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Too Much Christianity

C. S. Lewis, his worlds, and his faith.

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Re: Too Much Christianity

Postby stargazer » Jul 17, 2012 9:56 pm

Is there such thing as too much christianity? And if there is, how is that a bad thing?????

I wonder if the question we're discussing is not so much how much Christianity there is in the movies, but rather how it is presented.

Consider the dilemma everyone involved with the production of the films faced: part of their audience knows about the spiritual elements and aspects of the stories and expects them to be faithfully reflected in the films.

Yet another segment of that audience is not familiar with them - and they're not likely to appreciate going to the movies to be entertained and receiving a sermon instead, especially if it's delivered with all the subtlety of a hammer hitting an anvil. ;))

In the case of VDT, some would say, the green mist was that hammer-and-anvil.

To quote something Lewis himself wrote:

What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent.

To paraphrase, focus on your subject (in the case of these movies, telling a good story), and the worldview will follow, behind the scenes perhaps but not hidden.

If I may digress a moment: as a (very!) amateur writer I consider this an excellent guideline: tell a good, entertaining story. My worldview will follow, reflected in the plot or in the characters themselves (what they value, how they behave). A sermon or a bunch of Scripture quotations are not needed. (To be sure, there are times when these may be appropriate, and some writers and genres use them in good stead).

This relates to visual media too. To use another example, I enjoy watching Star Trek, and there are some memorable episodes that tell wonderful stories. But, unfortunately, at times the writers weren't shy about making a point, and this resulted in some rather infamous episodes that didn't focus on story but made that point with the hammer-and-anvil approach.

Consider also that Lewis didn't write the Chronicles to be Christian allegories or catechisms or sermons, but tales that might entertain and in so doing open readers' minds to the truths of God:

I thought I saw how stories of this kind [Narnia] could steal past certain inhibitions which had paralyzed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings. And reverence itself did harm. The whole subject was associated with lowered voices, almost as if it were something medical.

But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday School associations, One could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could.

To sum up, tell a good story without hammering your point home, and trust your audience to be intelligent and perceptive enough to get any message you wish to deliver.
But all night, Aslan and the Moon gazed upon each other with joyful and unblinking eyes.
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Re: Too Much Christianity

Postby Lady Rosalia » Dec 08, 2012 9:56 pm

I really like your quote, stargazer!
I do wish they had left the cheesy green mist out of VDT. While I understand that they were trying to give evil a concrete form, to me it pushed some of the wonderful themes in the books aside. I listened to the directors commentary of VDT (for those of you who have the DVD with that feature, it's pretty interesting) and honestly am still trying to figure some elements of it out. They mentioned that the reason for the people disappearing in the mist was that (apparently) the Green Witch in SC had been holding Narnians captive in an unknown location. (I do not agree with the above, but didn't want to put it in quotes as it really is my own paraphrase) But what I wondered was, okay, so where does it say in SC that Narnians (aside from Prince Rilian) were prisoners? I thought it was earthmen. Also, doesn't that sort of take away from the possibility of SC? Almost like they were trying to roll the two books into one. (The fight with a serpent at the end, for example) If they were going to use green mist for the SC movie, haven't they already established that it's been destroyed in VDT?
And I did think that much of the undragoning/etc. was stripped of much of the Christian meaning it held in the book. Even Deathwater was stripped, in my opinion. In Walden, it was Lucy who stopped them, not Aslan. And she blamed the place rather than the individuals.
Anyway, sorry for the long digression/rant. I guess to me all would have been well and fine if they had simply followed the book :) I completely agree with stargazer's point that it is indeed partly the way in which it is presented.
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Re: Too Much Christianity

Postby juzuma loves lucy » Jan 13, 2013 2:06 pm

They wanted to roll two books into one at first, but that was eventually written out. That's why it looks like it. About the earthmen... Remember that years pass between VDT and SC, so if at first they are prisoners, it really works. And the mist, well, it's not just about the themes or SC. It does have a reference to the two earlier movies, so no wonder it only works as a plotline. Those references are just going to be there. From LWW on there's always a connection. But I agree that it strips off the meaning sometimes. 8-|
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Re: Too Much Christianity

Postby Hermitess of Narnia » Mar 19, 2013 6:53 pm

I don't think The Voyage of the Dawn Treader movie has too much Christianity. It is just that most of the moral points seem to be shallower than Lewis makes them in the book. I also agree with the previous poster that said the green mist gives an excuse for the characters to sin, it also makes it very obvious when the characters are being tempted. Both in our world and the Narnia books, people do not necessarily realize when they are being tempted, so I think the movie would have done better if it had not made the temptations so obvious.

I think The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie had the right amount of Christianity, with Prince Caspian it is hard for me to say because Aslan only seems to be there to cap it off at the end.
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Re: Too Much Christianity

Postby waggawerewolf27 » May 18, 2013 12:32 am

Mull Auna wrote:I think a big part of it is that Lewis had the faith of the converted - he was a "born-again" Christian after being an atheist and in today's more secular world that can make many people feel uncomfortable.

Yes, I can see how you might arrive at such a conclusion. It might also be the reason why in today's secular world that Christianity, and, in particular, Christians, are sometimes judged more harshly than is the case with practitioners of other religions. Sometimes it is because Christianity is not presented well, and anything and anyone perceived to do with Christianity is downgraded as a result.

The other night I watched a program on inter-faith comparisons. A Hindu boy was paired with a Christian girl and they were to exchange time with each other's faith. The Christian girl had a whale of a time with festivals and with feel-good joyous customs, including meditation. I don't know where experiencing these things left her.

The Hindu boy spent time with a Christian fellowship, but they hadn't explained how and why people become Christians very well. He complained they'd only say that Christ said "I am the way the truth and the light" without explaining what is meant by Christ's way, how it was true or why he sheds light on the subject. This boy didn't understand anything about just about everyone stuffing up, even though they don't really mean to do so, by doing wrong things, the mean things said to one another, and the horrendously horrible things some people might think. The program didn't say anything about Christ's teachings like "judge not lest you be judged", or "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" or "love thine enemy", "turn the other cheek" or "vengeance is mine, saith the Lord". Why would the Hindu boy understand much, when Jesus Christ, when forgiving people of their sinfulness, invariably said "-and sin no more", but this rider to God's grace and forgiveness has not always been asserted enough in Christian teachings?

The program said very little that I could see about the need to face oneself honestly, to repent of the wrong things one does, to see and understand why they are wrong and what really ought to have been done, instead, and then to accept and believe that because Jesus Christ died for our sins, that we might be saved from our own wrongdoing, and that therefore, God will forgive us and cleanse us from such unrighteousness. That we should seek restitution and reconciliation if possible, and especially if necessary, and that we should start afresh by keeping Jesus' teachings and God's holy laws in mind and being guided by them in future to behave properly.

The trouble is, that as the Narnia stories show, this is not a sudden process which makes people perfect forever after, but rather an ongoing process which needs to be worked at with prayer and with consultation. Born-again Christians can sin, too, and non-believers are swift to point out the occasional swear word, complain of anything that they disagree with, even if it really was the right thing to do, to criticize even mild participation in gambling, drinking or smoking, and especially any temper tantrum or driving offence. Lapses in morality, for example adultery or worse, or in duty of care of the vulnerable draw particular condemnation, as prominent preachers and priests have found out rather too often. I'd agree that such lapses are horrible advertisements for Christianity and what it represents.

However, I love the bumper sticker which says that Christians are forgiven but they are not perfect. I also loved it when our pastor said we can pray at any time we need to do so. I find I have to pray when any of my family is late home. This is when I find praying makes me calmer, more rational and less panic-stricken over what might be keeping them late. Same when driving, especially in heavy traffic ;) .

What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects — with their Christianity latent.

Stargazer, I liked that quote. That just about sums it up.

Maybe that is why the green mist in the film VDT was so unpopular. Basically it seemed to be a metaphor for the nightmare of sinfulness and society's resulting disapproval, and people really feel uncomfortable with that sort of overly religious interpretation, feeling it was a bit too "preachy". Temptation is of course a risky topic to tackle at the best of times, and it didn't help that such temptation was a real theme of VDT. Unfortunately the green mist and Eustace's undragoning also offended Christians who felt it was projecting the wrong view of God's grace.
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Re: Too Much Christianity

Postby Lilygloves » Jan 27, 2014 12:06 pm

In my opinion, it depends on what the audience in looking for in a Narnia movie. As a Christian, I expect the Biblical themes to come through in order for it to be a good adaptation because the books have Biblical themes. However, if a non-Christian were to watch the Narnia movies, they could easily take good themes from the movies without the Christianity (assuming the movies were done right in an ideal world). For example, I could see the example of Jesus' crucifixion through Aslan's death, while a non-believer could see the theme of love and sacrifice. Love and sacrifice are both themes of LWW, but as a Christian I see it with a deeper meaning. Obviously each Narnia book has positive themes because they teach Christian messages; it depends on the audience to interpret it as merely a positive theme or a Christian message.
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