Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al


Narnia-related conversations in several places have sparked my curiosity: where were you when you understood that the Narnia books are about Christianity? Or did you always know?

I read The Magician's Nephew and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was quite little, maybe 5 or 6 ish? I didn't know about reading in publication rather than chronological order, and I have an unusual degree of affection for The Magician's Nephew. I found it slightly weird, but, well, I was reading a lot of books that were really meant for somewhat older kids (or even adults) and I was generally used to the idea that everything in books is weird and half-understood.

So I went looking for more books in the series, and found Prince Caspian which felt very sequel-ish, the Pevensies return to Narnia and a bunch of unmemorable stuff happens. And then I found The voyage of the Dawn Treader, which felt properly exciting again (I do slightly muddle it in memory with Arthur Ransome's We didn't mean to go to sea). And then there's that scene at the end where Aslan turns out to be a Lamb as well as a Lion, and that was the moment where my lovely portal fantasy turned out to be preaching about Jesus.

One of the discussions I read, I think on Making Light, roughly divided people into two groups, more or less that people from a Christian background realize the allegory at the end of Dawn Treader, and people from non-Christian backgrounds get all the way through to The Last Battle with their innocence intact. I don't know why as a seven-year-old Jewish kid I had any idea about Jesus as the Sacrificial Lamb, I think I was just a sponge for random facts about about the world.

The thing is that this was really bad timing for me, because I had just started at a new school and I was in a class with a teacher who bullied me really badly, for lots of reasons but a prominent one was that she was upset that I didn't share her Christian beliefs. So I was getting shouted at a lot for not believing in Jesus and particularly for not believing in Original Sin (which the teacher felt should have been a gimme as it's in the Old Testament), and to find out that Aslan, the fantasy character I loved, was Jesus after all was really upsetting.

I mean, getting bullied about religion had made me really stubborn about the fact that I don't believe in Jesus. So I think my main feeling was not the more typically reported sense of betrayal that preaching was sneaked into the story, but more like feeling excluded, this story was not for me, it was for Christian children. I felt vaguely guilty for cheering for Aslan, given that I was personally fighting for my right not to consider that I was Saved by Jesus' sacrifice, whereas within the story I had accepted the idea that Aslan's sacrifice saved Edmund. It wasn't until I was older that I started worrying about whether Aslan's sacrifice was meaningful if he was really the creator of Narnia and outside the rules that normally mean dead people have to stay dead.

Later on I met OICCU types (I'm always tempted to call them oiks) who quoted Lewis at me, and I thought, you're not tapping into childhood nostalgia, you're evoking childhood misery because it's only been a decade since last time someone tried to bully me into believing in Jesus. Besides, I may have quibbles with how CS Lewis understood religion, but college Christian Union zealots really really don't understand Lewis.

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