Liam Neeson made headlines this week for all the wrong reasons. While discussing his role as Aslan in the new Narnia, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Neeson tried to downplay the Christian symbolism in the character. The actor told the London newspaper The Daily Mail “Aslan symbolizes a Christ-like figure, but he also symbolizes for me Mohammed, Buddha, and all the great prophets and spiritual leaders over the centuries.” The quote upset many Narnia fans who believe Neeson is being disrespectful to the original vision of C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia books. Neeson is reportedly a practicing Catholic.
Walter Hooper, who was once Lewis’ secretary and now serves as trustee of the author’s estate, called Neeson’s comments an attempt to be multicultural and politically correct and insisted that “It is nothing whatever to do with Islam…I don’t know Liam Neeson or what he is thinking about…but it was not Lewis’s intention.”
William Oddie, editor of The Catholic Herald, called Neeson’s comments “a betrayal of Lewis’ intention and a shameful distortion. Aslan is clearly established from the very beginning of the whole canon as being a Christ figure.”
A poll of Narnia fans conducted by OneNewsNow.com found 48% believe the comments were based in a Hollywood mentality to embrace a theology that wouldn’t offend in order to make more money. 30% think Neeson was motivated by multiculturalism.
While I respect Neeson as an actor, I find his comments to be nothing more than politically correct pandering. It sounds like a desperate attempt to appeal to Muslims and Buddhists to see the film, as if admitting that Aslan is a Christ-like figure is a divisive thing. For decades, most people, Christian or not, have had no problem with the Christian symbolism in the Narnia books or movies. Yet, Hollywood now feels the need to downplay the influence of faith. Does anyone ever have a problem with the eastern religious influences in films like Star Wars? Why should those involved with Narnia have to make excuses or apologies?
Neeson’s comments reflect an attitude held in much of Hollywood not to appear too Jesus-friendly. This same mindset was seen when Mel Gibson made The Passion of the Christ. For Neeson, appearing to be ashamed of acknowledging the influence of Christianity while still cashing checks for playing Aslan seems a bit hypocritical. Next time, perhaps Neeson should ask himself “What Would Aslan Do?”
Source: One News Now