The Lion, the Witch and the faithful: Christians ready for first glance of 'Narnia' on big screen
In his books, C.S. Lewis creates a magical world of talking beasts, an evil witch and climactic battle scenes. Despite these seemingly secular aspects, many Christians embrace his fantasy land for its message of redemption and eagerly await Frida...
In his books, C.S. Lewis creates a magical world of talking beasts, an evil witch and climactic battle scenes.
Despite these seemingly secular aspects, many Christians embrace his fantasy land for its message of redemption and eagerly await Friday's release of "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."
Lewis is well-known as a defender of Christianity. "The Chronicles of Narnia" are often described as Christian allegory, a label the author roundly denied.
But the Christian themes are clear. An evil witch tempts an innocent child. Aslan, the Great Lion, dies for young Edmund's sins and rises from the dead.
The movie has been described as a Christian alternative to "Harry Potter." Some faithful will use it as a witnessing tool, much like "The Passion of the Christ," although it remains to be seen whether Lewis' religious sensibilities will come across on the screen.
The Rainbow Shop, a Christian bookstore in south Fargo, sponsored a summer reading program with a Narnia theme. Now an entire section of the store is devoted to Lewis' books and movie merchandise, including ornaments, cards, gift bags and games.
Fargo's Bethel Evangelical Free Church has rented an entire theater for a 10:30 showing opening night for its junior high and high school youth.
"Evangelical Christians and others have embraced Lewis because he used this myth to express his Christian worldview," says Roy Hammerling, religion professor at Concordia College in Moorhead.
Lewis was rated the most influential writer in a 1998 Christianity Today reader poll. But Lewis, once an atheist who became an Anglican, likely wouldn't fit in well with the evangelical crowd, Hammerling says.
Hammerling will teach a course next fall looking at Lewis' work from a religious perspective. He also plans a fantasy film class, including the works of Lewis and his friend and contemporary J.R.R. Tolkien.
Hammerling draws many similarities between "Narnia" and Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings." In fact, the same production company that did special effects for the "Rings" trilogy worked on "Narnia."
Both works contain themes of friendship and virtue, and recognize evil in a concrete way, Hammerling says. But Lewis' series of seven novels were written for children.
"A number of Christians have felt the Tolkien novels were too mature for a younger audience," he says.
The "Narnia" movie, rated PG, has been marketed to Christian audiences, with resources for religious leaders.
At Fargo's Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, youth in grades 3 through 12 are reading the book along with a Bible study, says youth director Jay Schaefer. They will then see the movie.
"There's a lot of biblical parallels," he says. "We talk about sin and forgiveness."
Although he's concerned certain scenes may be too intense for younger viewers, he encourages kids to invite their friends and use the movie as an opportunity to talk about their faith.
"Every time I watch the previews, I get goose bumps. I'm pumped," Schaefer says.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5525