Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Emily, Prophetess

...her Narnian prediction posted to the web at 9:32 am, December 5. Behold, I then click on over to the Bad Hair Blog and find "Maybe I'll Go See Narnia," in which Fausta gives the fisk to one Polly Toynbee of the Guardian. [Sadly, I can't give you a direct link. Click here and scroll down one post.]

Toynbee don't like Narnia. Or to be more specific, she don't like everything Narnia reminds her of. The books have an "arm-twisting message" which "does not make any more sense in CS Lewis's tale than in the gospels." That message is that Christ died for us while we were sinners. How dare he! (In fact, let me let Polly say it: "Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?") And, not coincidentally, she despairs that people will get political ideas as well: "...here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America - that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right."

Oh, and by the way, she eventually gets around to actually reviewing the plot of the film - eight paragraphs in. Of course she's not the reviewer for the paper: "The Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw gives the film five stars and says, 'There is no need for anyone to get into a PC huff about its Christian allegory.' Well, here's my huff."

That's right, Toynbee simply wanted a rebuttal. As a result she winds up sounding much like Queen Oural in Lewis' magnificent, overlooked "Til We Have Faces" (the book of his I'd most love to adapt to a film), patiently, bitterly writing out her complaint against the gods.

It would have helped in this if Toynbee had actually understood a word of the book, which she quotes often in her screed. For example she says that Edmund sells out his siblings for some Turkish Delight. NO. The Witch promises him that he shall be King after she's gone - a greater lure than some enchanted candies. And, much like the Devil, she's not excatly lying, because she has already held Narnia in thrall for 100 years, and has lived far longer before that. She has every expectation of outliving Edmund. And, again, she quotes the whole bit about "Aslan is on the move" that the beavers explain to the children - but leaves out that the prophecy is about them - "When Adam's flesh and Adam's bone/ Sit on Cair Paravel in throne/ The evil time will be over and done."

So, yes, Edmund needs Aslan, but Toynbee neglects that in a real sense, Aslan needs Edmund - three children will not fulfill the prophecy. All Narnia needs the children.

Toynbee also says, "His divine presence is a way to avoid humans taking responsibility for everything here and now on earth, where no one is watching, no one is guiding, no one is judging and there is no other place yet to come." But again, if that's about Narnia, why are the children expected to eventually become kings and queens? Why do they fight a pitched battle against the Witch's superior forces? And if it's about Earth, how does this statement make sense alongside the accusation that America is a meddlesome blight that insists on risking blood and treasure for freedom? For whatever else you may say about the current President, he seems to think that his faith requires taking responsibility. (For that matter, you could say the same thing about Joe Liebermann.) It sounds like he's read Phillipians 2:12-13, in fact: "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you." It's John Kerry and Jimmy Carter whose faith requires that they make bold stands on the sidelines while moral issues are settled.

Ms. Toynbee's only real point is that Lewis wrote the books as evangelical tools, believing that the imagination has its part in the soul's service as do the mind and heart. She even admits the need, noting in her column that "...43% of people in Britain in a recent poll couldn't say what Easter celebrated. Among the young - apart from those in faith schools - that number must be considerably higher." But of course she doesn't like the cultural and imaginative defense of Christianity any more than she likes its armed defense. She takes pains to mention Tolkein's dislike of allegory, but conveniently ignores that Tolkein was on Lewis' side when it came to Christ, which is really inexcusable since she points out that Tolkein helped convert Lewis.

It's quite plain that she thinks of this as a cultural war, and she wants her side to win. She isn't about to settle for peaceful coexistence. Sounds familiar, and totally unsurprising.

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