Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tash is Aslan: Aslan is Tash

From The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis (Book 7 in The Chronicles of Narnia):

"Please, please," said the high voice of a wooly lamb, who was so young that everyone was surprised he dared to speak at all.

"What is it now? said the Ape, "Be quick."

"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 toward 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."

You know how sad your own dog's face can look sometimes. Think of that and then think of the faces of all those Talking Beasts--all those honest, humble, bewildered birds, bears, badgers, rabbits, moles, and mice--all far sadder than that. Every tail was down, every whisker drooped. It would have broken your heart to see their faces.


Up till now the King and Jewel had said nothing. They were waiting until the Ape should bid them speak, for they thought it was no use interrupting. But now, as Tirian looked round on the miserable faces of the Narnians, and thought how they would all believe that Aslan and Tash were one and the same, he could bear it no longer.

"Ape," he cried, "You lie. You lie damnably. You lie like a Calormene. You lie like an Ape"

He meant to go on and ask how the terrible god Tash who fed on the blood of his people could be the same as the good Lion by whose blood all Narnia was saved. If he had been allowed to speak, the rule of the Ape might have ended that day; the Beasts might have seen the truth and thrown the Ape down. But before he could say another word two Calormenes struck him in the mouth with all their force, and a third, from behind, kicked his feet from under him. And as he fell, the Ape squealed in rage and terror:

"Take him away. Take him away. Take him where he cannot hear us, nor we hear him. There tie him to a tree. I will--I mean, Aslan will--do justice to him later.

From an NPR interview, by Robin Young, with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:

RY: TIME Magazine asked you an interesting question, we thought, "Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?" And your answer, equally interesting, you said "We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box." And I read that and I said "What are you: a Unitarian?!?" [laughs] What are you-- that is another concern for people, because, they say Scripture says that Jesus says he was The Light and The Way and the only way to God the Father.

KJS: Christians understand that Jesus is the route to God. Umm-- that is not to say that Muslims, or Sikhs, or Jains, come to God in a radically different way. They come to God through... human experience... through human experience of the divine. Christians talk about that in terms of Jesus.

RY: So you're saying there are other ways to God.

KJS: Uhh... human communities have always searched for relationship that which is beyond them.. with the ultimate.. with the divine. For Christians, we say that our route to God is through Jesus. Uhh.. uh..that doesn't mean that a Hindu.. uh.. doesn't experience God except through Jesus. It-it-it says that Hindus and people of other faith traditions approach God through their.. own cultural contexts; they relate to God, they experience God in human relationships, as well as ones that transcend human relationships; and Christians would say those are our experiences of Jesus; of God through the experience of Jesus.

RY: It sounds like you're saying it's a parallel reality, but in another culture and language.

KJS: I think that's accurate.. I think that's accurate.

Here is what I wish the Presiding Bishop had said.

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