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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Polly Toynbee Vs Aslan

Ever since I encountered it, I have been mesmerized by Polly Toynbee's review of the Narnia movie. I had never realized that for some, atheism was less disbelief in God than disapproval of a redemptive God. But she disapproves of God as a concept and most especially of God as a redeemer of human error:
Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls.

...the resurrected Aslan gives Edmund a long, life-changing talking-to high up on the rocks out of our earshot. When the poor boy comes back down with the sacred lion's breath upon him he is transformed unrecognisably into a Stepford brother, well and truly purged.

...here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America - that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right.

...adults who wince at the worst elements of Christian belief may need a sickbag handy for the most religiose scenes.
Holiness drenches the Chronicles.
Children are supposed to fall in love with the hypnotic Aslan, though he is not a character: he is pure, raw, awesome power. He is an emblem for everything an atheist objects to in religion. His divine presence is a way to avoid humans taking responsibility for everything here and now on earth, where no one is watching, no one is guiding, no one is judging and there is no other place yet to come.
Everyone needs ghosts, spirits, marvels and poetic imaginings, but we can do well without an Aslan.
She reserves her pity for Edmund, who she thinks is made to suffer guilt:
Poor child Edmund, to blame for everything, must bear the full weight of a guilt only Christians know how to inflict, with a twisted knife to the heart.
What she doesn't write about is that the Witch was at the point of sacrificing Edmund when Aslan intervened to save him, nor does anyone make Edmund wallow in guilt. His life is saved and he is restored to his brother and sisters who accept him back with love, and he goes on to become a king in Narnia. So she is lying or missing the point here. I think this is significant. It is the thing you cannot stand to see that tells the most about you.

I think Polly Toynbee objects to C. S. Lewis' rebuttal of her beliefs about what Christianity really is (and for that matter, what Judaism really is). As C. S. Lewis writes him, Aslan insists upon personal responsibility. Throughout the entire series, every time someone encounters Aslan he or she must accept responsibility for the bad thing he or she has done or the good thing he or she has not done. Nor will Aslan tell anyone about the fate of other people; the constant refrain throughout the Chronicles is that Aslan will tell no one any other story than his or her own. This is not the condemnation that Polly fears.

So it's the humanism and redemption of the Judeo-Christian tradition that Polly cannot stand, and it's the acceptance of knowledge about herself that she fears. I have been thinking about this column for several days, because it was a total revelation to me.

Chief No-Nag has never read the Narnia Chronicles. Last night I asked Chief No-Nag about Polly Toynbee's column, and he told me that he thought this type of atheist hated the mere concept of God because they could not stand to accept moral responsibility for their own actions. He said that they feared God rather than disbelieved in him, and that was why the belief of others so upset them. He said that you could not even pray about something without realizing your own bad deeds, bad thoughts, and failure to show kindness to others (which is true!), so these people need to pretend that there is no God in order to escape knowing themselves.

There are, of course, others who simply don't believe in God - but they don't react to the belief of others with fear and anger. There is, I have noticed, a strong correlation between the failure to accept personal responsibility and a hatred of Israel. I haven't read anything else by Polly Toynbee, but I would bet she is an advocate of Israel's destruction. When I get time I will google her. Now I've got to accept my personal responsibility to get to work on time!

I think there is also a rejection of belief that someone is willing to make that kind of sacrifice for someone else because there is no way she would make it. It's also part of why some people have such inherrent problems with the military, they just don't believe people could be like that, or do that.
Chief No-Nag is right. Tell him for me that I think he is very wise and insightful to get to the heart of the matter that way.

Also...I didn't read the Chronicles of Narnia until I was an adult- I think he would greatly enjoy them.

Polly Toynbee reviews a movie made from a children's book, and reacts in a childish way...rather fitting, huh?

"He said that they feared God rather than disbelieved in him, and that was why the belief of others so upset them."

Score one for Chief NoNag.

Ever seen a small child, that when frightened by something, squeezes his or her eyes tightly shut to make it "go away"?

But here we are telling these "children" that despite their desperate denial, "it" is still there.


To accept the idea of redemption and grace one has to accept the concept of sin, which goes hand in hand with the concept of being held responsible for one's own actions. If one doesn't believe sin exists, one cannot accept the grace that Christ's ultimate sacrifice provides us--or understand why it's even necessary.
That review is simply shocking. Central to Christianity is that Jesus died for man's sins--but that man has free will to accept or reject the sacrifice and savior. No one demands Tonybee turn Christian. But -- in today's multi-culti, PC world -- none would dare label Islam, homosexuals, Wiccans or Barbra Streisand "repulsive." At least not without tongue-lashing, jail-time or -- in the Netherlands -- eight bullets and two knives.

Score another for the "tolerant" left.
M-O-M, I saw the movie a couple of days ago and have been planning a blog post on that exact Toynbee article for the past couple of days, but you beat me to it! Rather than make a long post here, I'll just follow up on yours over at my site.
So everyone else already knew this? I guess I'm really out of touch. I feel like someone handed me a Rosetta Stone, and now I can read a great deal of "progressive" rune-writing.

Tommy, yes. Understanding Toynbee made me finally understand why the same people hate Israel and hate military men and women. People like Toynbee react as if the choice of military personnel to risk their lives in the defense of others is a personal reproach. That's why they will not even contemplate what the military is. They have to sneer at the people who made such a choice because they are terrified by them.

Ilona - I bought them and I've left them around temptingly. But he's reading the World Almanac again. He is a very, very sensible man and I'll tell him you approve!

Bilgeman - yes, it is childish. Most adults have gotten over the stage of groupism that dominates the teen years. Carl's right. They talk about tolerance, but to them the word means endorsement of their choices rather than a refusal to interfere with them.

Hixterchick - that's true. But I always thought everyone but sociopaths had times when they did wrong, regretted it and repented. Sin is the universal human experience.

Carl - the free will doctrine of Christianity is what they cannot stand to see. Like Bilgeman says, they shut their eyes to it and scream that it's evil. And they demand endorsement instead of tolerance from society, which is a violation of individual conscience per se.

They cannot stand the doctrine of human freedom because it comes conjoined with human responsibility.
Pedro - I'll be looking forward to your post.
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