Debuting in America on 26 February, the film adaptation of sci-fi classic A Wrinkle In Time has garnered some controversy by removing Christian references from the book’s original story.
A Wrinkle In Time’s author, Madeleine L’Engle, was a devout Christian. This was reflected in the original novel. In that story, a little girl named Meg travels through space to find her missing father. In a battle between good and evil, she is helped by three beings, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. As well as aiding her, these characters quote scripture passages to encourage her. These include John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
According to the scriptwriter of the film adaptation, Jennifer Lee, the film’s creative team removed the story’s Christian elements so as to appeal to a wider audience.
One of the reasons [the book] … 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 … 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.”
Lee argues that in more recent times, the relevant struggles have changed, and so the film needs to emphasise that “all of us have a role to play in this no matter where we come from or what we look like.” She argues that the adaptation has remained true to L’Engle’s original intentions of exploring the power of love and “the ordinary real hero in an extraordinary situation.”
“Her lens through it was Christianity and everyone has a different lens in,” Lee said.
A Controversial Book
This is not the first time that A Wrinkle In Time has been at the heart of controversy. The book has been banned or “challenged” several times in schools and libraries since its first publication in 1962.
As well as its overtly Christian themes, the book has been criticised for seemingly equivocating Christianity with other faiths. One controversial passage places Jesus alongside Gandhi, the Buddha, Einstein, and others in a fight against darkness. Jerry Falwell Ministries was among the voices that suggested the book downplayed or undermined the faith. L’Engle, for her part, denied this.
“To be truly Christian means to see Christ everywhere, to know him as all in all,” she once said.
“I don’t mean to water down my Christianity into a vague kind of universalism, with Buddha and Mohammed all being more or less equal to Jesus — not at all! But neither do I want to tell God (or my friends) where he can and cannot be seen!”
A Wrinkle In Time releases in Australia on 29 March, 2018.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor