I’m not exactly her biggest fan anyway, but I was irritated by this article written by Polly Toynbee in The Guardian, wittering on about the Christian conspiracy (in her head, at least) that is the new film version of The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, the latest money-spinning serial franchise from Disney.
In what was, I think, supposed to be a review of the popular children’s story, she instead proceeds to spin out a really rather pointless polemic about the religious overtones in what is, famously, a Christian allegory. “Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion” she bleats. Really? You think that’s as bad as religion gets? What about suicide bombers, mandatory female circumcision, the Spanish Inquisition and ethnic cleansing? I’d say they are all slightly more hateful than a CS Lewis paperback.
Regular readers of this blog (all six of you) will know that I am not, by any means, a fan of religion. In fact, The Realist and I arguably bang on about it more than is healthy. But the fact is, we don’t believe, and we enjoy berating it from time to time. Another fact is that we were both, in different ways, brought up with Biblical stories and prayers at school. We just chose to reject it all as the unfeasible nonsense it is. I am a non-theist, but I found Toynbee’s commentary po-faced and churlish. She’s really only giving those on the opposite end of the spectrum an opportunity to throw the epithet “loony left” at her. And with words such as these, it’s almost understandable:
Because here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America – that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right.
Oh come on, you’re being silly. I understand that there are Christian groups in America using the movie as a means of recruiting young members and, yes, that is a bit sinister. But these are the same groups who held book-burning ceremonies of Harry Potter novels because they “encouraged occultism”. These people are fuckwits, ignore them – millions of fans of the boy wizard did, and countless millions will ignore you too. Children are no more likely to become blinkered acolytes of the Christian Right from watching this film than they are likely to sacrifice goats and hold ouija board sessions after watching The Goblet Of Fire. (In fact you could also argue that the Harry Potter books contain religious overtones: there is good and evil, sacrifice, you name it. Ditto the works of Tolkein.)
The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is a much loved children’s story. I read it myself as a kid and, when I have children of my own, it won’t cause me any distress if they read it too. If they’re anything like I was, they’ll consider it a pretty good story, but not good enough to read the whole series. Although if they did, again, fine: I’d be happy just to see them reading. They can make up their own minds about the subtext some other time. Relax, Polly. They’re man-made pieces of fiction, works of fantasy. Like the Bible itself.