Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Happy birthday, Jack

Just so you'll know, I am officially a member of the pajamahadeen as of now. It's a good feeling.

Sorry for the blogbreak, but I'm back to (belatedly) celebrate the 106th anniversary of the Nov. 29 birthday of C.S. "Jack" Lewis, the Oxford Don, my patron saint, author of Mere Christianity, the Narnia Chronicles and the Perelandra Trilogy. Read anything of his. Read it all.

Lewis accomplished what scant few Christian writers have managed in the intervening century, and I'll be blunt: He made art, not propaganda.

As Chuck Colson put it:

What was it that made him such a keen observer of cultural and intellectual trends? The answer may be somewhat discomfiting to modern evangelicals: One reason is precisely that Lewis was not an evangelical. He was a professor in the academy, with a specialty in medieval literature, which gave him a mental framework shaped by the whole scope of intellectual history and Christian thought. As a result, he was liberated from the narrow confines of the religious views of the day—which meant he was able to analyze and critique them.

Ouch. But you'll have to admit -- he's right.

As Frank Schaeffer explained in Addicted to Mediocrity (and I'm paraphrasing here), evangelical protestant pietism put a low value on learning and art for its own sake. Learning to play the cello or speak five languages was legitimate only if it was "for the Lord."

But as Colson points out, Lewis was not a professional religious person -- he was an English professor, smack dab in the middle of "secular" Oxford and Cambridge teaching Shakespeare and Chaucer.

As much as I cringe every time Barbra Streisand opens her mouth ... as much as I think Michael Moore is an unrepentant agitator ... let's not retreat back into Churchworld just yet. In honor of Jack Lewis, it's time to read, listen, watch. And I mean something else besides Left Behind and The Omega Code.

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