Narnian producer: “whether these books are Christian, I don’t know.”

Mark Johnson, producer of The Dawn Treader, on the Chronicles of Narnia: “We don’t want to favor one group over another … whether these books are Christian, I don’t know.” Well, this explains a lot about the movie. Steven Boyer did a fine job showing how the first two movies, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian lost so much of what Lewis put into them, among other things the centrality of Aslan (just what kids need, another movie about them!). The Voyage didn’t fair much better.

My purpose here is not to give a negative review of The Dawn Treader which could be easily done, but to make one belabored point. To make a film of a classic story, and one that has recently been shown to be brilliantly crafted and complex, and then to say that you don’t know the worldview behind it is to admit being a story dolt. “What was it about?” “I don’t know. Maybe reincarnation or resurrection or reinvention, something starting with “re”. They’re all the same anyway.” If a student of religions can’t tell the difference between Hinduism and Buddhism, he isn’t tolerant; he’s a chump. And when a story teller can’t distinguish between fundamentally different characters and story lines, well, he ought to be pumping gas or doing economics for the current administration. Johnson could have just read the Chronicles and learned his lessons. From The Last Battle:

“What is it now? said the Ape, “Be quick.”

“Please,” said the Lamb. “I can’t understand. What have we to do with the Calormenes? We belong to Aslan. They belong to Tash. They have a god called Tash. They say he has four arms and the head of a vulture. They kill Men on his altar. I don’t believe there’s any such person as Tash. But if there was, how could Aslan be friends with him?”All the animals cocked their heads sideways and all their bright eyes flashed toward the Ape. They knew it was the best question anyone had asked yet.

The Ape jumped up and spat at the Lamb.

“Baby!” he hissed. “Silly little bleater! Go home to your mother and drink milk. What do you understand of such things? But you others listen. Tash is only another name for Aslan. All that old idea of us being right and the Calormenes wrong is silly. We know better now. The Calormenes use different words but we all mean the same thing. Tash and Aslan are only two different names for you know Who. That’s why there can never be any quarrel between them. Get that into your heads, you stupid brutes. Tash is Aslan: Aslan is Tash.”

The scary thing about pluralism or the limp-wristed excuse that passes for secularism these days is that it simply cannot make distinctions. The idea that every religious hero–that is, every hero adhering to any religion no matter how different or antithetical one set of values is to another–is basically the same as every other hero does not result in peace and fair treatment for everyone. It means that terrorists are not profiled but three-year-old girls are body searched. Some people will think it’s a stretch to go from the inability to understand a story to the implementation of unlawful and uncivilized policies, but the connection is direct. The foggier our thinking gets, the more ridiculous and oppressive our policies will be.

Enlightenment Goddess

Baker again, telling me something I didn’t know, the part about the older/est profession of the goddess.

Poster children for the early beginnings of secularization theory might include Diderot, who rejoices at the though of “strangling the last priest with the guts of the last king,” the French revolutionaries who enthroned a young woman (actually a prostitute) as the goddess of Reason in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and Comte, who envisioned the death of traditional religion to be replaced by a new order based on reverence toward the powers of human rationality.

Morphing Sacred/Secular

Before secular meant something done without reference to God, it simply meant something done in the world. Hunter Baker in The End of Secularism notes

The priests with parish duties were known a secular clergy. . .  The idea of “secular” clergy going about their work administering the sacraments, giving aid to the poor, and yes, even collecting tithes, burial fees and other church revenues without reference to God is ludicrous. In the world we are discussing, secular simply referred to activities conducted in the world as opposed to those directed toward a purely supernatural plane. State and ecclesiastical authorities wrestled, but they wrestled within the context of Christian right and wrong.

It might be better stated that secular clergy worked outside of a strictly liturgical setting since all of life consists in Christ, the creational Word spoken. But secularism developed from this earlier understanding.

Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), former Dutch prime minister and Calvinist exemplar, would later imply that the Roman church created secularism by wrongly dividing life into consecrated and profane sectors.

This is exactly the project of Reformed two kingdoms types. They want realms of life and society that are free of Christian dominion, not that such a schizophrenic position can be consistently defined or maintained. Ironically, these folks often insist, to the exclusion of all others, that they are guardians of the reformed confessions when in reality they are towing a Roman Catholic line of sacred/secular. Not the earlier view of a divided sacred/secular clergy serving in two places, but the later view that embraces a false neutrality where a secular realm of “common grace” somehow enables us not to name to giver of that grace at all.

The Meaning of a Secular Society

If you saw the documentary Expelled, the one that concludes with Richard Dawkins saying he’s 95% certain that intelligent design by a god is impossible but quite open to the idea that extra terrestrials planted biological life on earth, then you might remember an interview with author and mathematician David Berlinski. He lives in Paris and works, if memory serves, in the oldest building there. Though a member of the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Berlinksi admits he has a warm but distant affection for intelligent design, the same he displays for his ex-wives in public, as he told Slate.

What he doesn’t have any affection for is shrill Darwinian atheists who attack religion. His new book, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, shows the risibility of the new atheists’ (Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins among them) claim to scientifically disprove God. He doesn’t limit his arguments to science, but points out all sorts of bogus assertions. Among the most striking is the idea that evolution is making us kinder and gentler. He quotes psychologist Steven Pinker. Continue reading