I love you, but I didn’t always. I have to be honest; I didn’t like “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” when I was first introduced to it. As a child, I saw a cartoon version of it on television. It lacked fart jokes. I mean, not even one? Boring! I grew up laughing at farts and boogers on Ren and Stimpy and people getting covered in slime on Nickelodeon’s Double Dare. Your books are completely devoid of the gross humor that I had come to expect. Based on that, I dismissed the whole series of The Chronicles of Narnia along with all of your writing.
Then, at eighteen years old I attended a Bible College that will remain nameless (it doesn’t deserve to be named). It is located in the Midwest in a state never mentioned by anyone except stand-up comedians and politicians. I didn’t visit it before I decided to attend and I regretted that shortly after I arrived. Rules: that’s what everyone was into there. Wear the right clothes. Eat in the designated area. Don’t go out after curfew. Volunteer for Jesus two hours a week. Don’t touch boys. This was a school where you could actually be tardy for class and disciplined for it. Having never been tardy before, all of a sudden, that was all I wanted to do.
It was in this stifling environment that I took a Children’s Literature class. The class was wonderful but the people were quite the opposite. One day The Chronicles of Narnia came up as a topic of discussion. Several students in the class were openly against Christian children reading about witches and magic. God forbid that a child should read your book and decide to turn another kid into stone. That would be so unchristian. I found myself defending your books, even though I had never read them. I said, “These books will expand a child’s imagination and help them think more creatively about spiritual things!” I must’ve sounded convincing because I silenced the whole room. That, or I scared them by the intensity of my conviction. I do that sometimes. Even after defending you, I didn’t read your books.
After switching colleges, I graduated and moved out of the dorms. One of my roommates was a girl named Mary who was six feet tall and had no less than four feet of red hair. She spoke favorably of The Chronicles of Narnia. Since I deemed her an intelligent person, I decided to read them. I don’t do anything part way. I binge-read all of them like a serious bibliophile. I still didn’t like “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” very much, but I loved “A Horse and His Boy” and “The Magicians Nephew” and “The Silver Chair.” I’ve read them three times now, and I listen to dramatized versions on road trips with my children.
One passage intrigues me more than any other. It is found in “The Last Battle.” An honorable young man named Emeth, who served a false God, Tash, found himself in Aslan’s Country. Emeth knew when he saw the huge lion that Aslan must be the true God. Since he had served Tash his whole life, Emeth was prepared to die for his insolence. Aslan, who could’ve destroyed him, said, “Thou art welcome.” And then the lion added, “all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me.” Emeth was confused and asked how this could be, so Aslan explained further, “no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.” I immediately wondered if this way of thinking could be applied to my own faith. I know many “Christians” who do dishonorable things and many people who are not “Christian” who do good things. Could it be that God will credit the good things that people do as service to him, though they do not know whom they serve?
This concept is not foreign to the Bible. Jesus alludes to that very idea in his parable of the sheep and the goats. The “sheep” go to heaven but they don’t seem to understand why. They are simply told, “Whatever you did for one the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40)
Many people have shown me great kindness and yet never called themselves “Christian.” I have faith that God knows their names though they don’t yet know his. Some people disagree with this line of thinking. It might even be called heretical. But I will always place my hope in the generosity of my master, which in my case, is God. And God will not disappoint.
I’m writing to say thank you for composing these marvelous books. They have helped me to think more deeply and creatively about spiritual things. Although your stories lack boogers and farts, anyone who loves children’s literature should read them. But I hope they will avoid the cartoon version. It is vastly inferior.
Your close and personal friend,