This book is a violent and wicked book. It talks about a boy who would trade his brother and sisters' lives for a box of candy. It talks about a woman (sic) who would kill to maintain her power over a world she knows is much smaller than it appears. It is about war and merciless beatings against some whose only real crime is picking the wrong team.
So why's it so good? What's all the fuss about? And why, for pete's sake, do Christians claim this book as part of their literary heritage? Doesn't it underscore their own weird romance with the dark and vile parts of human nature?
In the first place, this book is good because it doesn't pretend that evil is chump change – that because good is greater than evil, evil is inherently a small or inconsequential thing. One of my real complaints about most Christian literature is the way it caricatures evil into a kind of minstrel Shylock; a real complaint about a lot of popular TV theology is that it completely minimizes the fact that evil is not just a nuisance but a problem so big that only God can deal with it effectively. Evil is not a small thing – which is why the problem of evil always seems to come up when you talk about God.
In the second place, it makes a clear statement – which is a Christian statement – that evil is not the steady-state of the universe but the state from which the universe ought to be redeemed and will ultimately be redeemed. But wait – is that redemption like cashing in old-time S&H green stamps (which is a sermon I heard once, and you will be glad to know I didn't have a stroke when I heard it), or is the redemption that is not just well-timed or pre-planned but bloody, precious and in many ways scandalous? When the Cross is reduced to a talisman – as it is in the "Left Behind" series – and abstracted from the incarnational idea that God did something He not only did not have to do but in justice could have demanded of those who did it to Him, we have left the Gospel preaching so far behind that it cannot be found except by google map.
In the last place, He's not a tame lion. You ought to be afraid. In the book there is a lot of violence against witches and monsters – some of it perpetrated by things which look like witches and monsters. I guess that's true enough. But if you (and I don't say "we" because my kids aren't exposed to this stuff) are willing to let your kids watch Pokemon and Power Rangers and Teen Titans and whatever – DragonBall Z, whatever – and they can tell you the names of their top 3 characters and what their powers are, you shouldn't flinch over them learning about fauns and talking badgers and a lion which created the world who rises from the dead to slay the witch which enslaves his people. He's not a tame lion, and I hope they get that much right. He didn't really ask you. And by "he", I might mean C.S. Lewis, and I might mean Aslan, and I might mean the creator and sustainer of all things. It works in all three applications.
I love that book – and ironically, it's not my favorite in the series. If I ever get back to this topic, I'll tell you what my two favorite books in this series are and why.
Now I have a post on Baptism to fix up and a book I have to finish reading before I can tell you what it is.