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RE: [mythsoc] Fw: Remembering C.S. Lewis...

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  • dianejoy@earthlink.net
    Thanks, Ted! Nice to see CSL toasted in the NY TIMES. I should tell you that CSL also got a lovely remembrance on *Fox News Sunday* from Tony Snow. He did a
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 24, 2003
      Thanks, Ted! Nice to see CSL toasted in the NY TIMES.

      I should tell you that CSL also got a lovely remembrance on *Fox News
      Sunday* from Tony Snow. He did a beautiful thumbnail reflection on CSL in
      his "Parting Thoughts" segment this past Sunday. I don't have the text,
      but you might be able to find it if you go to the Fox News web site. I
      might investigate this matter and see what I can find. ---djb

      Original Message:
      From: tedsherman@...
      Date: Sun, 23 Nov 2003 21:02:56 -0600
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [mythsoc] Fw: Remembering C.S. Lewis...

      Sent: Saturday, November 22, 2003 11:26 AM
      Subject: Remembering C.S. Lewis...

      At the time we were experiencing the death of JFK, another man died in
      November 22, 2003

      A Mind That Grasped Both Heaven and Hell


      Forty years ago today, as the world mourned the assassination of an
      American president, the passing of the 20th century's most influential
      Christian writer was hardly noticed: Clive Staples Lewis, professor of
      English literature at Oxford and Cambridge, died on Nov. 22, 1963. In his
      ability to nurture the faithful, as well as seduce the skeptic, C. S. Lewis
      had no peer.

      Lewis was an atheist for much of his adult life, an experience that may
      have helped immunize him from the religious cliché, the reluctance to ask
      hard questions, the self-righteousness of the zealot. "Mr. Lewis possesses
      the rare gift," according to an early reviewer, "of being able to make
      righteousness readable." Lewis was not a theologian, but he expressed even
      the most difficult religious concepts with bracing clarity. He was not a
      preacher, yet his essays and novels pierce the heart with their nobility
      and tenderness.

      The lessons found within his writings continue to resonate today. In fact,
      it's hard to imagine a time when the need for sane thinking about religion
      was more momentous. Cite an act of terror, from the sniper shootings in
      Washington to the bombings in Baghdad and Istanbul, and faith is close at
      hand. Many are now tempted to equate piety with venality - or worse - and
      it's here that Lewis may have the most to teach us.

      Born in 1898, Lewis reached maturity in the 1930's, when Europe was being
      convulsed by the rise of new tyrannies: communism in Russia and fascism in
      Spain, Italy and Germany. At the same time, trends in psychology and
      theology were discrediting Christian doctrines of sin and repentance. The
      "root causes" of international disorder were said to be social and
      political arrangements, like runaway capitalism or the flawed Treaty of
      Versailles. But Lewis, like his friend J. R. R. Tolkien, knew the trouble
      lay deeper, and marshaled his literary imagination to explore it.

      In a harrowing scene from his science fiction novel "Perelandra," the
      protagonist, Prof. Elwin Ransom, battles a mad scientist horribly
      disfigured by his lust for power. Lewis writes: "What was before him
      appeared no longer a creature of corrupted will. It was corruption itself
      to which will was attached only as an instrument." The Christians, Lewis
      argued, were right: the mystery of evil was rooted in the tragedy of human
      nature. Pride, and the poisoned conscience it created, functioned as the
      engine of the world's woes. Unchallenged, it led to a "ruthless, sleepless,
      unsmiling concentration upon self, which is the mark of Hell."

      Many modern liberals dismiss Lewis's concept of the diabolical as a
      "medieval" superstition. Yet many religious conservatives seem to make evil
      the brainchild of God himself. For them, all individual and social sin -
      including the terror of Sept. 11 - is the perfect will of a Divine Judge
      (as the Rev. Jerry Falwell claimed at the time). Lewis disagreed: Evil is
      always man's doing, yet it is never his destiny. The power of choice makes
      evil possible, but it's also "the only thing that makes possible any love
      or goodness or joy worth having."

      While Oxford agnostics howled, Lewis gave BBC talks on theology that were a
      national sensation. Even his beloved children's stories, "The Chronicles of
      Narnia," ring with biblical themes of sin and redemption. No one did more
      to make "the repellent doctrines" of Christianity plausible to modern ears.

      Nevertheless, Lewis acknowledged that religion easily becomes a device to
      exploit others - sometimes, as in the case of sexually abusive priests, at
      the very steps of the altar. The pretense of piety, he said, has left a
      record of violence that should shame every honest believer. "Of all bad
      men, religious bad men are the worst," he wrote in "Reflections on the

      Yet, unlike the cynic, Lewis refused to blame the faith itself for the
      shortcomings of the church. Instead, his writings offer bright glimpses
      into the moral beauty of divine goodness, what Lewis called "the weight of
      glory." It is this vision of the Holy, he observed, that has produced many
      of the masterpieces of art and music. This same vision motivates the
      faithful to risk everything to relieve the world's suffering: caring for
      plague victims, defending the rights of children, guiding slaves to
      freedom, breaching war zones to feed the poor.

      "If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for
      the present world were just those who thought most of the next," he wrote
      in "Mere Christianity," one of his best-known works. "It is since
      Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have
      become so ineffective in this." In an era when God himself seems to be on
      trial, that's a timely message - for the half-hearted pilgrim as well as
      the devoted doubter. Probably just what C. S. Lewis had in mind.

      Joseph Loconte, religion fellow at the Heritage Foundation, is editor of
      the forthcoming "The End of Illusions: America's Churches and Hitler's
      Gathering Storm, 1938-41.''

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      Dr. Theodore J. Sherman, Editor
      Mythlore: A Journal of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and
      Mythopoeic Literature
      Associate Professor of English
      Box X041, Middle Tennessee State University
      Murfreesboro, TN 37132
      615 898-2653 Office
      615 898-5098 FAX
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