Nancy Le Tourneau of The Washington Month has alerted me to an article comparing evangelicals supporting Donald Trump to Narnian rebels conjuring up the White Witch in C. S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian. It works for me.
Just because Jerry Falwell, Jr. recently endorsed Trump doesn’t mean that all rightwing Christians are doing so, Le Tourneau observes. Gina Dalfonzo accuses Trump’s Christian supporters of turning to the dark side instead of placing their faith in God and in a more godly candidate.
She has in mind the scene where Prince Caspian and his closest advisors are arguing with the dwarf Nikabrik about how to fight against the tyrannical Telmarine authorities, who have been routing them in battle. Caspian has blown Susan’s fabled horn for help but it doesn’t appear to have done any good. (Actually it has but they don’t know it yet.) Desperate, Nikabrik suggests that they summon the White Witch to save them.
The scene begins with Nikabrik describing their plight:
“To speak plainly,” said Nikabrik, “your wallet’s empty, your eggs addled, your fish uncaught, your promises broken. Stand aside then and let others work. And that is why——”
“The help will come,” said Trufflehunter. “I stand by Aslan. Have patience, like us beasts. The help will come. It may be even now at the door.”
“Pah!” snarled Nikabrik. “You badgers would have us wait till the sky falls and we can all catch larks. I tell you we can’t wait. Food is running short; we lose more than we can afford at every encounter; our followers are slipping away.”
He then introduces two dubious allies that he has brought to the meeting, a hag and a werewolf. While the two monsters share the same enemies as Caspian’s forces, they are not the kind of allies right-minded people should have. The hag, I must say, sounds a bit like a media consultant and the werewolf like a campaign fundraiser (“where I bite I hold till I die”):
Worshipful Master Doctor,” came a thin, whining voice. “So please you, I’m only a poor old woman, I am, and very obliged to his Worshipful Dwarfship for his friendship, I’m sure. His Majesty, bless his handsome face, has no need to be afraid of an old woman that’s nearly doubled up with the rheumatics and hasn’t two sticks to put under her kettle. I have some poor little skill—not like yours, Master Doctor, of course—in small spells and cantrips that I’d be glad to use against our enemies if it was agreeable to all concerned. For I hate ’em. Oh yes. No one hates better than me.”
“That is all most interesting and—er—satisfactory,” said Doctor Cornelius. “I think I now know what you are, Madam. Perhaps your other friend, Nikabrik, would give some account of himself?”
A dull, grey voice at which Peter’s flesh crept replied, “I’m hunger. I’m thirst. Where I bite, I hold till I die, and even after death they must cut out my mouthful from my enemy’s body and bury it with me. I can fast a hundred years and not die. I can lie a hundred nights on the ice and not freeze. I can drink a river of blood and not burst. Show me your enemies.”
Nikabrik then proposes using black sorcery to summon the White Witch:
“I mean a power so much greater than Aslan’s that it held Narnia spellbound for years and years, if the stories are true.”
“The White Witch!” cried three voices all at once, and from the noise Peter guessed that three people had leaped to their feet.
“Yes,” said Nikabrik very slowly and distinctly, “I mean the Witch. Sit down again. Don’t all take fright at a name as if you were children. We want power: and we want a power that will be on our side.”
They say she ruled for a hundred years: a hundred years of winter. There’s power, if you like. There’s something practical.
I can’t tell the extent to which Dalfonzo believes that Barack Obama is like the tyrannical Telmarines. She seems at least sympathetic to such a parallel, describing an America where hope is lost and decent people are being driven to fear and despair:
But Lewis had a remarkable understanding of human nature. He knew what it was like to feel that all hope was lost. And he knew that fear and despair can drive decent people to look for someone, anyone, who projects an appearance of strength.
And further on:
Nikabrik’s fears are legitimate. His enemies are real and powerful and committed to the annihilation of his entire race. He is right to recognize the need for help. He is wrong to decide that help must come from a force equally merciless—wrong when he tells Caspian, “I’ll believe in anyone or anything . . . that’ll batter these cursed Telmarine barbarians to pieces or drive them out of Narnia. Anyone or anything, Aslan or the White Witch, do you understand?”
I hope that Dalfonzo is not hinting here that Trump’s Christian supporters have “legitimate” fears about “annihilation.” Speaking as a liberal Christian, I think such fears are bunk. But I agree with her that those who are fearful should not be relying on an electoral version of black magic and turning to demagogues like Trump. Dalfonzo recognizes a deal with the devil when she sees one:
This is how good people with strong, ingrained values—people who have invested time and money in the sanctity of life, religious liberty, and similarly noble causes—can come to support a man who changes his convictions more often than his shirts. This is how people concerned about the dignity of the office of President end up flocking to a reality-show star who spends his days on Twitter calling people “dumb” and “loser.” This is how some who have professed faith in Jesus Christ are lured by a man who openly puts all his faith in power and money, the very things Christ warned us against prizing too highly. As one wag on Twitter pointed out, “If elected, Donald Trump will be the first US president to own a strip club,” and yet he has the support of Christians who fervently believe that this country needs to clean up its morals.
So yes, let’s put our faith in God and also in democracy. And if conservatives could acknowledge that liberals also have strong ingrained values and believe in the sanctity of life, religious liberty, and other noble causes, that might stem some of the hysteria as well.