Pullman says CS Lewis tales are insufficiently Christian

By staff writers
October 17, 2005

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Pullman says CS Lewis tales are insufficiently Christian

-17/10/05

Feted childrenís writer Philip Pullman has said that CS Lewisís famous Narnia books ñ about to become the latest Disney cinematic blockbuster ñ portray a version of Christianity that relies on martial combat, outdated fears of sexuality and women, and racist attitudes, according to the Observer newspaper in the UK.

Pullman, who is an atheist as well as the son of a clergyman, made the remarks in the run-up to the impending Christmas release of ëThe Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobeí, which is expected to be a big box-office success, and is being accompanied by the republication of 170 Lewis-related books in more than 60 countries.

Mr Pullmanís own acclaimed ëHis Dark Materialsí trilogy has been described by many critics as a more subtle and challenging childrenís series than JK Rowlingís ubiquitous Harry Potter books. They portray religion as authoritarian and manipulative.

But although welcomed by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, who enjoyed a mutually respectful public dialogue with Pullman last March, the trilogy has been widely condemned by many evangelicals. One Catholic publication also caused outrage by saying they should be burned.

Commenting on ëThe Chronicles of Narniaí, Mr Pullman said: ìItís not the presence of Christian doctrine I object to so much as the absence of Christian virtue. The highest virtue, we have on the authority of the New Testament itself, is love, and yet you find not a trace of that in the books.î

The Narnia series, Pullman declared, contains ìa peevish blend of racism, mysogynistic and reactionary prejudice; but of love, of Christian charity [there is] not a trace.î

Scholars and students of CS Lewisís work are point out that they reflect certain prejudices of their time (the author began his work in the 1940s). Lewis himself denied that they were intended to be the kind of exact analogy for Christianity some had seen them as.

Mr Pullmanís latest comments on Lewis, an iconic figure in many circles, are likely to be perceived in some quarters as sour grapes. But others will welcome the theological concerns he raises.

In their 2004 conversation about Pullmanís own trilogy, Dr Williams said that while its portrayal of the dystopian features of faith was quite justified, it fell down by omitting redemption and the teaching of Jesus.

In the US Christian groups are preparing for a major evangelistic push to accompany the film release of ëThe Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobeí.

But conservative church groups have in the recent past condemned Disney for its affirmative stance towards gay people.

Feted children's writer Philip Pullman has said that CS Lewis's famous Narnia books - about to become the latest Disney cinematic blockbuster - portray a version of Christianity that relies on martial combat, outdated fears of sexuality and women, and racist attitudes, according to the Observer newspaper in the UK.

Pullman, who is an atheist as well as the son of a clergyman, made the remarks in the run-up to the impending Christmas release of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe', which is expected to be a big box-office success, and is being accompanied by the republication of 170 Lewis-related books in more than 60 countries.

Mr Pullman's own acclaimed ëHis Dark Materials' trilogy has been described by many critics as a more subtle and challenging children's series than JK Rowling's ubiquitous Harry Potter books. They portray religion as authoritarian and manipulative.

But although welcomed by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, who enjoyed a mutually respectful public dialogue with Pullman last March, the trilogy has been widely condemned by many evangelicals. One Catholic publication also caused outrage by saying they should be burned.

Commenting on ëThe Chronicles of Narnia', Mr Pullman said: 'It's not the presence of Christian doctrine I object to so much as the absence of Christian virtue. The highest virtue, we have on the authority of the New Testament itself, is love, and yet you find not a trace of that in the books.'

The Narnia series, Pullman declared, contains 'a peevish blend of racism, mysogynistic and reactionary prejudice; but of love, of Christian charity [there is] not a trace.'

Scholars and students of CS Lewis's work are point out that they reflect certain prejudices of their time (the author began his work in the 1940s). Lewis himself denied that they were intended to be the kind of exact analogy for Christianity some had seen them as.

Mr Pullman's latest comments on Lewis, an iconic figure in many circles, are likely to be perceived in some quarters as sour grapes. But others will welcome the theological concerns he raises.

In their 2004 conversation about Pullman's own trilogy, Dr Williams said that while its portrayal of the dystopian features of faith was quite justified, it fell down by omitting redemption and the teaching of Jesus.

In the US Christian groups are preparing for a major evangelistic push to accompany the film release of ëThe Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe'.

But conservative church groups have in the recent past condemned Disney for its affirmative stance towards gay people.

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