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I see that last week they released the movie “The Seeker: Dark is Rising” based on Susan Cooper’s book. So this might be as good a time as any to post this -
Last August (2006) I sent this email/article to Vox Day:
You once commented in a blog negatively about LionWitchWardrobe (which I know that you generally like) regarding the appliances in the Beaver’s home and in the comments I attempted to defend their appearances. I generally bristle at any negative comment about any CS Lewis book or LOTR (them bein’ my favorite) and I am generally disappointed when I learn that people didn’t enjoy the books as much as I did.
Despite that, I am going to negatively comment on what I understand to be your favorite children’s book. With trepidation. To wit:
There are (at least) four ways an author can handle the existence of the Christian Religion in a fantasy book. The three ways I find acceptable are:
(1) Embrace it and make it integral to the story – you have done this in Eternal Warriors and I also enjoy it in Perretti (which, if I recall correctly, you haven’t read. I recommend it as entertainment, not literature,)
(2) Do not comment on it at all. For the most part, this is what Lewis does. We see Aslan as an allegory, but Christ is never mentioned. And in the first of the Space Trilogy, Ransom explains something like, “Our traditions say that . . .” but we hear nothing more of the conversation,
(3) Mention Christianity, call it false and move on. A lot of Arthur C. Clarke does this, and while I disagree with it, I know that there are atheists out there and the purely naturalistic worldview often make for very interesting fiction.
But the fourth way really bothers me: Treat Christianity as one of many truths and subordinate to the main premise. It is pretty quick, but this is what “Dark is Rising” does on Christmas day.
Since you have read this many times I’ll sum the story up just for my point. The Dark Powers are raging outside just after the service and the normal human pastor can feel them and he begins to pray for God’s protection and the old one says “No, Rector”
So there it is: Advice to not pray to God for help. Those last two words automatically disqualify it from being my favorite children’s book.
Later the Old One says “The battle is not his for the fighting” Okay. But it’s still should be okay for him to pray. Then six pages later, referring to “outside time” Will says “And all Gods are there and all the things they have ever stood for, and the opposite, too” The “opposite” part indicates to me that Cooper was not including demons or what not in the set of Gods (as you sometimes do) so it makes it fairly clear that she thinks of Christianity as in someway important, but not the most important. The ‘Old Ones’ Reality trumps it.
Doesn’t this bother you?
There is something like this in the “L’Engle” book (“Wrinkle in time”) which I can just barely remember but I recall a conversation where they listed people throughout history who were a step more advanced than the rest of us and Jesus was on the list. This is the same thing. Don’t put Jesus on a list. Make him the King of the list or take him off it entirely.
Harry Potter has it’s flaws and is certainly not literature, but, to its credit (in the two books I’ve read) never attempts to mix Christian Religion into it’s narrative. I am recalling your response to the letter I wrote to you after reading
your first book wondering how Dr. Boyd might handle the time travel part of your story when he doesn’t believe that the future exists yet. You (reasonably) responded “He is an intelligent man who is perfectly capable of understanding the difference between a serious theological work and a fantasy novel, which is why he doesn’t get too worked up about my playing around with various theological concepts.“
Well, he might not, and you might not, but I do. Even in fiction, if something goes strongly against my world view, it makes me like the book less, especially if I’m reading it to my children.
So now (as evidence to the contrary of what I just said, or so it seems) I’m reading ‘Tom Sawyer’ to them. In just the first few chapters: Lieing and Fighting are glorified (at least at face value) and church is shown to be boring and focused on showing off. But it makes my boys laugh, it make me laugh and it so much fun to read out loud. Oh well.
Next week, I’ll show you how he responded, and how I responded to his response.