Covert Matters Digest A MAN FOR ALL AGES
Camelot and the Oxford Don
C. S., Lewis
By Harry M. Covert
On this day a half-century ago the world was stunned into shock and dismay when a young dynamic American president was killed by an assassin’s bullet.
The devastating events in Dallas, Texas brought an unexpected end to the life of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president, and his storybook administration often described as Camelot. He was 46.
It was 1:30 PM Central Standard Time when the shooting occurred.
At approximately the same time some 5,000 miles away at The Kilns on Lewis Close in Oxford, England, one of Christendom’s most beloved figures, Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis died one week short of his 65th birthday. The time was 5:30 PM British time.
The Kilns was his home. The passing was almost unnoticed around the world, obviously overshadowed by the American events.
No less, the impact of C. S. Lewis, known as Jack to his many friends and colleagues, was powerful among Christians everywhere.
Lewis’ passing is not being unnoticed today. His name is being added to Poets Corner of Westminster Abbey, joining the elite literary figures of British history.
His classic works for children and adults alike abound today and include Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, God in the Dock, Mere Christianity, Miracles, Letters to Children, The Great Divorce, Prayer: Letters to Malcolm and many others are still in heavy circulation.
Lewis was an Oxford don, a professor at Magdalen College, one of a kind and established a model for Christian leaders of all denominations around the world. He was a professing member of the Church of England and touched thousands of lives.
His last book, Prayer: Letters to Malcolm, is described as “sane, brilliantly imaginative approach to the problems of prayer. It was published posthumously and remained on the best-seller lists for many weeks.
Without doubt, Lewis fit the description that he was “endowed with an extraordinary sensitivity and tenderness for the fears and foibles of men.”
In this day of doubt when Biblical teachings in the Church of England and the Episcopal Church of the United States are flying in the wind, Lewis’ writings are poignant and powerful.
Today’s reading from A Year with C. S. Lewis, he writes “… it seems rather crude to describe glory as the fact of being ‘noticed’ by God…those who love God can be called in, welcomed, received, acknowledged.”
A novelist, teacher, obviously deep thinker, he was tender, not self-absorbed and lived what he “preached.”
For years after his conversion, Lewis “never used any ready-made forms [of prayer} except the Lord’s Prayer. In fact I tried to pray without words at all — not to verbalise the mental acts. Even in praying for others I believe I tended to avoid their names and substituted mental images of them. I still think the prayer without words is the best — if one can really achieve it.”
To this end, Lewis said, “To pray successfully without words one needs to be at the top of one’s form.”
Lewis’ academic life was probably without peer. His teachings and writings remain vital. He kept the Christian lifestyle simple and the teaching understandable.
While he sat at his desk writing longhand with a fountain pen, he maintained a sense of humor. Just read The Screwtape Letters. He wrote that “ancient Persians debated everything twice: once when they were drunk and once when they were sober.”
This is a reminder of the old carpenter’s rule, “measure twice but cut once.”
How the modern church today is losing members and believers at a horrifying rate should bring back the business of prayer. Dullness in church is rampant and does not bode well for new seekers or re-charging others. No doubt, the church in all its forms must return to a solid spiritual life.
What would a fully Christian society be like? Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity it should be cheerful: “full of singing and rejoicing and regarding worry or anxiety as wrong. Courtesy is one of the Christian virtues; and the New Testament hates what it calls ‘busybodies.’”
Lewis didn’t miss the mark. C. S. Lewis societies are popular everywhere and his works are uplifting, scintillating and up-to-date.
While it’s doubtful that a true Christian society will ever materialize, he said, “everyone is attracted by bits of it and wants to pick out those bits and leave the rest.”
Fifty years have passed rapidly. The lives of President Kennedy and C.S. Lewis did not cross paths but they did change lives and lifestyles.
JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”
CSL said, “It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, fof only the pure in heart want to.”
Lewis’ works live on, thankfully. He is buried in the yard of Holy Trinity Church, Headington Quarry, Oxford.•••