Christians are so pessimistic. Recently, media giant Netflix purchased the rights to the complete Chronicles of Narnia series. That’s right, the entire storyline. All seven books following the adventures of British children in a fantasy-land ruled by a messianic lion. As an avid fan of the books (less-so the Disney movie adaptations), I was thrilled. And then I read the comments. Never, ever, read the comments. Within minutes of the announcement, Christians around the world were openly wondering how Netflix was going to remove the “Christian” elements of the story to make it more palatable. Insert facepalm emoji.
First things first, C.S. Lewis himself said that the Chronicles series was not an allegory. Not everything true of Aslan is true of Christ, and not everything true of the White Witch is true of Satan—on and on, ad infinitum. So to say that the story has “Christian” parts is a shortsighted misunderstanding of what Lewis was doing in this fictional universe. But to go deeper, these comments represent a flawed understanding of the power of story. I believe in stories. They’re like vegetables—integral to our health, but in drastically short supply in most of our lives. Stories feel extraneous to our day-to-day because they don’t present facts. What we think we need are more facts so we can make better decisions that lead to better lives. But what we actually need to do is feel, to believe in something larger than us, to stare down a challenge, to find significance, to practice empathy, to engage a romance. News headlines won’t let us do that. Tweets and texts won’t either. But story will, and it does.
I believe the God of the Bible is, among other things, a storyteller. He left a pretty big story for us in the Bible. And a large portion of that ancient book isn’t rules, or wisdom, or prophecy. It’s narrative, just straight-up story. I believe God’s still writing a story that involves each and every one of us. But when we live on a diet of facts and figures, we miss the beauty of the story unfolding all around us. So I celebrate the new relationship between Netflix and Narnia because it means more people falling into stories. And because I believe there is a master storyteller behind every great tale, it means more people stumbling their way to a self-sacrificial messiah.