Regarding the review by J.R. Jones of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ["Good Is Good," December 16]:
I read Jones's review in agreement right up to the end of his attempt to frame the real-world battle over good and evil ignited by this new film. It is his last paragraph with which I took issue, where he noted that secularists might be overreacting, to the point of paranoia, over this film. "What's the problem with [Christian] ideals being celebrated in a story that's openly a fantasy?" he asks.
What is at issue here, right now in the U.S., is not whether the film or Lewis's original stories (or for that matter Christianity) present valid "conventional morality" from which everyone could learn. Forgiveness, redemption, and other themes in Lewis's tales are certainly nothing from which to run. The issue here is whether those themes, those conventional moralities, have been hijacked for other purposes. The Christianity of the current conservative Christian movement is not even the Christianity of Christ, much less of Lewis.
The argument from the secularist side of the cultural battle over this film is less concerned with whether children will be indoctrinated by yet another allegorical film depicting a struggle against the temptations of evil, which is agreeably the stuff of much Western (and Eastern) literature and cinema.
The argument is also less concerned with Christian messages of sin, redemption, and forgiveness coated in lion's fur. The argument here instead is that this new Christianity itself has little to do with these ideals.
This new Christianity is one that reacts with vengeance at every turn. This is a Christianity that does not remember the Sermon on the Mount, the beatitudes, much less that whole "thou shalt not kill" part from the Old Testament. This is an evangelical Christianity married as much to militarism, globalized corporate capitalism, PowerPoint presentations, and demographic market research as anything I learned in Sunday school.
And most un-Christian-like, it is a Christianity that demands "faith" through dogmatic enforcement--even Jesus had his faith questioned. Hence the debate, from a secularist point of view, is how this movie (similarly to The Passion of the Christ) is being used as a marketing strategy or an economic tool (like a Christian hedge fund) rather than as a platform for questioning, learning, and debate.
I write this as no stranger to a Christian-based spirituality that demonstrates the "conventional morality" to which I think you refer. I grew up in a very progressive Episcopal church. Mine was one of maybe eight white families in an otherwise all-black church in Syracuse, New York. Our reverend was a woman, and our church opened its doors to local chapters of South American peace activists, Buddhists, and pretty much anyone who wanted to hold meetings there. I have no problem with anyone putting "conventional morality" into practice. The problem with America in 2005, as exemplified in the debate surrounding this film, is that so much of contemporary Christianity no longer does. Therefore it seems to me that Christians, like Walden Media's Philip Anschutz, stand to learn a lot from Lewis's tales, should they follow through with the whole series.
Paul Lloyd Sargent