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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 

Chronicles Of Narnia, Veggie Tales, And Teaching Children

For those of you who are new to Putting Out The Fire, I have, for some time now, taken questions sent in via email. The following query showed up in the inbox;

Frank,

Just out of curiosity - I know you like the "Chronicles of Narnia" SNL skit, but what is your take on the comparing and contrasting of Christ's sacrifice and the life of the Church with the Chronicles? I have an issue with it because I don't want my kids to see a lion in a movie and think "Gee, he's like Jesus!" Same thing with "Veggie Tales" - I don't want them to think a piece of asparagus died on the cross for them. A cartoon/fictional movie should be just that and shouldn't involve elements of our Faith because that's just like the Churches that lower themselves by bending with society for the sake of attracting the unchurched. I'm not a big CS Lewis fan to begin with, but I'd love to hear your opinion. I have relatives who are die-hard Veggie Tales fans and I think it's disgusting - hence my post about people who will try to influence my child's spirituality. These are the same people who have a problem with Harry Potter - although I see that as entertainment as I do Star Wars because it doesn't bring in Christianity at all. Let me know your take –

A.L.

Ok, where to begin? I guess I’ll start with the Chronicles of Narnia part of your question…

Yes, I do like that "Chronicles of Narnia" SNL skit, probably a lot more than I should I guess. Your question however was about the series of books by C.S. Lewis and not about my questionable taste in pop culture late night comedy skits.

I think the Chronicles of Narnia books are just fine for your child(ren). The seven book series is a brilliantly written body of work that is tailor made for kids. If I had kids reading the series, or if I was reading it to them, I would clearly explain to them that the series means to put in plain words churchly things though the use of metaphor and fantasy. I would tell the little crumb crunchers that C.S. Lewis is using his stories, much like Jesus uses parables, to explain Christ and His Church. I would also tell them that this is sometimes a technique that pastors can use in sermons or that I sometimes do the same when writing posts for my blog.

Furthermore, I would also explain to them that while Lewis, and Mom and Dad (or Uncle Frank in my case as I have no kids), use metaphors to explain a point of Scripture, the Narnia tales are still just fiction. I would make the distinction that Scripture is God’s Word and is true and inerrant because it comes from God and not metaphor or hyperbole as some would suppose. As long as you properly explain this to them they shouldn’t get confused and think Jesus is an imaginary characters like Aslan.

While the Chronicles of Narnia books aren’t exactly my cup of tea, I do like Lewis’s writing. I think Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce should be read by all Christians with the latter being my favorite of all of Lewis’s works. Lewis, while only a layman, has a much better understanding of what Scripture says and lays out for the Church than many who claim to be church leaders in Americanized Christianity today.

I think if you give Lewis another chance you might just be surprised. Lewis’ use of symbolism and metaphor puts more Christ in his one of his novels than Joel Osteen managed to do in two of his non-fiction bestsellers. Lewis’s stuff isn’t the blending of culture and church that so many these days try to do to reach the “unchurched,” rather; it is the elevation of fiction in order to explain something that is a mystery without comprising the message.

Lewis’s gift as a writer is that he doesn’t need water things down to the point where the message is unrecognizable to a Christian. Contrast that with what passes for missions and outreach in my denomination, the LCMS, and I think you’ll appreciate the Chronicles of Narnia maybe a little bit more.

A.L., I’ll answer the Veggie Tales part of your question in the next post.

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I'd agree with A.L. on the Veggie Tales. They're cute and funny, but they're hardly a replacement for real teaching. Unfortunately, too many SS teachers think that watching a Veggie Tales movies amounts to a Bible lesson. Um, no.

I'd encourage A.L. to stay away from the Narnia movies for the moment, and simply read C.S. Lewis' stories.

Better yet, dig up some of the commentary Lewis himself wrote about the craft of using fairy tales, allegory, and analogy.

Hi elephantschild,
I guess I didn’t really think about the movies all that much when coming up with an answer to AL’s question. I like movies as much or maybe even more than the next guy but I just think there are some things that don’t lend themselves all that well to film. I think Narnia would fall into this category.

As far as Veggie Tales are concerned, the tone covering that topic will be a bit different than with Narnia. ” Unfortunately, too many SS teachers think that watching a Veggie Tales movies amounts to a Bible lesson. Um, no.” Bullseye!

When allowing your children to become engrossed in fiction like the Veggie Tales you are leading them down the path of what is real and what is not real. When you are trying to teach them that Christ is real and then you say that the Veggies are not real, they are going to find it hard to pull the two apart. I have gone over this with people before and they say; well, I know what kids like and they will like watching Veggies better then listening to the story or even watching a movie that can depict a more accurate image and role of Christ. I think that is just because our society has become lazy in their teachings and they want others to everything for them, even if it means placing our children’s beliefs on the line.

Hey Folks, The Veggie Tales post is next! Hold on before you guys call for my head! I'm NOT equating Narnia with Veggie Tales but not addressing the Veggie Tales issue! Next post folks...

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  • From The Haut South
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