To say that Christians have never appreciated magic and mythology is a bit of an understatement. After all, ancient fundamentalists used to throw witches onto the fire just to keep warm. While such violent outbursts may be ancient history, the flames of Christian ire still burn brightly. On December 30, 2001, a church group in Alamogordo, New Mexico held a holy bonfire into which Harry Potter books were cast. Pastor Jack Brock, the man who arranged the Alamagordo book burning, told a local reporter: “The greatest danger is these children are enamoured with Potter and they go on the internet to learn more about the book, and they're directed to other places where they can see information about Wicca.” Fortunately for the Pastor, the internet's double-edged sword has also carved out a path for his people.
Those opposed to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series say that the books ooze with venomous concepts poisonous to young minds. “Does the Bible forbid witchcraft, sorcery, and magic? Yes!” shouts zealous Christian site Demonbuster.com, asking parents, “What are you going to do when your child puts a spell on you?” Exposingsatanism.org claims “many think it is just harmless fantasy. True it is fantasy, but it is laced with witchcraft and demonology as are most books like it.”
The Harry Potter series shares a number of similarities with The Chronicles of Narnia, a classic children's fantasy book series penned by C.S. Lewis. The first Potter movie debuted late last year, and a movie series based on the Chronicles is now in the early stages of development. Both the Potter books and the Chronicles feature child protagonists, both portray a certain disdain for adults, and both are generously laced with witchcraft.
Yet the very same Pastor Jack Brock who set Potter books ablaze told a local reporter that The Chronicles of Narnia was beyond reproach because its witch antagonist was beaten, and the heroes of the series did not learn to use magic. Christian writer Gregg Easterbrook wrote in The Atlantic online that the prolific C.S. Lewis “enfolded religious themes into the stories, allowing children to read them as adventure yarns and adults to appreciate the symbolism. In one book Aslan dies and is resurrected; in another he appears as a lamb and serves the children roast fish, the meal Jesus requested after the Resurrection.”
While the Chronicles themselves are revered, the future of the Chronicles is reviled. HarperCollins, the series’ new publisher; Walden Media, the company that optioned the series for film adaptation; and United Media, manufacturer of toys, gifts, and apparel; are all being eyed suspiciously by some Christians. HarperCollins has threatened to add new volumes to the Chronicles despite the fact that C.S. Lewis died in 1963. A particularly heretic memorandum leaked to the press last year revealed that HarperCollins intends to distance the new Narnia instalments from Christian imagery and theology. “It’s almost unbelievable. De-Christianising the works of one of the greatest Christian authors of the 20 century?” writes Joseph Sobran for LewRockwell.com. “The Narnia stories owe their artistry and power to Lewis’s way of infusing the Christian message into simple tales about children and a lion named Aslan. The lion, an awesome and thrilling character, represents Christ.”
With the secularisation of the original Chronicles and new additions to the series by yet-unidentified authors, the future of the Christian Chronicles seems grim. Add to this the impending movie franchise and merchandising onslaught — suddenly our classic Chronicles of Narnia is in a downward spiral to the depths of satanic pop-idol Harry Potter. Better re-light that holy bonfire after all, Pastor Jack Brock.
Pastor Jack Brock responds to public criticism:
“In Defense of C. S. Lewis,” by Gregg Easterbrook, The Atlantic
“Bowdlerizing C.S. Lewis” by Joseph Sobran
Originally printed in Exclaim Magazine, Feb. 2002 edition. James Keast, editor.