Retro: March 12th – 18th

March 12th – 18th

The following is part of a weekly series reflecting on the life of C.S. Lewis. This is accomplished by summarizing various events or happenings during his lifetime for the noted week and may include significant events related to him after his death.

This week was relatively quiet over the years in Lewis’s life. In fact the first item I’ll mention is something that isn’t necessarily tied to this week. In 1948, sometime this month (likely several days throughout March) Lewis started writing what eventually became his autobiography Surprised by Joy that was finally published in 1955. There are also smaller events that are interesting which occurred this week. In 1919, a paper by Lewis was read (but not by him) on the 12th at the Martlets, an Oxford University literary society. Nearly twenty years later another paper by him was read before the group on the same topic. This latter talk was later published in a book mentioned next week. On the 14th this week in 1921 Lewis met Nobel Prize winning poet William Butler Yeats.

Falling back to something happening in March, but not tied to a certain week is the publication of “Christianity and Culture” in 1940 in Theology. It was the first of three pieces Lewis wrote about the topic that year. All of them are collected in Christian Reflections. Lewis only intended to write a single essay, but the initial one brought a reply that he responded to; but this item resulted in another reply that Lewis also answered. As Walter Hooper notes in his preface in Christian Reflections, it is important to remember the relatively early date of this week’s and the other replies when considering the views Lewis presents about the relationship between culture and the Christian faith.

Another essay written this week is “Dangers of National Repentance.” It was published in The Guardian on the 15th in 1940. In this article, Lewis is concerned with the fact that some young Christians in his day were ready to believe that England was partly to blame for WWII, and those same Christians were also ready to admit their own share in England’s guilt. While noting that a repentant attitude is much better than a self-righteous one, Lewis believed that some Christians in his day were too ready to admit guilt regarding actions in which they were not directly involved. Lewis asserts that the danger of national repentance is the encouragement it gives us to turn from the hard task of repenting our own sins to the more pleasing task of bewailing and denouncing the conduct of others. You can read it in God in the Dock.

“The Obstinate Toy Soldiers” was originally the fourth broadcast in the final BBC series that was heard on the 14th in 1944. It was also published as an article two days later in The Listener, but you will note it is actually the fifth chapter when included in Beyond Personality and Mere Christianity. In the talk Lewis continued on thoughts shared from the previous broadcast about becoming like Christ and how this is difficult by sharing an illustration about “obstinate toy soldiers” to help understand our struggle with being self-centered.

Finally, the nineteenth part in the series “Who Goes Home? or The Grand Divorce” that became the first half of the twelfth chapter of The Great Divorce was released on the 16th in 1945. The visitor (who is Lewis, himself) learns further that “fame in this country (heaven) and fame on Earth are two quite different things.” Someone is honored whose “motherhood was of a different kind” that becomes an interesting contrast to the lady in the sixteenth installment.