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What Can Cure Wokeness? The Smell of Burnt Marshwiggle


In another brilliant parable, C.S. Lewis shows that when the world’s enchantment tries to convince us that the Bible isn’t true and God isn’t real, Christians must “do the brave thing” by putting their foot in the fire and then politely but firmly state the truth.

One of the most powerful moments from the entire Chronicles of Narnia series occurs in The Silver Chair. Here, we find Jill, Eustice, and a disheartened Marshwiggle named Puddleglum embarking on a perilous journey deep into the earth to “Underland” in search of the rightful king of Narnia, Prince Rilian. Rilian had been captured by the Emerald Witch many years ago, and now Aslan had sent the three to find and bring him back to the throne.

The unlikely heroes — truly, a motley crew — eventually find him on their impossible rescue journey. They reach their target, bring him back to his senses, and attempt to lead him out of the witch’s lair — out of Underland and back to Narnia. In short, from death to life.

But the witch intercepts them right as they are about to leave. In her conversation with them, she distracts them and discretely puts a magic powder on the fire that, when it starts to fill the air, gives off a “sweet and drowsy” smell. She then begins to play soft music. The combination of the magic powder and the music makes the rescuers forget why they came, what they were doing, and even where they came from: The real world, Narnia.

Her spell works. They begin to lose touch with reality. Narnia and the world above slip out of their concrete recollection and into the world of dreams. Lewis writes,

“Just when the enchantment was almost complete, Puddleglum, desperately gathering all of his strength, walked over to the fire. Then he did a very brave thing…with his bare foot, he stamped out the fire. And the pain itself made Puddleglum’s head for a moment perfectly clear and he knew exactly what he really thought. There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic.”

Puddleglum goes on to tell the witch that, even if she is right, even if their world isn’t real, it’s far better than the black pit she lives in. He says, “I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live like a Narnian even if there isn’t any Narnia…so we are leaving at once.”

It might not come in the form of underground witches and magic powder on a fire, but every day there are hundreds of dark and evil spells cast on our minds that aim to cause us to forget the truth and lose our own grip on what’s real. The world’s enchantment — advertising, social media, and cultural campaigns — wants to bewitch you just the same. They want to tell you that the Bible isn’t real, that God isn’t real, that Jesus was just a man, and that Christian obedience and Christian holiness are backward, ugly, and hateful.

The sexual revolution tells you that pornography is freedom, fornication is fine, and that men can be women. Drag Queen story hour is a blessing of liberty. Sodomy is just part of our “sacred democracy” now. You can’t even imagine a time when Christian sexual ethics like abstinence or the true Christian model of the family — one man and one woman in a committed monogamous marriage for life aiming to be fruitful and multiply in obedience to God’s good commands — was the norm in America.

Just like the smell came off that fire with the Witch’s enchantment, it comes to us today through our phones, computers, and social media. It lulls us into indifference, beckons us to compromise.

So if you find yourself tempted…or getting fuzzy…and starting to doubt the truth of the Bible and the reality of God’s creation order, then you need to do something brave. You need to put your foot into the fire of repentance, feel the pain, clear your head of that mind-numbing magic, and come back to the real world. Remind yourself of the truth — and the truth will set you free.

Because we know the truth: The God of the Bible isn’t made up. We are on God’s side — and there is a God! We should live like Christians because there is a Christ-country that is our true home and inheritance. It might sound insane to this world, but that’s okay.

If you aspire to live a faithful and fruitful Christian life, to really live the good life, or to grow as a Christian leader, you must fight to remember the truth — the shining sun and the cool breeze of living in wisdom and obedience before God — and then stand for it, even if the world makes it sound crazy.

Sometimes you might even need to put your foot in the fire, so to speak, for your sake and others. Sometimes you just need to politely but firmly say, “No, I won’t use your pronouns” or “No, men can’t become women.”  

This act of courage might cost you. It might sting. You might burn some social capital. But that smell might just wake others up.

I don’t think we’ve reached “peak wokeness.” This insidious ideology will stick around for quite some time, I fear. But The Silver Chair and Mr. Lewis provide an unlikely cure: Burnt Marshwiggle. Or, in our modern context, clear, brave, and bold speech.

And yes, waking people up out of the spiritual stupor and sickness of wokeness will require courage. After all, as Lewis said, Puddleglum did do a very brave thing when he put his foot into the fire.

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