authentication and he and his apostles never hung "Come and receive your miracle" banners around Jerusalem. (But of course, Muga is wrong when he says, "Miracle healing was not done in concealment.")
Pacifism, just war, and other Christian responses to the 9/11 attacks:
- Christian pacifists struggle with response to terrorist attacks | Current conflict "much more complicated" than earlier ones (Associated Press)
- Christians debating on reply to attacks | Washington anti-war march included Christian pacifists, but others say assassinations and pre-emptive military strikes now are a Christian option in a just war (The Washington Times)
- Clerics reluctant to bless a war on Afghanistan | Debate over whether war on terrorism is just continues (San Francisco Chronicle)
- Leaning on faith | Religious groups gather to reflect on views of sacred life and peace (The News & Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina)
- Pondering 'just war' in time of terrorism | Suddenly, the research of J. Bryan Hehir, the head of Harvard Divinity School and the nation's leading Catholic expert on just-war doctrine, matters again (The Boston Globe)
- Catholic Church debates 'just war' | Leaders, including the Vatican, give mixed signals about how far a U.S. response should go. (Los Angeles Times)
- World Council of Churches leader urges against war | United Nations, not international coalition, must deal with terrorism (Associated Press)
- What we deserve? | Some Americans believe the Second Coming is close at hand—and that the terrorist attacks were God's warning (Beliefnet)
- Scripture scholars, pastors play down end-times speculation | Current crisis not prophesied in Bible, some Christians say (The Dallas Morning News)
- Dangers become great when we play God | No religion justifies the creature deciding to deliver judgment himself (William McKenzie, The Dallas Morning News)
- Giving repentance a bad name | There is nothing novel about the impulse of people, in times of calamity, to ask, "Am I living right?" (Al Knight, The Denver Post)
- Pakistani Christians face suspicion, violence | Tiny minority says it is perceived as being loyal to U.S. (The Sun, Baltimore)
- Pakistani Christians fear attacks | But for now, there is nothing close to panic, and opinions vary as to potential danger (Associated Press)
- Opponents debate Nigeria Islamic law | After deadly riots, Shariah dispute becomes more urgent (Associated Press)
- Two Christian churches burnt down | Muslim youths suspected (Kenya Broadcasting Corp.)
- Also: Kenyan churches torched (Reuters)
- Out of destruction rises religions' urgent efforts to unite | Ecumenism designed to unite Christians is now giving way to efforts to unite religions (The News & Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina)
- Ministry rescinds land deal | Plan to sell parcel to future Christian high school is withdrawn because the Catholic diocese would teach religion. (Los Angeles Times)
Copyright © 2001 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
See our past Weblog updates: