It is the most wonderful time of the year for movies. I enjoyed “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” last night. It was very beautiful. Reepicheep was the best actor among all the stilted children wielding swords. The voice of Liam Neeson was nice to hear, speaking as Aslan, who Edmund names as “the son of the Emperor over the Sea, who saved me and saved Narnia.” At least Edmund named Aslan that in the book.
For marketing reasons, I guess, producers find it necessary to go light on the religious nature of the Chronicles of Narnia when they film them. I was just complaining last week in our public meeting about how Disney feeds us watered-down, Disneyfied myths to compete with the story of Jesus, as if Santa were not bad enough. This installment of the Narnia series was distributed by 20th Century Fox, Disney’s twin, owned by NewsCorp, which is lead by possibly the devil incarnate, Rupert Murdoch.
The movie plainly says it is based on the Chronicles of Narnia, so as not to offend the heaven-based C.S. Lewis, no doubt. It is not totally denuded of Christianity, but it is striking what they choose to water down and reinterpret. The freeing of Eustace from his dragon skin was the most disappointing moment of all. It was so disappointing I have actually typed out the passage in the book for you, so you can remember what really happened. The account in the book is one of the most pleasant renditions of how God frees us from sin and draws us through baptism into the healing process of our new life. It bears repeating. Read this to you children, don’t just let them see the movie version. If you just take them to the movie, they’ll get too much Murdoch, not enough Lewis, and very little Jesus.
“Then the lion said—but I don’t know if it spoke—You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty near desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it.
“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt more than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.’
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund.
“Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off—just as I thought I had done myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt—and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker and darker and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me—I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on—and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. …
After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me—
“Dressed you. With his paws?”
“Well, I don’t exactly remember that bit. But he did somehow or other: in new clothes—the same I’ve got on now, as a matter of fact. And then suddenly I was back here. Which is what makes me think it must have been a dream.”
“No it wasn’t a dream,” said Edmund. “I think you’ve seen Aslan.”…
“But who is Aslan. Do you know him?”
“Well—he knows me,” said Edmund.
The second most disappointing thing was Carrie Underwood. She wrote the song that will probably be competing for the Academy Award for best song. I was watching the credits for once because I wanted to see where they filmed the movie (New Zealand, of course). So I could not miss Carrie singing one of those songs that is religious without any Jesus in it. I think it is probably exactly the kind of song Lewis would have had Wormwood producing in the Screwtape Letters to make sure humans are fed light faith that doesn’t even need to be tempted.
Here is the most delusion-inducing stanza:
We can be the kings and queens of anything if we believe.
It’s written in the stars that shine above,
a world where you and I belong, where faith and love will keep us strong,
exactly who we are is just enough
there’s a place for us, there’s a place for us.
I’m sure Carrie means well. And if one listens to the whole lyric with Jesus in mind, it is easy to supply the truth that is not stated. But she could have least said, “If Aslan rips your skin off you have a chance to live.” She might have said, like the movie even said, “If you meet the Aslan of our world, who goes by another name you can enter that place for you.” Instead, she ended the watered-down tale by watering it down even more. I tuned to Gwen and said, “What is this b.s. song doing here?” (That’s my problem, of course.) Love you Carrie, but shame on you. You should have let Jesus take the wheel on that one.
I hope you enjoy The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It is fun. There are moments that are moving and mysterious. It does not miss all the Christian underpinning it should have. It is a good tale. If you unmuzzle Jesus while you are there, it will actually be a growth experience, too: receiving what is given and lamenting what is not.