Of Mice & Marshwiggles – Day 21 – Meetings
Setting the Scene: Shift the Ape is trying to persuade the Narnians that the Calormenes he has called into Narnia are there at Aslan’s bidding instead of his own.
‘Please,’ said the Lamb, ‘I can’t understand. What have we to do with the Calormenes? We belong to Aslan. They belong to Tash. They have a god called Tash. They say he has four arms and the head of a vulture. They kill men on his altar. I don’t believe there’s any such person as Tash. But if there was, how could Aslan be friends with him?’
All the animals cocked their heads sideways and all their bright eyes flashed towards the Ape. They knew it was the best question anyone had asked yet.
The Ape jumped up and spat at the Lamb.
‘Baby!’ he hissed. ‘Silly little bleater! Go home to your mother and drink milk. What do you understand of such things? But you others, listen. Tash is only another name for Aslan. All that old idea of us being right and the Calormenes wrong is silly. We know better now. The Calormenes use different words but we all mean the same thing. Tash and Aslan are only two different names for You Know Who. That’s why there can never be any quarrel between them. Get that into your heads, you stupid brutes. Tash is Aslan: Aslan is Tash.’
The Last Battle – Chapter 3 – The Ape in its Glory
We have used the Bible as if it were a Special Constable’s handbook, an opium dose for keeping beasts of burden patient while they are being overloaded.
Revd Charles Kingsley – Politics and the People 1848
It is often surprising to discover that the Christian Socialists of the mid-Victorian era and Karl Marx had much in common. However the quote from Canon Charles Kingsley – a London cleric – shows that there has to be a great deal of care when working with the faith of the People of God.
Shift the Ape is well aware of the power religion has to control and coerce people and has used it extensively and wickedly to enslave the Narnians to the Calormenes so that he could keep himself in nuts and ill-fitting clothes. It is a sad story about blind obedience to a religion and should warn us against a faith which is devoid of personal experience of God. Shift can exercise power because Aslan has become so mysterious and all the sayings about Aslan which have built the Narnians faith in him (after all Aslan is not a ‘tame lion’) are turned around by the scheming Ape.
Of course Shift soon becomes the puppet of the Calormenes and it does not take long before Shift’s interchangeable gods become merged into the one all powerful Tashlan. No wonder, after being tricked once, the mantra of the people of the earth becomes ‘The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.’
In religions throughout the world, and within Christianity, there are far too many ‘leaders’ who are like the gentiles about whom Jesus complains. Lording it over the people instead of being the servants of all. How far removed Shift and his like from the Suffering Servant who ‘did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many?’
How do we resist these selfish people who use the faith of others to line their own pockets?
There are several things.
1) Our fellowships must become places of refuge for those who are ejected and belittled by the power hungry – places where little lambs may come and find healing and renewed faith.
2) We should not be afraid to stand for the truth when leaders within our faith are preaching a gospel which not only interchanges the names for God but in the end drinks deep at the pool of syncretism.
3) This does not mean we do not work with people of different faiths – tomorrow’s story is a wonderful revelation of C.S. Lewis’ view on faiths other than his own – but we must be clear that the message we preach always calls us to serve others before we serve ourselves.
If we are not careful we end up speaking our own words instead of proclaiming the Word of the Lord.
Lift up our hearts, O Christ,
above the false shows of things,
above laziness and fear,
above selfishness and covetousness,
above whim and fashion,
up to the everlasting Truth that you are;
that we may live joyfully and freely,
in the faith that you are our King and our Saviour,
our Example and our Judge,
and that, so long as we are loyal to you,
all will ultimately be well.
in ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ © Angela Ashwin – Compiler
Pray for those who worship on the extreme edges of the faith (both conservative and liberal) that they, with us, might always hear the voice of God before the voice of any other.
Some of the loneliest people are those who, like the lamb in our story, have been evicted from the faith. Pray for those who are ejected from church fellowships as well as those who feel they have to leave, that God would bring them comfort healing and restoration.
Consider whether you use parts of your own faith to compel people to follow your own will before following the will of God.
© Andrew Dotchin 2018