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Wed Nov 20, 2013, 01:50 PM


C.S. Lewis and Catholic Converts

November 19, 2013

While Lewis himself never entered the Catholic Church, his writings have led a dizzying array of converts across the Tiber.

Joseph Pearce

Left: C.S. Lewis. Top left, clockwise: Leonard Cheshire, Bobby Jindal, Ronda Chervin, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Michael Coren, Thomas Howard, Peter Kreeft

On November 22, 1963, at 2:30 pm central time, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. An hour earlier, across the Atlantic, C.S. Lewis had died at his home in Oxford. A few short hours later, in Los Angeles, the English writer Aldous Huxley, author of the dystopian classic Brave New World, would also die. This strange and somewhat morbid coincidence would later inspire Peter Kreeft to write Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialog Somewhere Beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley.

The media coverage of Kennedy’s assassination totally eclipsed the deaths of Lewis and Huxley, whose passing went almost entirely unnoticed at the time, much as, many years later, the passing of Mother Teresa would go largely unnoticed in the wake of the death of Princess Diana.

Today, 50 years on, as the dust of time settles on the memory of that momentous day, it is intriguing to see how the inexorable passage of time has affected the respective reputations of Kennedy, Lewis, and Huxley.

There is no doubt, of course, that the anniversary of the assassination will once again overshadow the lesser-known anniversaries of Huxley’s and Lewis’ deaths. It is, however, ironic that Kennedy is best known to posterity for his death as opposed to his life, the tragic and violent nature of the former eclipsing the achievements of the latter. Although the more educated will no doubt be aware of JFK’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis or perhaps his symbolically charged visit to West Berlin, and the more sordidly-minded will be reminded of his alleged affair with Marilyn Monroe, it’s a sobering fact that he is probably associated in the public consciousness more with Lee Harvey Oswald than with Nikita Khrushchev. As for Huxley, there is no doubt that his authorship of Brave New World has earned him a place in the literary canon, but he has written precious little else that has survived the test of time. Lewis, on the other hand, seems to go from strength to strength. Today, fifty years after his death, his global readership dwarfs the readership that he enjoyed in his own lifetime. His classic children’s story, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is one of the top ten bestselling books of all time, and it would be no exaggeration to say that there is now a whole C.S. Lewis industry generating millions of dollars in sales of his books and in the merchandising of ephemera connected to the film and television adaptations of his life (Shadowlands) and his work (The Chronicles of Narnia).


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Reply C.S. Lewis and Catholic Converts (Original post)
rug Nov 2013 OP
Fortinbras Armstrong Nov 2013 #1
IrishAyes Nov 2013 #2

Response to rug (Original post)

Wed Nov 20, 2013, 02:48 PM

1. Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley's brother

Died the same day as P. G. Wodehouse, 14 February 1975.

Woody Guthrie, Malcolm Sargent, and Clement Attlee all died on 3 October 1967, beating Che Guevara by a day.

Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Oddly enough, Stephen Foster is born on the same day. Stamford Raffles dies the next day.

Sergei Prokofiev and Josef Stalin both died on 5 March 1953, and Prokofiev's funeral had recorded music and paper flowers, since all the musicians and real flowers in Moscow were tied up with Stalin's funeral.

And, of course, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were both born on 12 February 1809.

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Response to rug (Original post)

Sun Nov 24, 2013, 08:02 PM

2. I've always been a huge CS Lewis fan,

especially of Mere Christianity (wherein he says some form of socialism is necessary for Christian living) and of course the Screwtape Letters. Another favorite, The Great Divorce.

I also think it's neat he married an avowed Communist, which most fundies don't seem to know and deny if I tell them, because they like to co-opt Lewis for their own purposes much as they're trying to latch onto JFK after a suitable waiting period. Most of them hated JFK when he was alive, and they'd turn on Lewis just as quickly if they ever read his entire body of work carefully.

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