CS Lewis podcaster, David Bates, shares why he helped initiate a campaign to commemorate Lewis with an annual Reading Day on November 29th
This week, many people have been celebrating a 20th Century British writer and lay theologian who is arguably one of the most influential voices in modern Christianity. On November 22nd 1963 Clive Staples Lewis – Jack to his friends – died in Oxford, England. His death was somewhat overshadowed by the assassination of US President John F Kennedy on the same day. However, 60 years later, we have spent some time reflecting on Lewis’ life and asking whether he is still relevant.
Professor Alister McGrath spoke about this on The CS Lewis podcast and Ruth Jackson recently hosted an Unbelievable? show on this topic. Former pastor-turned atheist, Dan Barker, suggested Lewis’ arguments were fundamentally flawed. Christian professor, Dr Carolyn Weber, told us why she disagrees with Dan and shared some of her fascinating story about coming to faith, largely through CS Lewis.
Ruth wrote an article for The Times newspaper, exploring how Lewis continues to speak to our heads, our hearts and our loins 60 years after his death. She also caught up with David Bates, one of the hosts of the Pints With Jack podcast to hear why they have championed a CS Lewis Reading Day. His words below are an adapted extract from his interview on The CS Lewis Podcast. You can listen to the whole show here.
Why is CS Lewis still relevant?
At the most basic level, CS Lewis is an excellent writer and good writing is always relevant. He is an excellent writer who speaks to your mind, and will form you and help you to think in different ways. This is what Lewis himself did in An Experiment in Criticism. He says: “My own eyes aren’t enough for me, I must see through the eyes of others.” That’s what Lewis is very good at doing – helping you see through the eyes of others, engaging not only your intellect, but also your imagination. Lewis makes all of this stuff real. He allows you to step into another world and not just learn a few new facts.
Lewis is also relevant because of what he talked about. He did this across all of his work and he’s written in every genre. So, you see lots of the same ideas reappearing in different forms in different ways. But Lewis is always tackling stuff that matters. He speaks about human nature, he speaks about grace, and these things don’t change.
As he said in The Four Loves: “All that is not eternal is utterly out of date.” But the things Lewis writes about are eternal. Therefore, Lewis can never be out of date.
The Tolkien Society created a Tolkien Reading Day on March 25th, a very significant day in The Lord of the Rings – the downfall of Sauron. The purpose of the day was to celebrate Tolkien and promote his life and works by people reading their favourite passages and sharing them with their friends. Over the years, there have been special events online, and at schools, museums and libraries.
This past Tolkien Reading Day, I thought: Why don’t we have the same thing for Lewis? So I reached out to a bunch of different CS Lewis podcasters and societies and we now have many groups involved. We voted on the date and decided we should celebrate the Lewis Reading Day on his birthday, so we can wish him “happy birthday” by reading his books. Therefore, on November 29th we will all share why CS Lewis is so special to us.
We wanted to celebrate Lewis in this way because we can’t let the Tolkien nerds have all the fun! One of the consequences will be that it exposes Lewis’ work to those who have never heard of him. And it invites those who have engaged a little bit to go “further up and further in”, to move from a few books or favourite quotations to diving deeply into his works.
Celebrating this day also helps build the Lewis community. One of the things the Tolkien community does really well is community; they get together and build on Tolkien’s work. If there’s one thing we can learn from the Inklings, it’s the power of encouragement and collaboration. So, celebrating Lewis in this way will help replicate the Inklings across the globe. And, in doing so, help people come to know Lewis and the rest of the Inklings better.
How can we get involved?
Share your favourite Lewis quotations on social media on November 29th with the tag #ReadCSLewis. Or repost other people who are quoting Lewis. You could also do something different, get creative – invite some friends together to read one of Lewis’ essays, invite your neighbours over to eat Turkish Delight (don’t betray your family once you do this!), read The Chronicles of Narnia to your children, watch a Narnia movie or a biographical one about Lewis.
To find out more, sign up for our mailing list about the CS Lewis reading day at https://www.pintswithjack.com/reading-day/.
David Bates is one of the hosts of the Pints With Jack podcast.