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Monday, December 05, 2005

The White Witch

I didn't think there would be any time for a blog post today - I'm still mighty busy. Nevertheless I made the amateur error of reading the Guardian after breakfast. I stumbled upon an article by the reassuringly consistent Polly Toynbee which made my blood boil. What's worse it was meant to be a film review.

To summarise, Our Pol is bashing the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because it hints at that most horrendous of all concepts, Christianity. Yes, I know you'd have thought the oppressive nature of the White Witch may have irritated such a right-on defender of the masses (though we all know from recent experience it can't possibly be racist to positively suggest the baddy must be white...). Yes, you'd have thought the allegory about the impact of global warming (perpetual winter) or an analogy with the nuclear winter sure to plague us all unless we revert to coal-fired power stations or build a windmill on top of all our houses would have been just too satisfying to ignore. Despite this, she still goes for the Christian jugular.

"Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?"

This is probably the sentence which most irritated me. Now, I'm no fanatical Christian and I have many personal doubts of my own, but one thing which has never crossed my mind is disgust that this nosy parker Messiah decided to butt in and prevent my gentle slide to hell. Feigned indifference I could handle. This anger just betrays some serious underlying frustrations in Pol's psychology that surely can't be explained by Christianity alone. How can saving her soul be something about which she can even be ambiguous? Even if Jesus died in vain and she doesn't believe the gospels how can the fact he tried be anything other than admirable? Where on earth has someone else's sacrifice, vain or otherwise, caused her anything approaching mild discomfort? If you can help me, please do, but I see only one possible answer. Pol's actually ticked off since she quite likes her self-constructed view of the world with its leftist liberal utopian possibilities but she can't quite entirely dismiss the attractions of an alternative or the potential contradictions with a Christian alternative view. All she can do is rail against that alternative in such an irrational way.

Perhaps this is betrayed in the rest of the paragraph;

"Poor child Edmund, to blame for everything, must bear the full weight of a guilt only Christians know how to inflict, with a twisted knife to the heart. Every one of those thorns, the nuns used to tell my mother, is hammered into Jesus's holy head every day that you don't eat your greens or say your prayers when you are told. So the resurrected Aslan gives Edmund a long, life-changing talking-to high up on the rocks out of our earshot. When the poor boy comes back down with the sacred lion's breath upon him he is transformed unrecognisably into a Stepford brother, well and truly purged."

So it's all about her mum's nuns is it. What a fascinating insight. That's why she hates non-state endeavour so much....

"Tolkien hated Narnia: the two dons may have shared the same love of unquestioning feudal power, with worlds of obedient plebs and inferior folk eager to bend at the knee to any passing superior white persons - even children; both their fantasy worlds and their Christianity assumes that rigid hierarchy of power - lord of lords, king of kings, prince of peace to be worshipped and adored. But Tolkien disliked Lewis's bully-pulpit."

Finally, I think this is just ill-informed. Tolkein did not hate Narnia. He merely disliked Lewis' construct. What's more I'm certain that the man who converted Lewis to Christianity in one great night-long stroll until dawn would never have contemplated calling it a "bully-pulpit", whatever that may be (does she mean pulpit-bully?!). As far as I can remember there is nothing approaching a racial question in the Chronicles of Narnia or in anything written by Tolkein. Still, at least it explains and exemplifies Toynbee's completely irrational response to order and her equally irrational devotion to a leftist mantra. I just can't see what's so abhorrent with trying to help other people?

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