Today is Jack’s Birthday

We recently marked the 42nd anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death, but today is the 107th anniversary of his birth. Dr. Bruce Edwards, Professor of English at Bowling Green State University and a renowned Lewis expert, has an excellent birthday tribute to Lewis at his site, Further Up and Further In.

I’m excited that the upcoming screen adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is bringing renewed interest in Lewis and his works. I recall fondly teaching a Sunday school class a few years back on The Screwtape Letters. My particular denomination is not exactly well known for its intellectual rigor and interest in British authors, so I was a little concerned that no one would show up. Not only did they come, but there were so many that there wasn’t a classroom big enough to contain everyone and we had to move it to the church foyer and set up chairs.

As I looked around, I noticed several older members who had copies of the book, probably dating from the late 50s or early 60s, with creased covers and yellowing, dog-eared pages. I suddenly realized that there were at least some in the Church of Christ who were reading Lewis long before they were able to discuss his work openly in a Sunday school class. They had “come out of the closet” (or maybe I should say wardrobe!) and were eagerly satisfying at long last their hunger for richly layered discussion and an exploration of the role of the arts and the imagination in discipleship.

I’m hoping (and expecting) that the upcoming movie will kindle this desire in a new generation and maybe even fan the flames in a few other “closet” Lewisphiles. In any case, “Happy Birthday Jack!” We are all better for having known you.

  1. Derek Jenkins

    “They had “come out of the closet” (or maybe I should say wardrobe!) and were eagerly satisfying at long last their hunger for richly layered discussion and an exploration of the role of the arts and the imagination in discipleship.”

    All I can say to them is, “Go the distance.” 😉

  2. mike

    “All I can say to them is, ‘Go the distance.'”

    He he. That’s cute, Derek.

    One thing’s for sure: Lewis will sure bring the “little c” catholics out of the woodwork.

    “People will come, Ray, people will come…”

  3. contratimes

    When the lights went down in the theater and the film started to roll, tears fell from my eyes as “The Shadowlands” filled the screen. I was so blessed that C.S. Lewis had been recognized, even though I was disturbed by much of the film’s portrayal of his grief (culled as it was from his posthumous and intensely private “A Grief Observed”).

    Similarly, I was initially pleased that Peter Jackson was putting “The Lord of the Rings” on film, and was thrilled at the scenery during the Fellowship’s first few minutes in the shire.

    But I have come to dismay films of such tremendous works. The Tolkien trilogy in letters is infinitely better than the travesty (it was travesty) produced by Jackson. Amazingly, my son and his teenage buddies, all fans of the film, have none of the interest in the books that my generation had, and we were the ones dreaming of someday seeing a film. Now, if my son and his peers ever do open up the Tolkien books, they will see Orlando Bloom and not the elvish Legolas; a Strider that is far too feminine; hobbits much too young, an Elrond that is utterly ridiculous, and an Arwen that is dour and dog-faced. The only homerun, in my opinion, was Shelob’s Lair, which was amazing.

    My point is not to decry, merely to bemoan. I know that Tolkien so loathed the internal combustion engine that he vacationed in Venice so as to enjoy the last place in Europe where no such engines clattered. How would such a man feel about the role film plays in the imagination of children? What sort of discussions would he and Lewis have in the rooms in Magdalene? Perhaps both men would argue that films might not generate but rather destroy long term interest in the literary works on which films are based. Or perhaps this would be another topic on which both men disagreed. I do not know.

    Tears nearly filled my eyes when I saw the trailer for the Lion, Witch, Wardrobe. At a quick glance, the characters appear true to the original text, and the landscape rings similarly true. But I have many reservations about film, even when I love it so completely.

    Thanks for honoring Lewis’ birthday.



  4. mike


    I understand where you’re coming from. I have another friend in Colorado who is a “purist” when it comes to screen adaptations of epic literature. He made peace with Jackson’s LOTR, but not without a few groans and grimaces. He was somewhat more pleased with the Master and Commander movie based on the Patrick O’Brian novel. I haven’t heard from him yet on his opinion on the upcoming Narnia movie (Paul, if you’re lurking out there, chime in).

    Your misgivings are especially relevant in light of this report which has made the rounds over the past couple of days. Would Lewis have made peace with modern film techniques and computer animation in the hopes of extending his “prebaptism of the imagination?” Maybe, maybe not. Indeed, it has become a very different world. Douglas Gresham speaks for him now, and I suppose in his mind the answer must be “yes.”

    You’ll be pleased to know that my wife and I (mostly my wife who has the gift of staying up later that me!) read aloud both the LOTR trilogy and the Chronicles of Narnia to our three sons long before the movie versions came out (also my 17-year-old has become quite an O’Brian fan). They also had certain things they disliked about the LOTR films, but they loved them nonetheless just as they did the books.

  5. Derek Jenkins


    I have to say I am in your boat. The movie only rarely moved me (way to much crying, there’s no crying when you’re fighting to save the world!) and tho I have watched it several times (with the kids) I never feel compelled to watch it and it always strikes me as to melodramatic. Whereas if I see My Cousin Vinny or A League of Their Own I am a slave to the spell.

    But O how difficult a chore they had. Who could ever come up with a cast to meet my vision of Gandalf or Frodo or Strider?

    Anthony Hopkins as Gandalf?
    The Clint Eastwood of The Outlaw Josey Wales as Strider?

    I did think that Fanghorn and the Ents were pretty good and Golem was a Grand Slam, exactly how I pictured him.

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