It is the 8th of September 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
“I’m obsessed with Time Magazine” is not just a line from Allen Ginsburg’s “America” but a true statement for myself. Any student of mine in a class that touches on 20th century American History is going to get some historic Time Magazines as primary sources. Before the internet, before “nationalized” news, Time magazine unified its millions of readers with a common culture- foreign and domestic news, pop culture, sports, fashion trends, etc… and it had to be done at a certain level- their readership was the generally educated American public and that makes Time an interesting source to peek in at for a snapshot in time.
It was on this, the 8th of September in 1947 that TIME magazine’s lead story was “Don v. The Devil”. The “Don” was the Oxford Don C.S. Lewis whose image was on the cover with the words “his heresy? Christianity”. Let’s jump into the issue and see what we find.
Before we get to how a secular juggernaut like TIME would paint Lewis, there are some interesting inclusions. World War 2 was over and the international pages are filled with a discussion regarding the new “Marshall Plan” (the U.S.-sponsored program for European recovery). The Davis Cup was being just won by America after a pause since 1939, and there was news of the Pacific Coast Baseball League folding and 1 or 2 East Coast baseball teams relocating to San Francisco and Los Angeles. With the Presidential race upcoming Herbert Hoover is quoted saying that at 73 neither he, nor anyone his age, should run for President. My favorite story was a follow-up on an earlier story about a snake-handling pastor in Georgia. The update was that he died from drinking strychnine.
But the story on Lewis is fascinating. In 1947 he was famous for the Screwtape Letters and his Space Trilogy. The article mentions that he is going to be publishing his new book on Miracles. The tone moves from reverent to bemused- he is called “The man who can put medieval scholasticism into such comfortable modern dress” and “one of a growing band of heretics among modern intellectuals: an intellectual who believes in God” (along with Auden and T.S. Eliot).
The author notes a vibrant post-War Christianity in England with Lewis as its ringleader, “With Screwtape's success, Lewis became a celebrity. A man who could talk theology without pulling a long face or being dull was just what a lot of people in war-beleaguered Britain wanted”.
Similarly, “With erudition, good humor and skill, Lewis is writing about religion for a generation of religion-hungry readers brought up on a diet of "scientific" jargon and Freudian cliches. His readers are a part of the new surge of curiosity about Christianity which in Britain has floated, besides Lewis, a whole school of literary evangelists”.
But the article also notes that not all are fans, “Outside his own Christian circle, Lewis is not particularly popular with his Oxford colleagues. Some resent his large student following. Others criticize his "cheap" performances on the BBC and sneer at him as a “popularizer…There are complaints about his rudeness (he is inclined to bellow "Nonsense !" in the heat of an argument).
Perhaps my favorite line from the story is “He has no immediate plans for further "popular" books, fantastic or theological”. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe was released 2 years later and his wartime talks, now published as “Mere Christianity” came two years after that.
You can find this entire issue- and the whole vault for free over on the Time website
The last word for today is from the prologue in the Gospel of John:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 8th of September 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man inclined to bellow "Nonsense!" in the heat of an argument, he is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man full of cheap performances (7 a week!) I am Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.