By Mark Eddy Smith
Once upon a time there was a Lion. You know the story. He was strong and
kind and fierce and gentle. His name evoked a mysterious joy in those whose
hearts were soft and a mysterious horror in those whose hearts were cold. He
came at unexpected times, but always when the need was great. He was slow to
anger but quick to save, and when the need was greatest, he did not hesitate to
offer his own life in return for those he loved, even if their hearts had grown
cold and they had done terrible things. His is the story, the only story,
really, and He is the one who is telling it, throughout all the world. It's a
story that never grows old, although some have grown tired of listening.
The brilliance of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is that it
takes the story of the gospel and re-imagines it, setting it in a different
world and fleshing out the characters so that those who have grown tired of
hearing about Jesus or are too young to fully grasp the implications of what He
did can experience His story with fresh vision. Lewis once said: "I am aiming
at a sort of pre-baptism of the child's imagination." Lewis wanted to create a
world that would resonate with children such that, when they encountered
Christianity later in life, they would recognize the story.
It worked on me. I read the Chronicles over and over as a child,
without ever catching on to the parallels to Sunday school stories. It was not
until high school that my friend Tim told me, somewhat dismissively, that
The Chronicles of Narnia were all just Christian allegory. I had to
think for a moment before replying, "No, they're not." I considered further and
conceded, "Well, maybe The Last Battle, but . . ."
Tim was my best friend, and Tim was an atheist. I had not been trying to
evangelize him by bringing up the subject of the Chronicles; rather I was
hoping to share my enthusiasm for the stories. Although I had accepted Jesus
into my heart when I was eight, I honestly had no inkling that there was
anything specifically "Christian" about the series. After college (which
included a semester or two of my own atheism), I revisited Narnia and
discovered there the source of a great deal of my theology, including some
compelling answers to the tougher questions of the Christian faith.
Now the celebrated children's classic is coming to a theater near you. "The
Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," produced by Disney Pictures and Walden
Media, will be released on December 9. What better time of year to communicate
the gospel in a form palatable even for elementary-age children. However, with
this opportunity comes great responsibility. There is a danger of belittling
the art of C.S. Lewis and the message of the gospel if we cavalierly present
cotton-candy connections between Aslan and Christ. Either the message will
disintegrate as soon as it hits the tongue, or, as was the case with my friend
Tim, the over-bearing "sweetness" will trigger an aversion. However, the film
does present us with a tool for discussing spiritual truths found in the movie.
Here are some ideas for you and your church as you seek to open doors to the
Read the book. It might take at most a weekend to read, and
you'll be glad you did. You'll be able to follow the movie better, and it'll
show an appreciation of good art. You might also skim some books about Narnia
and C.S. Lewis. There are a number of books already out and quite a few
recently released that'll give you some good discussion points.
Invite non-Christian neighbors or co-workers to attend the movie
with your family. Go to a matinee or early showing so you have time
for discussion over dinner or dessert afterward. This is the perfect time to
begin a dialogue about the movie.
Talk about your personal response to the film. Focus on the
story and the art of the movie. Perhaps you could bring up a bit about Lewis's
life and his spiritual journey. Tell them what the story means to your own
life. Be sure to involve your friend in the conversation by asking
thought-provoking questions. Ask questions like: What did you think about
the movie? Did you notice any particular message or theme? What effect did it
have on you? Have you read the series or any other books by C.S. Lewis? Were
you able to identify with any of the characters? What did you think of Aslan
and his choice to give his life for Edmund?
Create opportunities for follow-up. Let those who haven't
read the book borrow your copy, and meet them for coffee or lunch when they
want to return it. You might also offer an on-going study including other books
by C.S. Lewis.
The World According to Narnia: Christian Meaning in C.S. Lewis's
Beloved Chronicles (Warner Faith, 2005) by Jonathan Rogers
A Reader's Guide Through the Wardrobe (IVP, 2005) by Leland
Ryken and Marjorie Lamp Mead
The Keys to the Chronicles (B&H, 2005) by Marvin D.
Not a Tame Lion (Tyndale) by Bruce Edwards
Host an evening at the movies. Have your church check into
the possibility of renting a theater for a special showing of the film. Or buy
a block of tickets to a particular show. Encourage church members to invite
unchurched friends and families to view the movie. Host a Q&A session
afterward addressing questions asked by non-Christians.
Create small groups or Sunday school classes that will study the
themes relating to Narnia or C.S. Lewis. Place signs or flyers at the
movie theater inviting movie goers to attend. Make it a family affair by
providing Narnia-related activities for the kids.
The children and adults in your community will see this movie-why not use it
as an opportunity to explore the spiritual truths with them. Christians will
have a unique opportunity to share their faith. I recently sent an email to my
friend Tim. I'm hoping to begin a dialogue with him about the new Narnia movie.
And maybe, just maybe, it will open the door to a whole new world for him.
Copyright 2005 Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Walden
Media, LLC. All rights reserved.
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