I just read ‘Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion’. That response to a work of fiction is no doubt an indicator that something interesting might be going on in there.
I never liked “Fantasy” as a kid. I had a very large imagination, but I was more interested in science fiction and comics than fantasy. Things with swords, or magic, or wizards did not speak to me. So try as I might, I never read _Chronicles of Narnia_ or _Lord of the Rings_, well, I started, but I could not finish them. I suppose I could now. I’m thankful now that the movies of these works have come out and allowed me to enjoy them such as they are.
The question is this: why didn’t fantasy move me as a kid?
These days, as a thirtysomething adult American male, it’s easy to dismiss my predilictions as prejudice. I hate Jethro Tull, I can do without most horror movies, heavy metal is usually boring. These are all rather arbitrary tastes, built up over years. But how to explain the child-me and his … (what’s the opposite of “affinity”?) natural avoidance of fantasy?
Let’s take a shot at trying on this lovely Monday morning. First, what were my tastes in that crucial age 7 to 12 time period? The things that moved me were things like Batman, or Snoopy and Peanuts. I liked Legos. I liked Star Wars. Voltes V (a giant Japanese robot). I liked listening to music and the radio. I liked to draw. I was a pretty devout Catholic boy. Is there some common thread here? Well, actually, maybe not.
Star Wars actually disproves my point, as it’s definitely a tale of fantasy, and of hierarchies, and sacrifice, and “magical power” via the force. But it dresses it up in the “sciencey” part of science fiction. So maybe I’ve disproven my point right off the bat.
Batman and Voltes V, fit neatly in a whole other worldview, one which I still have a great affinity for. That point of view is that science and technology will provide power. Batman is just a traumatized kid, who, with money and discipline, manages to become the greatest detective of the world. Gadgets and smarts and physical intelligence rule the day. Likewise, Voltes V is a giant robot, but the underpinnings of the robot are that it’s the work of a scientist, and it’s driven by a group of kids not too unlike me. There’s a “reality” there that connects these works to the world where I live.
Meanwhile, in the realm of fantasy, the connecting reality is far more tenuous. A magic piece of furniture that’s a portal to a whole other world? Elfs? Dragons? Where are these things? What on earth do these things have to do with me?
Perhaps I was exercising all my suspension of disbelief in being a Catholic kid. Transubstantiation was literally true for me then, with a doubtlessness that I cannot muster now. My soul and the spiritual balance thereof was very real to me. But even then, I was always taught of the value of “works” in providing for spiritual reward. I digress, but it’s worth noting here that the notion that we are saved merely by faith still rings hollow to me. Actually, I believe quite strongly in redemption, even for the very wicked. Have I told the story of the conversation I had with a guy on a plane where we discuss whether or not Darth Vader could *actually* be redeemed, and wasn’t he really a Hitler figure, guilty of the worst kinds of genocide, and I, as a 20 year old, argued passionately that he _could_ indeed be redeemed. I still believe that, as I search my heart.
Where the heck was I? Oh, yeah, saved by faith? Yeah, I don’t really buy it. If you have great faith, but have done harm to others, you have some hell to pay I think. And those who have not heard the Word, but have been good people in this world, are deserving of respect, and should it exist, salvation.
You know, for an agnostic, I sure do have a lot of opinions about salvation and redemption and faith. Well, I suppose I would.
Which reminds me… go see _Walk The Line_ – it’s really good. But there’s one moment in the film where I was surprised at my own reaction. The moment is where Johnny Cash is saying that he will sing for prisoners, and the record company dude says (paraphrasing) “Your fans are good Christian folk and they don’t want you to go trying to make a bunch of murderers and rapists feel better.” Cash replies “Well they ain’t Christians then.” To which my reaction was a giant, angry AMEN.
This really strayed. Thanks for listening.
December 6, 2005 8:02am
JRR Tolkien was among the close friends to whom CS Lewis read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as he was writing it. Tolkien hated it.