Jun 6, 2015

Shocking the Nazarenes with C. S. Lewis

When I was growing up, the Nazarene church disapproved of reading almost anything except the Bible and some religious books.

Beliefs that Matter Most, by the Nazarene W. T. Purkiser?  Ok.

The Late Great Planet Earth, by the evangelical Hal Lindsey?  Ok, but be careful.  Some false teachings might creep in.

The Gospel According to Peanuts, by the Presbyterian Robert L. Short?  Maybe, if it doesn't try to brainwash you into believing in secular humanism and evil-lution.  Better let your Sunday school teacher review it first, to be sure.

Mere Christianity, by the Anglican C.S. Lewis?  Are you crazy?  Anglicans are like Catholics!

But the Campus Crusade for Christ crowd at Rocky High was all agog over C.S. Lewis.

Besides, I knew that he and J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, were friends, all members of a literary club called the Inklings.  I imagined intense afternoon buddy-bonding over discussions of Beowulf.

So with some trepidation, I started reading his books.

The Chronicles of Narnia was great, if a little too preachy.

Out of the Silent Planet was ok.  No hetero-romance, but not a lot of gay subtexts, and the weird alien planet that Ransom goes to sounds very allegorical.

Perelandra was awful.  Adam and Eve on Venus.

That Hideous Strength: I didn't get farther than the first few pages, when the protagonist's young wife Jane is in the hospital and requests a copy of Shakespeare's Sonnets, and mulls over an arcane passage in Love's Alchemie for her doctoral dissertation.  Yawn.

The Screwtape Letters: Letters from the senior demon Screwtape to his inexperienced nephew, Wormwood, explaining how to tempt his human subject.  Ok, if a little preachy.

The Great Divorce: I always liked the word "divorce," from when  I thought it was a loophole in the "find the right girl" litany of the adults.  But there's actually no divorce.  A guy is trapped in a weird gray city with ghosts.

Till We Have Faces: it said "a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche."  I knew that was all about hetero-romance, so I avoided it.

Overall a disappointment.  But it was still fun to say "I've been reading The Screwtape Letters" in Nazarene Young People's Society or Afterglow, and watch everyone's jaws drop, as if I said I had been reading the Satanic Bible, or the letters of Pope Paul.

See also: The Chronicles of Narnia