June 2004

Chris Zammarelli

banned bookslut

Faith is best expressed in story

ABC aired an adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time last month. In an interview with Newsweek, writer Melinda Henneberger asked her, “And did it meet expectations?” L’Engle replied, “Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is.”

The Newberry Award-winning author is known for her outspokenness, especially when it comes to attacks on her work. Conceived as a Christian allegory, A Wrinkle in Time has frequently been challenged by fundamentalist Christians for having a New Age theme and for promoting witchcraft.

For example, many who read the novel assume the character Mrs. Which is meant to be a witch. The fact that other characters are named Mrs. Who and Mrs. Whatsit seem to indicate that Mrs. Which’s name wasn’t meant to be a homophone. L’Engle said the character “is not a witch at all but a wise old woman.”

The book has also been challenged in Alabama for listing Jesus’s name in with other religious, artistic, and scientific figures who in the book protect the earth from evil. Meanwhile, a parent in Indiana protested using the novel in a middle school class because of what was perceived as Satanic imagery on the front cover.

While L’Engle felt “I was really ‘in’ because people were condemning [A Wrinkle in Time]," she added, “But they were Christians, mostly, and that made me very sad.”

She told Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, “You have got to be very careful of banning. What you ban is not going to hurt anybody, usually. But the act of banning is.”

One of the reasons her work is controversial, she believes, is “the Fundalets (referring to fundamentalist Christians) want a closed system, and I want an open system.” Moreover, as she told Newsweek, “I’m against people taking the Bible absolutely literally, rather than letting some of it be real fantasy, like Jonah. You know, the whole story of David is a novel.”

When asked, given her view of the Bible, whether or not it should be taken seriously, L’Engle responded, “Oh no, you do, because it’s truth, not fact, and you have to take truth seriously even when it expands beyond the facts.”

Her pragmatic religious beliefs expand into the field of science, another area where she differs from many of her critics. She explained to Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, “Religion and science? One and the same. I don't have any trouble with it. A lot of people do. They have to put one here and one there. And I think they're much more like that, each one informing the other.”

She added, “Religion is less accepting than science. Science knows things move and change, and religion doesn't want that. So, I am more comfortable with science.”

All that said, L’Engle isn’t “throwing God out the window.” To those trust in science over religion, she says, “I dare you to believe in God... It takes a lot of intellect to have faith, which is why so many people only have religiosity.”

For her, “Faith is best expressed in story.” She has written extensively about her religious beliefs, and she feels the best writing
is infused with faith. “One reason I stay in the Episcopal Church I was born in is it’s got the best language.”

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Yearling Books
ISBN: 0440498058
240 Pages