Saturday, May 31, 2014

Spitting Out the Bones: A C.S. Lewis Series

If you've been around a group of Christians for any period of time, you've heard or read a C.S. Lewis quote. Doesn't matter the denomination or tribe: Baptist, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Orthodox, Anglican (of course), Methodist, Lutheran, non-denominational, conservative, liberal - everyone can find something in Lewis.

That is, until you actually read Lewis. Then you realize it's not so simple.

For one thing, Lewis had an odd twist on Christianity. His friend Tolkein converted him by way of myth: by teaching that Christianity was the true Myth, the end of Lewis' search for the elusive Joy. Lewis was not just classically trained in the usual British schoolboy way; he was obsessed with story, myth, and especially with "the North" of Nordic mythology. This mythological flavor is responsible for Narnia, but it's also responsible for a way of thinking about theology and God that permeates everything he wrote.

For another, Lewis was, as we all are, a particular person living in a particular time and place. During my husband's ordination to the diaconate this morning, the bishop preached on God's "particularity" of love, such as the particularity of a young girl in Palestine in the Roman empire who said "Be it unto me." When we say God is love we forget that God also loves, as a verb, all the quirky and wacky people in the world in their specific times and places. I'm aware of the wackiness that is the 21st century Deep South, and I love it because it's my family, my home, my own brand of crazy. Lewis belonged to a different brand, and it's important to remember that. For anglophiles like myself it's important to remember the deeply dysfunctional side of his culture, and to take certain cultural observations with a grain of salt. At the same time, it would behoove us to remember that we too have a brand of wacky, and there's no guarantee that ours is better.

These thought percolated as I reread The Four Loves. More than most of his books, this one sends me from one passion to the other, from underlining his words and wanting to share them with the world, to throwing down the book and pacing, wondering why this idiot was ever published. And yet, I know that there is enough meat in the book that is healthy and succulent, even if I have to do some serious bone-picking.

That's what this series will be about. What in Lewis, starting with The Four Loves, is helpful and what is not. Much of this is highly individual, but for what it's worth here's what I get out of it, and here's why some folks will want to take an aspirin before reading.

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