Another stimulating and incisive post from the C. S. Lewis blog. Devin Brown, a professor of English at Asbury College and author of two books on Narnia, reviews Laura Miller’s book The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia.
Miller was given a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by her second grade teacher, and fell in love with the story. She even aspired to be like Lucy, whom she describes as “that rare creation, a character who is good without being a prig or a bore.”
However, later in life when she realized that many of the book’s themes reflected Christian commitments, she felt “tricked, cheated, and betrayed.”
She then goes on to maintain that the Chronicles of Narnia are “really just the doctrines of the Church in disguise,” an institution which she asserts is characterized by “endless proscriptions and requirements,” by “guilt-mongering” and “tedious rituals.” . . .
Christianity, for Miller, is “a black hole, sucking all the beauty and wonder out of Narnia.” In the 1996 column where Miller first explored this topic, an essay which appeared in the Salon.com “Personal Best” series, she called Christianity “noxious” and “twisted.” . . .
In her book Miller writes, “The Christianity that I knew—the only Christianity I was aware of—was the opposite of Narnia.” Narnia was “liberation and delight” while Christianity was “boredom, subjugation, and reproach.”
If you’re a fan of the Narnia books, that kind of hits you like a punch in the gut, doesn’t it? It’s sad that her impression or experience of Christianity is so negative.
But Devin’s critique is right on. For example:
Would she have felt so horrified had she discovered Lewis was a Buddhist?
What would be said about a Christian who first loved a book but then became angry and rejected it after discovering its author was, for example, Jewish or Muslim and that the story reflected his or her underlying beliefs? My guess is that such a reader would be labeled as narrow or bigoted, and rightly so . . . .
While Miller’s work may appear to focus on Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia, the determining role is played by the contact she had as a young person with a less-than-perfect version of Christianity. Much of her critique of that experience may be valid, and if so, Lewis would be the first to agree with it. But when Miller purports to be criticizing the Christian elements in the Narnia series, it is really this experience and not Christianity, or Narnia, or Lewis she is taking to task.