Matthew Henry John Bartlett

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Thursday 24 November, 02005

by Matthew Bartlett @ 11:00 pm

Hauerwas, the fighting pacifist, down on freedom & tolerance & such
CS Lewis in the hands of The New Yorker [via Tim M]

10 responses to “”

  1. Joel W says:

    Thanks for the Hauerwas links, the man is a fascinating read.

  2. Deborah says:

    Neuhaus wrote a small response to that CSL article in the First Things blog.

    I enjoyed the characterisation of his mother as “simple”, when she had a first class honours degree in mathematics.

    Though it was intriguing to read an article that doesn’t uphold him as Saint Jack. I wonder if the bit about his reputation in the UK is true?

  3. Matthew says:

    Neuhaus’ repsonse

    The article was intruiging. Sort of shocking. Dogmatic, in a way, like, of course we all know that all Christianity nothing but is wish-fulfilment.

    It made me wonder for a bit: if a not-Christian writer could write a fictional experience of faith that rang true to me at a deep level would that disprove or put my faith in doubt? Can you think of truly believable Christian characters in not-Christian books?

  4. Rudy says:

    They’ve just done a large indepth article in a local paper here in the UK (one of the few respectable papers left) that told a similar story to the one in the New Yorker – Clive Staples Lewis ceratainly wasn’t a saint, or a model christian. And the relationship with the widow was pretty weird.

    But he *did* write some fantastic books.

  5. Matthew says:

    Hi Rudy — which paper? Is it online?

  6. Ben Hoyt says:

    I do agree that too many people see a St Lewis and write his hagiographies. Maybe we need a refreshing take. And I enjoyed the article. But in the distance I hear the sound of this guy grinding his axe. He talks about not doing stuff for “ideological reasons”, but he writes in what’s quite an ideological, point-of-view shaped way.

    Of course, everyone has their own bias. But this fellow needs to get back to the raw materials Lewis and his friends wrote. He seems to really trust two of the most dubious sources, A N Wilson’s biography, and the film “Shadowlands”. The good biographies I’ve read are by people who’d known the living Lewis for a long time.

    Both Wilson and this writer seem to do the whole Freudian thing—sex sex sex. If you live with and help an older woman, it’s obviously “a sadomasochistic affair”. Riiiight. This guy’s not just failing to read between the lines, he’s reading against them.

    He talks about Lewis’s weird and compliated sex life. “Literary critics” these days seem to be so preoccupied with people’s sex lives. Sure, Lewis admits doing some silly things early on, but it’s all pretty clear and simple. At least if you read the earlier biographies. It’s so easy to spin a good yarn this many years after someone’s dead.

    (Oh, read the Amazon reviews of Wilson’s biography to see that there’s a little more to the story.)

    Some of the stuff this guy says is just plain false. Like “He was the sort of kid who is moved to tears every day by poems and trees.” Every day, moved to tears? Uhhh, I think you’ve got the wrong guy. Lewis the Sentimental. Like he would have got away with that at his boys’ boarding schools.

    “Yet a central point of the Gospel story is that Jesus is not the lion of the faith but the lamb of God.” But doesn’t the Bible speak of Jesus as both lion and lamb? In, fact, right next to each other. So does Lewis; comes out clearly at the end of “Voyage of the Dawn Treader”.

    To be honest, I’ve never read the Narnia books as analogies. I know the parallels are there, but particularly as a kid, I didn’t really connect it. I don’t think you have to. But neither do I think it’s bad if they are. If you read a book as a story rather than a “piece of literature to critique”, even The Last Battle is a good yarn.

    Oh well. This article was a thought-provoking read. I admit I could see myself writing a similar one about Philip Pullman. :-)

    Sorry about the long post; didn’t have time to write a short one.

  7. D says:

    Philip Pullman is bizzzzzarre.

    I figure he must have had a really bad religious experience which made him write really bad agenda driven fiction. Why write about him???

  8. Ben Hoyt says:

    Actually, I’ve only read about Pullman; it seems almost his life mission to dirtify Lewis. I guess I meant it’d be easy for me to write a really negative article about him just because I was grinding a “dislike Pullman” axe. Bedtime!

  9. Aaron says:

    The end of that CSL article leaves me feeling sorry for the writer: in the end there is for him only the magic of images and fantasy, and…that’s it.

    Meanwhile there’s a material world that needs dealing with and fixing; only if the magical images and fantasy actually happened (as Lewis is quoted as saying) can materiality hold hope and redemption.

    Lewis’ kind of apologetic, writes Gopnik, “is better at explaining colic than cancer, let alone concentration camps.” But I pity Gopnik’s vacuous magic, because it is good for explaining and hoping precisely nothing.

  10. Rudy says:

    Sorry Matt, it was a couple of weeks ago. Pobably Independent on Sunday or the Sunday Times. Can’t remember.

    But the article was in the same vein as the one in question here. It described the “real” CS Lewis, the one his myriad of faithful devotees didn’t want to know about. Not Saint Lewis, but down-and-dirty Jack.

    And like the article here, it was more than a little skewed, and emphasized the weird “family” Lewis had with the widow.

    I guess they had to sell papers. Trashy articles accomplish this goal a lot better than sound journalism.


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