The elite media’s disdain for faith.
Far too many members of the establishment media seem to wish for a world where it is always winter but never Christmas.
Fans of C.S. Lewis’ “Narnia” series will immediately recognize that phrase — “always winter but never Christmas” — as the situation that prevailed in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (henceforth LWW) before the return to the land of Narnia of Aslan, the great lion-Christ. But consider the phrase more broadly and metaphorically. The establishment media continues to give copious evidence of ignorance of, and often outright hostility to, Western religion and to the moral values shaped by it. Their ignorance and hostility is unprofessional, and it is despicable. A reader could be excused for often getting the impression that, like the White Witch, the establishment media would love to turn all believers to stone and keep us from ever celebrating Christmas — or Easter, or (for that matter) any Jewish observance, either, unless treated as merely a cultural observance rather than a true religious celebration.
This column topic suggested itself when the December 14 Washington Post contained not one but two cultural articles at least somewhat offensive to traditionalist sensibilities. The first was a glowing book review called “Saving C.S. Lewis.” Written by foreign desk editor Elizabeth Ward, also described in the byline as “a longtime reviewer of children’s books,” the review assessed a new literary endeavor by a woman named Laura Miller called The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia.
According to Ward, Miller was an especially devoted Narnia fan as a child, but felt a “sense of betrayal” when she realized in her early teens that the Narnia series contained not only wonderful fairy tales but also “really just the doctrines of the Church in disguise.” Raised a Catholic but turned off by what she considered the church’s “guilt-mongering,” Miller was so upset by what she now considered to be “appallingly transfigured” stories that she then wanted nothing to do with the books. That decision changed again, though, when a reading assignment as an adult helped her discover that Lewis’s series remained radiant apart from its subtext as Christian apologetics.
Oh, the joy! The sheer joy to find out that Narnia wasn’t utterly ruined by its Christianity! Miller responded by writing this learned, 311-page discourse on all things Narnia and their roots in other literature and other realms of culture — or at least all things not polluted by their Christian context.
Not having read Miller’s book itself, one might be accused of snarkiness for noting, first, that Miller must not have been terribly sharp as a Catholic child if it took her until her teens to realize that Narnia involved Christian allegory. (I once read LWW to a six-year-old who, two minutes after hearing the resurrection scene, smiled and pointed to the sky and said Aslan was “like Jesus.”) Or for noting, second, that it seems almost a psychological deficiency among so many literati when they find faith not just unconvincing or unimportant personally, but actually an affront even when in the form of a relatively gentle faith allegory. It is a peculiar mindset that takes umbrage at something that brings joy to others but demands no tribute from the unbeliever. After all, we do not see Miller or the establishment media take offense at The Iliad and The Odyssey because Greek gods play huge roles in those stories — do we?
NEVERTHELESS, THE PROBLEM HERE is not Miller, who is of course entitled to her views. The problem is with the reviewer, Ward. Ward, as a reviewer in a “mainstream” journal, embraces wholeheartedly the decidedly anti-Christian bias she describes in Miller’s book. It is Ward, not Miller, who blasts LWW co-producer Disney because its “unsubtle blockbuster movie in 2005 left the whole series more or less hijacked by Christian fundamentalists.” One can almost see the scorn for “Christian fundamentalists” dripping, like rancid buttermilk, from Ward’s pen. And her over-sensitivity to the Christian element of the movie itself is remarkable; literally at random, I googled Los Angeles Times reviewer Carina Chocano’s contemporary reaction to the movie, which far more accurately noted as follows: “The Christian allegory embedded at its chewy center serves less as evangelical cudgel than a primer on morality and the myths we create to explain it…. If it weren’t for Lewis’ stated intention to write a fantastical story to make the dogma go down, it might even come across as a liberal humanist parable about myth and its function in society, especially during times of trouble.”
That sure doesn’t sound like a movie “hijacked by fundamentalists.”
But Ward doesn’t stop there. The whole tone of her review in the Post is that of agreeing that the Christian elements of Narnia are decidedly disagreeable. The last paragraph approvingly asserts that “Miller largely succeeds in rescuing the Narnia series from the narrow Christian box into which it has been crammed.” Note the language: rescued. And narrow Christian box.
Yes, that’s it: Lewis’s storytelling was so good that it rescues his tales from their obnoxious Christian undertones. Right. That’s like saying that Jefferson’s prose was so inspirational that it rescued the Declaration of Independence from its obnoxious themes celebrating liberty and life. And wasn’t it a shame, too, that Martin Luther King had to pollute his quest for racial equality with his narrow Christian superstructure?
If the Washington Post’s editors can’t understand how insulting Ward’s review is to anybody of traditional faith, their ignorance is astonishing.
BUT THE POST’S OFFENSIVENESS didn’t stop there. That same day, the Sunday Washington Post Magazine contained a curious essay by an “M. Lynn Miller,” supposedly her “first published piece,” charmingly called “My Mom, the Adulteress.” It’s all about her mother’s 35-year, on-again, off-again romance (through the course of two of her mother’s own marriages) with a married man. The tenor of the essay is captured in a few sentences of the last paragraph: “I am happy for her. There are a few great loves out there, and my mom found one. He says that he’ll leave his wife this time.…”
Okay, maybe from a certain angle this strange little essay can be seen to be, uh, touching, almost sweet: a daughter writing about her concern for her mother’s happiness. But what the heck is it doing in a daily newspaper? What’s the news value, or the point? Seen objectively, the piece offends the basic standards of decency still adhered to by most Americans. Somehow, it’s just not right for a daughter to write touchingly, indeed somewhat approvingly, in a general forum, about her mother’s adultery. There’s both an immorality factor and, well, an ick factor. Perhaps the essay might be worthwhile in a literary magazine, but not a broad-circulation daily deliberately written to be accessible to teenagers as well. Indeed, the Sunday magazine is one of the sections most accessible, most attractive, to younger readers. This particular Sunday magazine was especially a lure to teens; its cover illustration, with two figures drawn like comic-book heroes, advertised the lead story about “the brutal odds of making it in the comic book business!”
With such a cover, even an 8-year-old would be likely to pick up the magazine, start thumbing through it… and find himself reading a story whose first paragraph reads: “My mother is a really, really good person…. And she’s having sex with a married man.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online