What Would Aslan Do?

When you read C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series, you know you’re in the hands of a writer who comprehends the nature of good and evil. So when I read this weekend that Christine O’Donnell, the Republican running for the Senate in Delaware, had compared the Tea Party – and herself, by implication — to Aslan, Lewis’s beloved lion who sacrificed himself to save humanity, I found myself asking: What would Aslan do with this?

O’Donnell took one of literature’s most powerful symbols of Christ and tried to link it to what she calls a ”revolution of reason.” The Tea Party, she said, “isn’t tame, but boy, it sure is good.” As one of the millions of readers who love Lewis’s  wise and wonderful fantasies, I say, Take your hands off that lion. I knew that lion, and you, miss, are no lion.

The seemingly sweet association called forth by the woman from Delaware (well, for the last six years) echoes the scene in the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where the four Penvensie children meet the awe-inspiring Aslan. The beast is “not safe but good,” they concur. But as you venture into the ethical territory Lewis explored with his Christlike character,  O’Donnell’s allusion soon reveals its own twisted, arrogant nature.

Aslan, the king of Narnia, is the golden-maned beast that will restore spring to a world drained of warmth and color. Lewis uses two characters, Aslan and the White Witch, to reveal the contrast between good and evil. Goodness, as evoked by Aslan is warm, wise, mysterious, exciting. Evil, symbolized by the White Witch, is cold, cruel, destructive, colorless.

Most tellingly, the two characters use their immense powers differently.  Although Aslan has the ability to destroy, he unleashes his power only in the service of humanity. The Witch, on the other hand, is self-serving and deceitful. She tempts one of the children, Edmund, with enchanted Turkish Delight: “She knew, though Edmund did not, that … anyone who tasted it would want more and more of it.” This fiendish sweet does not satisfy hunger, it increases it. Under this influence, Edmund betrays Aslan and his siblings. Here’s how Aslan deals with the traitor: He forgives him. He talks to Edmund and then brings him back to his siblings, saying “… there is no need to talk to him about what is past.”  If words of kindness or respect have appeared anywhere in the Tea Party, I’ve somehow missed it.

C.S. Lewis created a character that resembled Christ in word and in deed. Aslan was not only merciful. He changed people for the better. He knew the other side was powerful, but he also knew that the Witch’s magic “goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back … she would have read there a different incantation.”  Wisdom, as Lewis so beautifully shows us, requires perspective and patience.

“Wrong will be right when Aslan comes in sight,” wrote Lewis.  Aslan will not be seen at this party. But watch for trays of Turkish Delight.

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