Talking Narnia to Your Neighbors

How C.S. Lewis's fairy tales can impact your friends for Christ.

The summer Lindy Lowry was 20, she rejected the Christian faith she'd had since childhood—dismissing it as a fairy tale that made no sense in a world full of evil. That's because while she was away at college attending summer school, the unthinkable happened: Her best friend since childhood was kidnapped, raped, and brutally murdered.

Lindy questioned everything after her friend's horrific death. Was God really good? Her friend had been a Christian; why hadn't God protected her? "It caused a crisis of faith unlike anything I'd ever experienced," Lindy says. "If God let such horrible, senseless things happen, I wanted nothing to do with him."

Lindy rejected God, but during the rebellious, angry season that followed, Lindy's Christian friends didn't reject her. It was their friendship—and several "fairy tales" by famed Christian apologist C.S. Lewis—that eventually restored her faith. Chief among those was his seven-volume children's series, The Chronicles of Narnia.

Not Just for Kids

One of Lindy's faithful friends knew she'd loved the Narnia series as a child. But she also knew it was relevant to Lindy's current, very adult situation. Unlike the hollow reassurances her slain friend was "in a better place" that some offered, this friend read Lindy the last chapter of the final Narnia book in which Lewis offers a beautiful description of heaven. His vision showed Lindy just how wonderful that place is.

Her friend also had Lindy re-read Lewis's description in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe of Aslan the Lion: "He's not safe, but he's good." Lindy could relate to that—God felt very unsafe and unpredictable. The rest of the stories contained truth about the struggle between good and evil of which Lindy was now more aware.

"Lewis didn't tie up everything nice and neat," Lindy, now in her mid-30s, recalls, "but his words started me on a path of exploring who God is, as compared to what I'd always been told."

While others' experiences might not be as dramatic as Lindy's, Lewis's fantasy stories have struck a chord with millions of readers through the years. With over a million copies in print since the 1950s, the Chronicles is second only to Harry Potter as the best-selling children's book series ever. And now Lewis's first book for the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is being made into a full-length feature film.

From the Page to the Screen

Hitting theaters December 9, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a big-budget affair with special effects by the same team behind the blockbuster The Lord of the Rings movies (based on the books written by Lewis's friend and fellow Christian J.R.R. Tolkien). The visual spectacle, the popular story, and a strong marketing push promise to make this the must-see movie of the holidays. As such, it provides Christians a prime opportunity to share God's love with their friends and families.

Lewis wrote the Chronicles as a Christian who wanted to help people understand God and his deep love for them. The story, on its surface, is about four children who accidentally stumble into a magical land of talking beasts and fantastic creatures ruled by an evil sorceress, the White Witch. The children meet Aslan the Lion, True King of Narnia, and eventually join him in defeating the White Witch. Biblical themes of good against evil, forgiveness, and redemption are woven into the story. But while Aslan is a Christ figure, the story doesn't retell the Bible story. It's a fantasy, which makes it appealing to a wide audience.

When actor Mel Gibson made The Passion of the Christ, he said he hoped it would motivate people to read the Bible and learn more about Jesus. "I hope the film raises a lot of questions, and makes people search for answers—kind of like, 'You've seen the movie; now read the Book!'" Gibson said (as quoted in Outreach magazine, January/ February 2004).

The same might be said for The Chronicles of Narnia. Book sales for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe began to increase when the movie trailers first hit theaters several months ago. And while getting friends to go to what they think is a Christian film isn't always easy (perhaps you tried taking friends to The Passion and some resisted the idea), many people won't know of this film's Christian roots. Your unbelieving friends may be the ones who invite you to the movie. Sharing your faith could be as easy as simply joining the conversation.

Narnia 101

Never actually read the famous series? Don't worry; you're not alone. "A lot of Christian parents and teachers pull me aside and in hushed tones confide that they've never actually read the books," laughs Christin Ditchfield, author of two books that spell out the biblical parallells to the Narnia story, including The Family Guide to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But this would be a great time to start, she adds.

Beth Mullins, 42, first read the Chronicles as an elementary education major at Wheaton College. Beth was amazed at how Aslan interacted differently with each of the children in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, at how personal and individual his relationships with them were. "I'd thought God was someone you had to watch out for, because he was going to get you if you did something wrong," she says. "But these books gave me a different view of God."

Lewis's ideas about good and evil also challenged Beth's views. "I'd alienated people because I insisted life was black and white—there was no middle ground for me. Some people say in the middle, it's gray. Well, the Chronicles showed me that it's in the middle where grace and beauty live. And that's where I want to live too—in grace and beauty."

Beth hopes the movie will spark conversations about the books that changed her view of life and of God. For example, in one scene in Lewis's book, Aslan agrees to die at the hand of the White Witch to take the place of one of the children after he betrays his siblings. While the story doesn't exactly parallel the biblical account of Christ's death, Aslan does die for someone else and comes back to life. Asking how the story is similar to and different from the Bible can be a great discussion point—especially if you have the book in front of you and can compare it to the Bible.

Simply asking a friend whom she identifies with can spark some lively conversation, too. For example, at the beginning of the story, Edmund is a bit rude, but before long, he betrays his siblings to the White Witch. Edmund doesn't start off a completely bad person, but he slowly gives in to temptation. It's a great starting point for discussing how easy it is to slip into bad behavior and self-deception.

Be open to conversations about the movie with kids, too—your own or other people's. A woman recently told Christin Ditchfield she started a Bible study for her teenagers and their friends. They're reading the Narnia series, using Christin's book to discuss the biblical themes, and then praying together.

"One woman told me she's sending the Chronicles, along with my book, to her college-age child who's wandered from his faith," Christin says. "She's hoping he'll come back to Christ after reading the series."

When Lindy's friend shared the Chronicles with her, she did a lot right: She didn't preach or push. She listened to Lindy, and she got to know her well enough to share something she knew was meaningful to Lindy. When discussing the movie with friends or offering to read the book with them, know your friends well enough to connect with them personally. Listen and ask questions. Don't come with an agenda; come with love.

Beth notes that Lewis himself was once a skeptic, and bringing friends who are skeptical about God to the movie may open some doors. "Encourage friends to read not only this book but his other books as well, like his classic apologetic works Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters," she says. She hopes others will find what she did in C.S. Lewis's works: "Through these stories, God gave me a glimpse of grace." It's an important picture that's coming soon to a theater near you.

Keri Wyatt Kent is a speaker and the author of Breathe (Revell). She lives with her family in Illinois. Learn more about her work at www.keriwyattkent.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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