Leap of Conversion or Standing Hop?
“In America, Lewis is a figure who has been incised on stained glass…and remains, for the more intellectual and literate reaches of conservative religiosity, a saint revered and revealed, particularly in such books as ‘The Problem of Pain’ and ‘The Screwtape Letters.’ In England, he is commonly regarded as a slightly embarrassing polemicist, who made joke-vicar broadcasts on the BBC, but who also happened to write a few very good books about late-medieval poetry and inspire several good students.”
Gopnik also questions Lewis’ conversion and attitudes towards both pre-Christian myth and his adopted Christian faith.
“It seemed like an odd kind of conversion to other people then, and it still does. It is perfectly possible, after all, to have a rich romantic and imaginative view of existence – to believe that the world is not exhausted by our physical descriptions of it, that the stories we make up about the world are an important part of the life of that world – without becoming an Anglican. In fact, it seems much easier to believe in the power of the Romantic numinous if you do not take a controversial incident in Jewish religious history as the pivot point of all existence…But perhaps his leap from myth to Christian faith wasn’t a leap at all, more of a standing hop in place. Many of the elements that make Christianity numinous for Lewis are the pagan mythological elements that it long ago absorbed from its pre-Christian sources.”
He even pulls apart what he sees as a strangely pagan sort of Christian allegory in the figure of Aslan.
“A powerful lion, starting life at the top of the food chain, adored by all his subjects and filled with temporal power, killed by a despised evil witch for his power and then reborn to rule, is a Mithraic, not a Christian, myth.”
All of which leads one to wonder if those hoping for the Narnia movies to be the next “Passion of the Christ”-phenomenana might not understand what kind of Christianity they are inviting into their churches and homes. Will the films please more Pagans (and secular viewers) in the long-run than those hoping that Narnia will bring more to the flock? An inverse Harry Potter for the masses tainted by the supposed Pagan leanings of that series? What does seem clear is that selling Lewis as some sort of great Christian hope may sell both us and the legacy of Lewis short.