Wednesday, December 14, 2005

2nd Post on Narnia

So, another post regarding the Narnia film--and a question: in reading around the web about the film and the responses to it, I've noted that quite a few Christians are handing out tracts before and after the film showings. Doesn't this defeat the whole concept? Didn't Lewis write story because it communicates in a way that a tract cannot? After all, Lewis was quite capable of writing an essay--and good ones too. Yet, he thought the imagination fertile ground for deep thinking (magic?).

How badly do we miss the point of Lewis' work while we are in the midst of a Lewis revival?

father foos


Miss Steinberg said...

Any good literature teacher will tell us, "Show, don't tell," and this is what Lewis the master storyteller has done in his Narnia books. He shows truth; he doesn't tell it. What a folly it is to try and degrade this difficult art down to a pile of "telling"; like trying to use a beautiful vase to hammer a nail. We should just enjoy it for what it is, and find a hammer to do our rough work. Misusing it thus just shows that we don't value vases; and someone who hijacks a story to use as a tool, doesn't value story.

But of course, to learn more about a story, like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, will enrich the story and give it more meaning. We Muses would like to distinguish between teaching about a story, and using a story to teach about something else. Lewis specifically did not write his stories for the latter purpose, as Father Foos mentioned below.

father foos said...

To further the ideas Miss Stienberg has presented, a quote from her blog (linked at the right) where she has enlarged on her comments on The Muses.

Now that The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe has arrived in theaters, the same thing may be seen as we saw when The Passion of the Christ came out. To wit, tract-givers in front of theaters.

Now what could possibly be wrong with this? Why am I yet again waxing polemic and critical of what the modern church does?

Aside from the theology of tracts in general, my own humble self can think of at least one problem with this specific practice.

It would be one thing if these "tracts" were telling further about the story itself as a story; perhaps explaining where Lewis got his symbolism; how his Christian imagination figured into the story; how the story shows truth and beauty.

But it's another thing altogether to take a story and use it for a tool it is not intended to be, like using a vase to hammer a nail, because we don't think we have any actual hammer. (And come to think of it, if we aren't presenting Christ as we should in our churches, we do have to reach for whatever tool is handy).

Furthermore, C. S. Lewis specifically did not write the story as allegory; but it comes very close to being used as allegory when used like this.

It also betrays Enlightenment influence. The Enlightenment distrusts story, and scorns it, because stories are not as as easily controlled and understood as categorical logic and didacticism. How can anyone actually learn from story as story,? Doesn't it need to be broken down - broken?- to be understood?

This also seems to relate to liturgy, in which layers and layers of doctrine and practice and history lie gracefully embedded in ceremony; and when liturgy is thrown out, outright didactic must be redoubled in an attempt to fill that void left by liturgy. But what are the effects of such trade-off?

mr_bartel said...

I simply think that handing out tracts after a movie is, at best, cheesy and, at worst, obnoxiously deceptive. I do not want to be sold anything when I leave a theatre particularly because I am generally still forming my opinions about the movie. Tracts reak of salesmanship, and leave me suspicious. I overheard one tract hander-outer approaching someone by asking, "Would you like to learn more about the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?" If he were honest, he should have said, "Please read this and come to our church."

Argument about the nature of story is fine, but the practice of handing out tracts lacks tact and consideration.

father foos said...

Mr. Bartel, please, tell us what you really think....!!

Deceptive is an interesting term. You, Mr. Bartel, will remember the outreach team at the Farmer's Market in our university town. The line was: "Would you answer some questions for a survey we're taking?" Many responded, and the questions were religiously based. Later on, though, when asked, the pastor said that they had not compiled any results of the survey, nor, for that matter, were they even really taking down the answers anymore. He didn't seem to have a problem with that.

Is being deceptive somehow okay when seeking to evangelize? If the materials (tracts) handed out are slick marketing materials with an image of Aslan on the cover, they're going to be attractive to the general public that comes out of the theater. Is this deceptive if essentially the content inside that cover is an attempt to proselytize? Do we do a disservice to Christ and his Church by such an approach? What is the reputation of the Church in the non-Christian’s mind after he realizes what he just grabbed--especially if he thought he was grabbing something very different than what he got?

Miss Steinberg said...

That kind of deceit does not help the image which some have, that believers don't live in reality. (Although, some of that image is good and deserved, since we do live in a different Creation, once we're in Christ.) But it makes communication between the two "realities" more difficult than it already is, when words are wrenched away from their normal meanings; it doesn't build trust.
But then, it can get people thinking, when we use words with meanings not normally associated with them. We've had the discussion elsewhere about "regeneration" and about the word "Christian," and how the varying meanings assigned them really represent divergent schools of doctrine. And there it's helpful to point out to people the "irregular" usage of the words as we use them, to prevent the frustration and distrust mentioned before. We don't want to be frustrated ships passing in the night. But in the instance at hand, such pointing out would really ruin the whole endeavor, wouldn't it? I'm not sure exactly why, but it would seem "the game's up, you've been spotted."