- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Critical failure

“[C.S.] Lewis, as many adult readers have long known, was a devout Christian apologist and literary scholar whose spiritual beliefs are reflected in the seven volumes that comprise ‘The Chronicles of Narnia.’ Some liberals, like the popular children’s author Philip Pullman, therefore dismiss him out of hand, claiming that the books amount to pernicious proselytizing. … Other secular critics argue that the books succeed despite the Christian elements — which they agree are the weakest part. On the flip side of the debate are Christians who see ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ as fundamentally Christian, and … are hopeful that the movie will be presented as such. Whatever the differences among these critics, they all essentially agree that Christianity must be at the heart of any serious analysis of C.S. Lewis’ work. …

“Judging the Narnia books solely by their Christianity is an impoverished way of reading them. It is a reflection more of our polarized moment — in which a perceived cultural divide has alienated Christians from secular culture and secular readers from anything that smacks of religious leanings — than of the relative aesthetic merits and weaknesses of Lewis’ books.”

— Meghan O’Rourke, writing on “The Lion King,” Friday in Slate at www.slate.com

‘Reticent ally’

“Pro-lifers turned out last November to vote for President Bush over John Kerry. All criticism was put aside as pro-lifers waxed ecstatic, with an immense sense of relief and thanksgiving, that Bush had won a second term….

Yet, sober minds knew that Bush would continue to be a strangely reticent ally. …

“Bush’s silence on life issues has had political consequences. It has given Democrats an opening to start moving toward the center on abortion, so that even Sen. Hillary Clinton speaks of ‘respect’ for pro-lifers and dusted off her husband’s ‘safe but rare’ rhetoric…. The problem is Bush’s reluctance to speak on abortion, a reluctance that has been part of a policy fixed in his makeup and critical to his political design.”

— Stephen Vincent in “The Road Ahead” in the Human Life Review

Sci-fi facts

“Robot dogs and cloning are not the only developments anticipated in ‘Sleeper’ that have come to pass. Near the beginning of Woody Allen’s 1973 science fiction comedy, a doctor remarks that steak, cream pies, and deep-fried foods once ‘were thought to be unhealthy — precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.’ We seem to hear similar news every month or so.

“Our latest Sleeper moment came when researchers announced that drinkers are less prone to obesity than teetotalers. The idea that one holiday indulgence could help protect us from the consequences of another has understandable appeal this time of year. But the hope that the things we like are also good for us springs eternal in a society where many people are irrationally anxious about pursuing pleasure for its own sake. …

“Although alcohol can be at least partly redeemed, it seems tobacco has been irrevocably condemned. Explaining the World Health Organization’s new policy against hiring anyone who admits to using tobacco in any form, a WHO spokesman [said ]: ‘With tobacco, there is no middle ground. It is black and white.’”

— Jacob Sullum, writing on “Permission for Pleasure,” Dec. 7 in Reason Online at www.salon.com

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