This is part of a series exploring quotations attributed to C.S. Lewis that are questionable for one reason or another. Presently a new article is posted the first Saturday of each month (or sometimes the second if there are five Saturdays). There is an “at a glance” page HERE to quickly see what has been posted so far in this series. Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to read the INTRODUCTION to this series.
“God always hears the cry of suffering, and God always sees the oppression of
the weak, and God demands that we be a people who do the same.”
You and I have a rare opportunity at the moment. It seems, unlike other questionable quotations attributed to Lewis, we have a chance to catch a false attribution just as it is starting. As far as I can tell, this quote was first shared on March 16, 2017 by a well meaning individual who happens to have over 37,000 followers on Twitter. Brandon Hatmaker, whom I don’t know, shared this on that date:
As you may notice there are a few differences, but the version I shared at the top is taken from the original source (which is revealed below). Those differences are minor, except for the word “week” for “weak,” but who hasn’t done typos like this? While this expression is very meaningful, it does not originate with Lewis.
So, what is the source? I managed to track it down in a 2014 book by Austin Fischer entitled Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed. The quote in question is found on page 26. While there are no quotation marks around the statement, it does have an EndNote to it. The EndNote is 31. What’s interesting is that on the next page, Fischer does quote Lewis, using a passage from A Grief Observed. This is referenced in the 32nd EndNote. So, I’m guessing that Hatmaker made the error because of thinking the statement was being attributed to someone and didn’t noticed reading the incorrect Endnote.
This type of error is fairly common. In the recently published Hemingway Didn’t Say That, author Garson O’Toole (aka “the Quote Investigator“) calls this oversight Textual Proximity. While there are some variations to this, the oversight can occur when a famous name appears near a reference and a person sees that name to the neglect of the actual citation.
In case you’re wondering, that 31st EndNote is support Fischer offers for his statement on suffering and why we should respond like God. Fischer says in that note “For just a few out of hundreds of examples, see…” and he gives five references from the Bible. This is found on page 111 of his book.
The next article to be posted on May 6, 2017 is: