The Chronicle of Higher Education knocks down Phillip Pullman’s slanderous protests against C.S. Lewis and Narnia

Story here.

In articles, interviews, and speeches, Pullman has described The Chronicles not just as “propaganda in the cause of the religion [Lewis] believed in,” but also as guilty of advancing views such as, “Death is better than life; boys are better than girls; light-colored people are better than dark-colored people; and so on.” And those are just Pullman’s G-rated charges. He also has blasted The Chronicles in public forums as “one of the most ugly and poisonous things I’ve ever read,” “propaganda in the service of a life-hating ideology,” “blatantly racist,” “monumentally disparaging of girls and women,” and marked by a “sadomasochistic relish for violence.”

If Pullman is right, not only should mainstream moviegoers stay away from Lion, so should evangelical Christians. “The highest virtue, we have on the authority of the New Testament itself,” the avowedly atheistic Pullman said in a recent interview about the movie, “is love, and yet you find not a trace of that in the books.”

But is Pullman right?

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  • Adam Walter

    Re: Wonderland

    I’m conflicted over this one. Perfume is easily one of the strangest books I’ve ever read. But I’ve seen a handful of Tykwer films and only been impressed with Lola.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    As for the racism idea, I find it interesting that this charge against Lewis always conveniently overlooks . . . that Lewis’s prototypical Narnia villain . . . was, herself, probably the whitest being in Narnia . . .

    See? Lewis hated albinos, too! ;)

  • Neil E. Das

    Adam, pax. I stand by my points, but I do not mean at all that Lewis should not be read, nor do I think him a racist or bigot. If one spends any time reading my blog, it will become abundantly clear that I am a huge Lewis fan and want many people to read him. In fact, blog moniker is “jackdas” specifically in reflection of his nickname.

    And while, I have not read any Pullman, I agree with the Cubical Reverend. Moreover, presentations of Christian truth must get some such reactions.

  • The Cubicle Reverend

    This whole thing is getting boring. The guy needs to find himself a hobby. He is such a hypocrate because from what I’ve been told his novels are just as much propaganda as Lewis’s are. In fact, I have yet to meet an artist who’s beliefs aren’t somehow relfected in their work. The only difference is Lewis never denied or hid the fact he was a theologian. This is an obvious ploy to get himself publicity.

  • Adam Walter

    About the Irish wolfhound–I have to admit I was somewhat less than half serious about this. However, being the largest of all dogs, the Irish wolfhound does command some respect in the animal kingdom (even I address the males as “Sir”) and was a common favorite of many kings in the British Isles.

    Frankly, I find most of the arguments against Lewis absurd and try to keep a sense of humor about them. After all, I’ve been resisting various denouncements of “Christian fantasy” since my high school days, when the librarian/creative-writing instructor at the church-school I attended called me at home to inform me that they were removing Madeline L’Engle’s novels from the library; the school wanted to make sure I hadn’t suffered any “spiritual harm” from them. (I’d checked out A Wrinkle in Time a couple years before, and my name was on the library ticket inside the book.) About the same time, I also suffered through a church event with local religious horror writer, Frank Peretti, in which Peretti denounced Lewis, on the evidence of That Hideous Strength, as a lover of black magic and someone who was on the wrong side of the “spiritual warfare” issue.

    As for the racism idea, I find it interesting that this charge against Lewis always conveniently overlooks–as noted in the Chronicle piece–that Lewis’s prototypical Narnia villain, someone who brought a plague of whiteness (okay, so most folks prefer the mundane and innocuous term “snow”) down on the land and was, herself, probably the whitest being in Narnia: “Her face was white–not merely pale, but white like snow or paper or icing-sugar, except for her very red mouth.”

  • Neil E. Das

    Peter, to visit what is a perpetual debate, I really do not know what God will do with those who have not heard. I hope it works this way. I don’t know though. To bandy the book of Romans about for a bit longer, Romans 10:14 seems to imply a conscious profession of faith in Jesus is required, which is what more hard core denominations would hold to. Me, I know that people only get to heaven through Jesus, I think the normal way of this is through an actual profession. If Christs, blood can be applied to those who have not heard in ways in keeping with Romans 2:6-16, I will be delighted. Meanwhile, we preach to the ends of the earth. Then we trusts God’s love and mercy to be greater than any pallid shadow that we might have.

  • Neil E. Das

    Well, Adam. I think I rather was sticking with material that is in the books. I am not impugning Lewis’ motives, nor am I committing the Personal Heresy by indicating why according to such and so event in his personal life Lewis wrote a particular way.

    I do not think it is unfair, however, to point out the books are largely Western European books and the “enemy” more or less lines up with a Middle Eastern sort of enemy. In fact, it seems that the typology or symbols or equipage of the conflict between Narnia and Calormen seem most closely to echo Crusader and Muslim garb. And Lewis’ descriptions of most of Calormen and most Calormenes makes them seem unpleasant at the very least.

    And, if one is a person with a bit more melanin in ones epidermis, or if one has grown up in the Middle East or near to it, the descriptions of Calormen and Calormenes may just come across a bit differently, just potentially.

    I think Lewis does point out the good in Calormene culture and in key Calormenes and, significantly, Calormen, is included in the new Narnian universe (in heaven), as the book of Revelation indicates all culures will.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    He could just as easily have used an Irish wolfhound.

    Are Irish wolfhounds symbols of royalty?

    The way that the Narnians simply assume that lions are the kings of beasts has always been one of those things about the Narnia books that doesn’t quite work for me, right up there with the way they apparently celebrate Christmas even though they have never heard of Christ. These characters do make a lot of very British assumptions about things.

  • Peter T Chattaway

    I agree that Lewis was not a racist. His other writings indicate this, not to mention his inclusion of Emeth in heaven in the Last Battle (and that in a framework that may perhaps even bend orthodoxy).

    FWIW, I think Aslan’s comments on this point are very orthodox, inasmuch as they fit rather well with what St. Paul writes in Romans 2:6-16.

  • Adam Walter

    Of course, if we’re going to do a thorough “reading between the lines” of the Inklings, we need to highlight facts such as Lewis’s decision to make a prominent, predatory, African mammal his allegorical representation of the Son of God. He could just as easily have used an Irish wolfhound. Or, perhaps, we could take the advise of Lewis himself in An Experiment in Criticism and simply confine our interpretations to what is actually, intentionally in a books.

  • Neil E. Das

    Great article from the Chronicle, Jeffrey, with a great defence of Lewis.

    The one part of the article which I found slight was the defence against the charge of racism. I asked a similar question in a local Lewis event and the answer I got was, I feel, inadequate. I agree that Lewis was not a racist. His other writings indicate this, not to mention his inclusion of Emeth in heaven in the Last Battle (and that in a framework that may perhaps even bend orthodoxy).

    I do feel that the portrayal of Calormen (which I think is kind of a recasting of Turkey, with the substition of pantheism for Islamic monotheism) and Calormenes at times becomes a bit problematic, even though I do not have chapter and verse just now. Perhaps it is the privileging of European and Northern aesthetics and their strong connection with the true faith that is difficult for me, but perhaps I am quibbling.

    In truth, I have more problem with Tolkien on this score than Lewis. A good chunk of the evil armies in the LOTR come from a pagan and notedly darker South, and he doesn’t clearly present an Emeth (Aragorn does go inconito to the South for a couple of years and Tolkien might have interjected something here) and there is a little unsettling talk of pure bloodlines, etc.

    OK, I’m done, though, I need to revisit this at some point. Please realize I love both Lewis and Tolkien and love their visions. I love “pure northerness” even. I just have some, “hmms?” on this score.

  • Adam Walter

    I’ve read 3 of his books and don’t know that I’ll read more. However, I did really enjoy Clockwork, which I read twice and may read again. He’s not a bad writer, if you can play deaf-n-dumb to the deliberate social commentary he makes in the background of his stories.

  • Levi Nunnink

    I personally find Pullman very tiring. His arguements remind me of a politician’s and not an author’s. I suppose I’d be more inclined to listen to him if I found his writing more interesting but his books are just awful. I can’t think of a fantasy series that I enjoyed less.

  • Adam Walter

    Pullman, actually, isn’t very difficult to get a handle on. He’s merely a propagandist himself… for secular absolutism and myopic postmodernism. His writing mainly reflects his own prejudices, especially the idea that the practitioners of the Western religions are inferior to secularists and, possibly, neo-pagans.

  • Neb

    Oops: “disturbeD”. I guess I’m going to pieces, too…

  • BethR

    Excellent!

  • Neb

    Right? Erm, no. He seems like a very disturbe, if highly creative and talented, individual. I think he’s coming unglued, personally.


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