I’ve begun a re-read of C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as the movie will be hitting theaters on December 9. As we all know, Lewis was a devout Christian, and his Chronicles of Narnia series contains strong Christian themes and theology that is edifying reading for believers.
Or does it?
In Chapter 2, after Lucy has stumbled into Narnia for the first time through the Wardrobe, she meets Mr. Tumnus, a faun who invites her over for tea. In describing the glory days of Narnia before the White Witch cast her spell of perpetual winter with no Christmas, Mr. list of sites . Tumnus tells young Lucy…
…about summer when the woods were green and old Silenus on his fat donkey would come to visit them, and sometimes Bacchus himself, and then the streams would run with wine instead of water and the whole forest would give itself up to jollification for weeks on end.
Who are Silenus and Bacchus, and to what is Lewis referring? Bacchus is none other than the Roman god of wine and intoxication, also known as the Greek god Dionysus. Silenus was a companion of Bacchus who was usually drunk; he rode the donkey because he could not walk due to his intoxication. When these two icons of drunkenness appeared, the whole forest “gave itself up to jollification for weeks on end,” which can mean nothing other than weeks of drinking and intoxication.
So tell me: is this suitable Christian literature for young children? Literature that introduces them to pagan gods who encourage drunkenness? The Bible clearly forbids the worship of other gods as well as drunkenness. These are not just pretend, fantasy-fiction characters we’re talking about! These are real pagan gods of other religions! Surely Christians should avoid such things.
Well, perhaps you see where I’m going with this. The Christian backlash against Harry Potter is based largely on the same claims. Lewis and Tolkien are acceptable, because of the fantastical nature of their books, it is argued. But Rowling blurs the lines and encourages moral ambiguity. As can be clearly seen, you could argue the exact same concerning Lewis, as he brings characters like Bacchus into the story. See the parallel:
Rowling introduces young readers to false religion (occult and pagan beliefs) and encourages immorality (breaking school rules). Lewis introduces young readers to false religion (pagan gods) and encourages immorality (drunkenness, not to mention the orgies that would go along).
We could take this route of argumentation, but it would be unfortunate. Instead, we could learn how literature actually works and seek to understand the genre properly, rather than set people a-runnin’ scared from stories that might actually be encouraging and edifying. It’s sad that many will be cheering for joy on December 9th, but are up in arms and angry with the release of Goblet of Fire.