In the Bleak Midwinter
Powerful words for a boy brought up on songs of Irish revolution and workers' rights. For a while, this was the only way I saw my Catholicism; no big surprise, I suppose. Time, maturity, and another fabulous religion course (Fr. Frank Gignac's line-by-line instruction on appreciating the historical and literary aspects of the Gospel of John) eventually led me to a more complete, if less stridently revolutionary, understanding of my faith.
So this is the background I bring to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the resulting blog kerfluffle.
(Capsule review of the movie: well paced, faithfully told. Excellent child actors. The animation work on the animals was just stunning, especially compared to my memories of old animatronic or cartoon TV versions. I'm discovering I prefer my fantasy with a more personal and less epic scale, like this. 4 stars.)
(Capsule review of the kerfluffle: for the radical side, we have Polly Toynbee hates Christianity (and makes at least one important factual error in recalling the plot of the movie), and Shane thinks she's an idiot (although he makes a great point about free speech at the end). Meanwhile, over in Moderateland, CPF says sometimes an allegory is just an allegory. and Neil Gaiman points out Adam Gopnik's rather balanced New Yorker article about C.S. Lewis, wrestling with the tension between imagination and dogma.)
It seems that Aslan is a stumbling block for some people. Without a doubt, he's a symbol of the power of God, and of the rule of clearly defined goodness over obvious evil. If you see that and think that "might makes right," I can see why. On the other hand, what I saw was a shadowy resistance leader, whose secret movements were only whispered about... appropriate for a movie where the first shots are the Luftwaffe's view of the Blitz. So where others saw the English Lion, I saw the Lion of Zion.
On one level, this is a debate between authorial intent and reader response. But on another, we've walked into the great challenge of Christianity: if we believe in a God who is the Alpha and the Omega, both the tower of fire and the whispering breeze, we don't get to choose. We can't pick the lion or the lamb. Both are right, and we have to find a way to reconcile them and keep both in mind.
It's merely facile of Disney to take a religious allegory, set in a world that is "always Winter, never Christmas" and featuring a cameo by Father Christmas, and release it in December. However, it's good to have this debate while Christians concentrate on the meek baby in the manger. Now, while we think about gifts and kindness, is also the time to remember hard work and the struggle.
This I Believe: deep faith is when the hum of your own cognitive dissonance actually resolves into a chord.