Disney has made a film of CS Lewis' children's book, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Children's author and atheist Philip Pullman is up in arms about this, claiming that "they are stories of racism and thinly veiled religious propaganda that will corrupt children rather than inspiring them."
So does Pullman have the right idea, or does this sound like the atheist version of Christian Evangelists banning Harry Potter books because they promote Paganism? Well Pullman does at least have factual basis for his claims. Lewis was a Christian apologist and has stated that Christianity was a strong influence on the Narnia books. The Narnia books are heavily conservative and I have no reason to doubt Pullman's claim that some of the uglier aspects of Christianity are present.
I remember reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe as a child. Thinking about the book still conjures up vivid mental images, but the Christian symbolism went way over my head. I suspect that Pullman is right that if I read the books today I would find them morally objectionable.
The American religious right has certainly adopted the film as its own and statements such as "We believe that God will speak the gospel of Jesus Christ through this film," are appearing. It seems that Disney is taking advantage of the Christian appeal of the film, but those involved in making the film claim that it is faithful to the themes of the book and doesn't overly stress the religious message. Douglas Gresham, Lewis's nephew was involved in prodicing the film and has said "We never set out to make a 'Christian' movie, the book taps different veins in different people. If we overstressed what little symbolism there is, we would have thrown away the project."
So assuming that it's true that the film projects the same values as the book, is there a problem with the film? Personally, I'd rather see more childrens films that reflect my morality, but I wouldn't want to prevent a film such as this. Children should be exposed to a wide variety of viewpoints and encouraged to develop critical thinking skills so that they can form their own opinions.
However, I'm very concerned with the risk of Christianisation of the film industry. Kyle Fisk of the (American) National Association of Evangelicals has said of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe "There is a big connection between this film and The Passion of the Christ. Mel Gibson proved you can make a film with moral values which could be embraced by people with faith. Hollywood is now waking up to the fact that people want this kind of entertainment. If The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a fabulous movie then we are going to see it used in churches, youth groups and outreach programmes."
The religious right in the US are so numerous that they could have a serious impact on which films get made.
I have to admit that I'm really hoping that the Christians will dislike this film for not being religious enough, or for having scary witches in, or something. I'd hate for Disney to get the message that the Christian market is a realiable source of huge profits.