The Lion, The Witch, and the VCR

There's a fantasy world where animals talk; where children are kings and queens; where an evil spell means it's always winter but never Christmas. Where a noble, talking lion breaks the evil spell and spring comes at last to the frost-bound land. If you've ever read C.S. Lewis's fiction for children, you'll recognize this fantasy world: It's the enchanted world of Narnia. I was recently leafing through a Public Broadcasting catalog when I saw an advertisement for The Chronicles of Narnia in video, produced by the BBC. I decided to order the series for my grandchildren. I must admit, I did so with some trepidation. Public broadcasting is generally a bastion of liberal humanism. How would they deal with the Christian themes in the Narnia books? Lo and behold, the videos turned out to be superb. They aren't cartoons, they have live acting. And they remain remarkably true to the original stories. The Christian themes aren't watered down in any way. Aslan, the great lion, remains the counterpart to Jesus in this fantasy world. Even his death and resurrection are faithfully presented. The series proved to be a delightful re-introduction to the Narnia characters. Or introduction, if you haven't read the books yet. The Narnia Chronicles are such entrancing stories that they've become classics. Even non-Christians recognize their literary quality. One reviewer described the videos as "Masterpiece Theater" for children. What puzzles me a bit is that I never heard about these excellent videos through Christian channels. Are any Christian organizations distributing them? Here's a rare opportunity for Christians to applaud secular broadcasting for a product we can wholeheartedly approve. Remember, the only way to persuade people to keep making high-quality art for children is to show them there's a market for it. The Narnia videos are also a great way to expose the secular culture to the biblical message. They aren't religious stories per se, but they weave Christian themes into a fairy-tale format. My grandchildren loved them. They even got permission to show them to their classes at school. High-quality Christian art can often win a hearing in the secular culture. In the former Soviet Union, the Christian message was preserved in art, even when churches were persecuted. Many Russians tell about discovering Christianity through the works of the great novelists Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Even the communists couldn't bring themselves to censor such good literature, so the Christian world view embedded in the books continued to have a mighty impact. So did the paintings by Rembrandt hanging in the Leningrad art museum, and the Bach chorales played by the Moscow orchestra. These works of art were constant testimonies to the vitality of the Christian faith. The surest way for Christians to influence their culture is to produce books, music, and movies of high artistic quality, where the subject matter reflects a distinctly Christian view of life. And if you're not an artist yourself, support good work when it does come out, like this Narnia series. Buy the videos and watch them with your children. Maybe the frozen wastelands of our culture--like the snow-covered fields of Narnia--will thaw and come back to life.


Chuck Colson


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