In the world of children's literature, some claim "The Chronicles of Narnia" is king.
And in those books, the king of Narnia is a noble lion named Aslan, a royal soul who dies so that others may live.
C. S. Lewis created the figure of Aslan to help children understand the wonder of Christ. And the author did a marvelous job. Lewis, who also wrote "Mere Christianity" and "The Screwtape Letters," was the finest Christian writer of his time.
Now HarperCollins Publishers — along with those in charge of the Lewis estate — plan to rewrite the Narnia books and strip Aslan of all his Christian power. The plan is to fumigate the books for Christianity, to make them less "religious" and more "magical," more like the Harry Potter books — more acceptable to a mainstream audience.
In other words — according to syndicated columnist Joseph Sobran — the idea is to make the stories more multicultural and, along the way, make a truck load of money.
"In an age that regards nothing as obscene," writes Sobran, "the energies of censorship are turned against unseemly expressions of Christianity."
I haven't spoken with my friends who love "The Chronicles of Narnia" about all this, but I can guess their response. They'll react like people going through the stages of grief.
First they'll feel disbelief.
Can the publishers really do that?
Apparently they can. We live in a culture where the most popular Christmas song of all time is "White Christmas," a beautiful, heartfelt song that makes no mention of Christianity.
Then they'd feel annoyance.
What's next? Editing the name of Jesus from the movie "The Robe" and touching up the Sistine Chapel?
Eventually, however, they'll find their way to the point of view that Christians have shared for centuries. Editing Christianity out of the works of C.S. Lewis is simply the world's latest attempt to remove deity from daily life. And, for believers, it is an attempt destined to fail. You can no more edit God out of "Narnia" than eliminate his presence from a brilliant sunset or from the curled up toes of a newborn.
For believers, God is not only found in the pages of the Lewis books, he's in the trees that provided the paper and the machinery that printed the words. He's even in the hands of the man who slices his name from the text.
My Narnia-loving Christian friends might even quote Psalms 19:1
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork.
For them, God fills heaven and earth. And trying to blot his name from "The Chronicles of Narnia" is pretty much like putting on dark glasses and claiming you've demolished the sun.
They'll feel disbelief, then annoyance. Then they'll end up where they always do — feeling sadder about the state of the world and more resolved to stay the course.
In "The Chronicles of Narnia," Aslan the lion is wild, free, soothing and sweet. It will take more than an editor at HarperCollins to tame him. He is what he is.
As columnist Sobran puts it, "One excellent reason for believing in Christ is that after 2,000 years he is still as troubling to the conscience as he was in his own time."