Friday, December 09, 2005

Narnia, Evangelicals & Catholics

I mentioned in the comments in a recent post the observations some are making these days about how some Catholics are starting to look like evangelicals, and some evangelicals like Catholics. Andrew Greeley expresses a similar thought in a discussion of Narnia in today's Chicago Sun Times:

it seems to me that the evangelicals slip dangerously close to Catholic idolatry when they embrace a wondrous allegory as a summary of the biblical story. Jesus is not and never was a lion like Aslan in the film. To interpret him as a lion is to go light years beyond literal, word-for-word inerrancy. The evangelical enthusiasm about the sufferings of Jesus in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" put them one step away, it seemed to me, from importing crucifixes and Stations of the Cross into their churches. I'm afraid that their enthusiasm for both films shows just how seductive the Catholic temptation is. We delight in pictures and stories and allegories and symbols and signs because they appeal to the whole human person and not just to the rigid, rational mind.

We are a church designed for the media age with its deluge of pictures and stories -- though we usually don't know what to do with the opportunity.

There are certainly risks in this Catholic imagination, superstition and idolatry among others -- though it does make the world a warmer and a more human place.

Gibson's imagination is certainly Catholic, though perhaps with a certain masochistic twist. In his retelling of the Gospel in allegorical form, C.S. Lewis goes back to the miracle and morality plays of the Middle Ages, in a sense as if the Reformation never happened.

However, I think someone should warn the evangelicals that they are playing with, one should excuse the expression, fire. They are drifting into an imaginative world where the Whore of Babylon lives and dominates. They had better beware. They are sliding towards oblivion on the day of the Rapture.

On the other hand, many Catholics ashamed of their imaginative heritage may be drifting in the opposite direction.

Hat tip to Amy Welborn.

Read the rest here.


Anonymous A said...

Maybe I'm missing something, but I fail to see the problem here exactly. The way I see it, many "evangelicals"--if they can still be called that or would still call themselves that, perhaps "post-evangelical" would be better, and indeed some have already used this term--are finding many ways in which their own theology has impoversihed them, and they find a remedy for that impovershment--at least in part--in appropriation of many aspects of Roman Catholic liturgical expressions. To me (and for me, I might add) this is nad has been a needed re-balancing of things that were "babies thrown out with the bathwater" of the Reformation. Yes, I recognize that there are inherent dangers in any extreme, whether it be a Catholic or an Evangelical one, but I don't see this as what many of the evangelicals and ex-evangelicals who are becoming "more Catholic" are doing. And I speak as someone who has come from their ranks.

Of course, in my own case, being someone who cannot stop until a logical conclusion of one's thought and direction is reached, have crossed a threshold where I came to know that I should just be Catholic then. I began some time ago to feel like a Catholic in my heart, and so I am in process to make that an official reality. I would not be so bold as to suggest that any other ex-evangelical should follow that path; I am not a Roman Catholic apologist, but that has been the path that I have trod and am trodding.

On the other hand, I'll be real honest here (and hope to not offend anyone): When I, as someone recently from evangelicalism, run smack in to Catholic expressions that look and feel and taste exactly like what I just came from...I'm not fond of that.... Perhaps if those folks were following the logical conclusion of their thought and practice (as I am trying to do) they would just go be evangelicals then....

Or perhaps I see this in too black and white terms...that is possible. For I will confess that I am a theological and ideological mutt, taking my influences from a host of places, including Charismatic, Anabaptist, Quaker, and Charismatic and Evangelical sources (sort of reluctantly admitting to the last two in some ways--nevertheless they are a part of my heritage).

Cross-Polination. A good thing or a bad thing? Maybe it's both depending.... I sure don't have all the anwers; I'm still workin' it out each day as I travel. Sorry for another lengthy comment....

1:58 PM  
Blogger Mark Mossa, SJ said...


I don't think Greeley's saying there is a problem necessarily. He's a sociologsit and just wants people to recognize what's going on.

I think he's also sending a message to those who have lost touch with their tradition and don't even realize it.

Also, the Catholic cultural identity is strong. It would be a pretty big leap for a Catholic to just run off and become an evangelical, even if he or she realized inclinations in that direction.


4:14 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

I thought it was interesting that Greeley didn't say more about Catholics becoming evangelicals. I wish he had because that's an interesting phenomina too.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Jen P said...

Rather off-point (but on-topic), I saw it this afternoon and enjoyed it far more than I had expected. I thought I'd like it but it seemed -- by previews -- to err on the Tolkeinesque. Totally the wrong dynamic, in my opinion. Narnia is small and personal, not enormous and impressive. But this Narnia was almost everything it should have been -- Lucy was wonderful and the White Witch female without being at all feminine. Impressive and totally enjoyable. It has me wondering about Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, now.

11:05 PM  

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