Japan’s Narnia Outreach Network Prepares for Release of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
By Paul Nethercott
"Any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people's minds under the cover of romance without their knowing it." (C.S. Lewis)
In 2003, Ken Taylor (vice-president of JEMA) and I met in Tokyo with Mark Joseph, Japan M.K. (“missionary kid”) and a professional in the entertainment industry. At this meeting Mark told us that Walden Media would be making “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (the first book in “The Chronicles of Narnia” series by C.S. Lewis) into a feature-length film. Mark was instrumental in the film’s early development and in setting up Walden’s partnership with Disney, the film’s distributor. This initial meeting with Mark resulted in formation of the Narnia Outreach Network (NON), an ad hoc group committed to using media to communicate the gospel effectively to the millions of Japanese who are not being reached by other means. By promoting creativity, cooperation, communication, and collaboration, NON is mobilizing the Christian community to respond effectively to the opportunities presented by the Narnia movie.
NON is discussing many exciting possibilities for outreach in Japan related to the Narnia movie (see below). Disney, distributor of the movie worldwide, has expressed willingness to work with the Christian community in Japan; we don’t know any specifics yet, but there is an open channel of communication at high levels and assurances of cooperation.
Several issues, however, could reduce an effective response to this opportunity. The issue of most concern is that Christians in Japan and around the world will fail to catch a vision for how God can use this story by C.S. Lewis to soften the hearts of the Japanese. Full of redemptive themes, with clear analogies to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this movie could have a profound spiritual impact on many Japanese.
Another issue that could potentially reduce a positive Christian response is an old boycott of Disney that had been organized by the American Family Association. Actually, that is now a non-issue. The boycott is officially over (see Q & A section for details).
The theology of C.S Lewis has been another concern. Ray Leaf, President of JEMA (Japan Evangelical Missionary Association) addressed this issue in this way: “I have read many of C.S. Lewis’ works and have always appreciated his unique way of approaching people with the Christian message. By using stories and myths to open their thinking to the possibility of realities beyond materialism, C.S. Lewis is a brilliant apologist. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is one such story that powerfully speaks to unseen realities. I would classify him as an eclectic Anglican/Arminian. I don't think that he is consistent in his mixing of theology, mythology, and philosophy. He allows himself that kind of intellectual freedom by disclaiming any authority as a theologian. I believe that we need to take Professor Lewis as he presented himself without trying to fit him into a mold that satisfies our theological concerns. In the essentials of the faith he was orthodox, and for that we should rejoice.”
Think of it, a few months from now millions of Japanese will be going to see a movie that has the potential of leading them into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Let’s be praying, let’s dream big, let’s use our creativity to respond in ways that will be effective.
Q & A<><><><><><><><><>
Q. Disney is distributing the Narnia movie. What about the boycott of Disney, the one organized by a group of Christians?
A. “After initiating a boycott against the Walt Disney Company in 1996, the AFA has decided to end the campaign, citing new challenges in the culture wars and some positive signs at Disney” (AFA Web Site).
Q. Is the movie going to be faithful to the original story by C.S. Lewis?
A. The stepson of C.S. Lewis, Douglas Gresham, is co-producer of the movie. It is a labor of love for him and he is deeply committed to making sure the movie is done “right.”
Q. Is this movie primarily for young children?
A. No, young children will be frightened by it. Much like “Lord of the Rings” (realistic looking monsters and battle scenes), this movie is for older children and adults.
Q. I have ideas for other Narnia related outreaches in Japan. How can I let people know about them?
A. Please post them on this blog.
Q. When will the movie be released?
A. December 9, 2005 in the US, March 2006 in Japan.
Q. Will a large number of Japanese see this film?
A. This may be one of the biggest blockbusters of all time. Millions of Japanese, young and old will probably see this movie, if not initially at a movie theatre, later on DVD and/or TV.
Q. Is this a big-budget movie?
A. The budget will exceed 150 million dollars.
Q. Is this a “Christian” movie?
A. It is a mainstream movie based on a story created by the author C.S. Lewis, who was a Christian. It contains Christian images and themes but it is not explicitly a “Christian” movie.
Q. Who is the director of the movie?
A. Andrew Adamson (co-director of “Shrek”).
Q. Is there concern about Christians misusing this opportunity?
A. Yes, there is a danger that explicitly Christian responses to this movie will alienate rather than draw Japanese to Jesus. We need to figure out how we can present the gospel in a winsome, non-threatening manner that is “in tune” with the original story by C.S. Lewis. This will not be easy.
Quotes by C.S. Lewis<><><><><><><><>
“…art can teach without at all ceasing to be art” (A Letter to I.O. Evans).
“Christ died for men precisely because men are not worth dying for; to make them worth it” (The World’s Last Night).
“’You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,’” said the Lion” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).
“Poetry too is a little incarnation, giving body to what had been before invisible and inaudible” (Reflections on the Psalms).
“’Yes,’ said Queen Lucy ‘in our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world’” (The Last Battle).
“Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver…’Who said anything about safe?‘ ‘ Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you’” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).
“’Then instantly the pale brightness of the mist and the fiery brightness of the Lion rolled themselves together into a swirling glory and gathered themselves up and disappeared’” (The Horse and His Boy).
“’When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards’” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).
Check for Narnia related Japanese language resources through your favorite Christian bookstore. Some that are being planned or currently available include:
• Several articles featuring The Chronicles of Narnia and C.S. Lewis in the November 2005 issue of Hyakumannin no Fukuin (Gospel for the Millions) magazine.
• A translation of Christine Ditchfield’s A FAMILY GUIDE TO NARNIA (Crossway) by CS Seicho Center.
• Tracts based on a Narnia theme. These will be available from a number of organizations, including Every Home Crusade, Word of Life Press, and New Life League, Japan.
• A guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia by a Japanese author, specifically oriented toward non-Christians (Word of Life Press, Forest Books division)
• Japan Campus Crusade for Christ (JCCC) has an interactive Japanese Narnia website that includes material on what the story means, study guides in Eng & Japanese, and a message board for readers to post comments.
• Buena Vista Pictures Distribution/Walden Media LLC is freely licensing a wide variety of high quality downloadable movie posters, postcards, bulletin inserts, flyers, web banners, IM icons, desktop wallpaper and screen savers for non-profit, non-commercial use. This is mainly to help schools, churches, and other organizations promote the U.S. movie release, as all of the materials are in English. However, these materials could be used creatively with English classes, in international churches, etc., in preparation for the Japan release. http://www.narniaresources.com/