The whole HP saga coming to an end last weekend in the 8th movie has made me nostalgic. I didn’t want the magic to end. I remember seeing Lord of the Rings for the first time in theaters (when I was in eight grade, maybe? yikes…) and being so caught up in the wonder, the drama, the urgency and the awe. I remember The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and getting chills when Aslan spoke, majestic both in strength and tenderness.
Why do we love these stories, this magic?
(Note: Sorry, Twilight doesn’t get a mention, because it doesn’t count.)
I have to tell you about something that happened to me when I saw Voyage of the Dawn Treader when it first came out. When the movie was over and the credits started scrolling, a little girl ran down the aisle until she was right in front of the big screen. She just stood there, staring up into it, transfixed, and I thought, She wants to jump into Narnia through the movie screen just like the children were swept up through the painting!
Maybe she wanted to rescue the seven lords, ride on Aslan’s back, or fight bravely for something good. Sooner or later a parent called out to her, and she trudged reluctantly back to reality. But the scene impressed on me how important imagination is to faith. C. S. Lewis is well-known for his spiritual parallels woven into his literary works, and I believe that telling the gospel through stories is not only good for the creative life, it also enriches the spiritual life.
Maybe because stories bring out the child-like awe in us, sharpening our senses to better understand the world. Maybe because, as Jesus once amazingly said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Matthew 11:25).
Madeleine L’Engle was another such writer whose redemptive imagination shines through works such as the beloved A Wrinkle in Time series. In her nonfiction book, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, which I highly recommend she says, “Christian art? Art is art; painting is painting; music is music; a story is a story. If it’s bad art, it’s bad religion, no matter how pious the subject.”
But if it’s good art, it stands to reason it is also “good religion.” Perhaps this is why the Narnia epics are so well-loved, even by people who do not know Aslan “by another Name.”
What do you think about this idea of good art as good religion?