Wait, What? Christian Themes Written Out of 'A Wrinkle In Time'

Oprah Winfrey arrives at the world premiere of "A Wrinkle in Time" at the El Capitan Theatre on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

I was 10 or 11 the first time I read Madeleine L’Engle’s brilliant book, “A Wrinkle In Time,” and it had a profound effect on me. Primarily because, as a Catholic who attended church every Sunday (thanks to my God-fearing mother), I also had a physics and space nerd living in my soul (thanks to my self-taught astronomer(ish) father and Star Wars). And L’Engle’s book gracefully married the two and gave it to children — to me — in a way we could understand.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it was a revelation to me. I could be both things. They weren’t opposed to each other. At the time, I didn’t even know there were huge, centuries-old debates about the schism between the two modes of thought. That came later as I learned more of the world.

L’Engle’s nugget of knowledge led me to C.S. Lewis, who dealt with the same metaphysical themes of man’s creation in relation to science and even space travel. It was there in college when my astronomy professor told us about the radius inside a black hole where our scientific calculations failed and we should ask our priests or religious leaders what happened after that because the scientific community had no answer. And it was there during a History of Philosophy course when my professor asserted that the ancients (Greeks, ancient Chinese, Sumerians) had a more sophisticated approach to these things because they didn’t feel the need to separate technology from religion.

I just knew that L’Engle was the start of my acceptance of these lessons, the one who originally gave me my two passions in one story that celebrated the genius of the main character — a girl! — who had a deep and abiding love for her father.

And the father the girl is seeking in “A Wrinkle In Time” is a Christian allegory for the search for the heavenly Father. L’Engle, as a devout Christian, was specific about that.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Hollywood has apparently eschewed the brilliance of my professors and the ancient scientists and philosophers and great men of the word like C.S. Lewis by writing the Christian elements out of the screenplay of the upcoming film adaptation of the book because we’ve “progressed as a society”.

I would say this is mere hubris, but I think it’s even more diabolical. I think it smells more like fear. Not fear of Christianity necessarily (except inasmuch as it requires adherents to subscribe to an ethical standard, and Hollywood’s not keen on that); but fear of diminishing ticket sales and future work.

As Domenech notes, L’Engle, while a Christian, was also pretty in line politically with liberalism. Which makes the decision even weirder.

And I always supposed some of the film’s stars — notably Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon — were also Christians as well as liberals. So, what, pray tell, is the problem with including what L’Engle was overtly and specifically writing about? The screenwriter has this to say:

I never got to meet [L’Engle] – but one of the reasons it had that strong Christian element to it wasn’t just because she was Christian, but because she was frustrated with things that needed to be said to her in the world and she wasn’t finding a way to say it and she wanted to stay true to her faith. And I respect that and I understand those feelings of things you want to say in the world that need to be said that are out there. In a good way, I think there are a lot of elements of what she wrote that we have progressed as a society and we can move onto the other elements. In a sad way, some of the other elements are more important right now and bigger – sort of this fight of light against darkness. It’s a universal thing and timeless and seems to be a battle that has to keep being had.

Ms. Lee, in the event no one’s told you, Christianity concerns itself almost primarily with “this fight of light against darkness.” As early man and woman lay staring at the stars, they began to formulate ideas that were “universal…and timeless” because they knew somewhere in there was the true purpose of life; this “battle that has to keep being had.”

It’s disrespectful to them and the millions of believers around the world to suggest they didn’t think of these things first and then set about building a movement around them that, at least originally, had nothing to do with profit margins.