Last week, I attended a C. S. Lewis conference in Montreat, North Carolina. It was a welcome respite from my regular routine of teaching and grading. To be clear, I love teaching (not so much the grading), but there are times of refreshing when one can simply sit and listen and take in what the Lord wants one to hear. This was one of those times.
Some of the most accomplished Lewis scholars were there as presenters. In the photo above, from left to right, we have Don King, David Downing, Jerry Root, and Hal Poe. The screen behind them was the focus of this conference as we examined the amazing fact that Lewis’s influence and relevance has never disappeared even 56 years after his death. Lewis himself believed no one would be reading his works five years after he had departed this world. We can say without any conditions that in this matter, Lewis was wrong.
One of the features of the conference was the presence of Douglas Gresham, Lewis’s stepson. Interviewed twice, Gresham shared remembrances of his childhood and the future of Narnia with Netflix. Of his childhood, he was quite honest, calling it terrible: death of his mother, suicide of his biological father, followed shortly after by the death of Lewis, and the difficult relationship with a brother who was schizophrenic. Clearly, God’s grace brought him through all of this.
On the Netflix/Narnia topic, the deal struck with that media company has been rather mysterious. Gresham said that he hasn’t heard any details of how the productions will proceed, which has been a great disappointment to him personally—and to all Narnia lovers, of course. If Netflix is open to listening to him, Gresham said that his preference would not be to make any more movies of the books, but rather to turn them into episodes that will allow every nuance of the books to be manifested. Movies have to cut out so much; a series of episodes would offer so much more. We all await further news on this front.
I was pleased to be able to renew my acquaintance with David and Crystal Downing, co-directors of the Wade Center. I spoke about my book, America Discovers C. S. Lewis, at the Wade last year. David shared, with great humor, the influence of Lewis’s Mere Christianity 75 years after its publication. The humor particularly surfaced when he showed us his personal copy of the book, a 1969 edition that has fallen apart completely. Yet he still uses it, quipping that it’s easy to pull out the pages he wants. In the photo above, he even noted the rubber band he uses to hold it together.
I always love hearing Crystal speak about Dorothy Sayers, who has become one of my persons of interest as well. Crystal’s specialty is sharing how Sayers was a pioneer in using the media to communicate truth, and how she had to stand her ground for her BBC series about Jesus called The Man Born to Be King. She has a new book on Sayers coming out next year. The title? Subversive.
Another outstanding presentation was given by Azusa Pacific University’s Diana Glyer, as she shared the glories of collaboration among the Inklings, and particularly between Lewis and Tolkien. Her presentation was so masterful—deeply professional and deeply personal simultaneously—that I turned to my wife and said simply “superb.” I rarely say that about any presentation. My take on her talk was in line with how the entire audience of 550 received it as everyone spontaneously gave her an enthusiastic standing ovation as she concluded her comments.
My personal time of refreshing has carried over since my return. I’ve even been given a huge dose of God’s grace to catch up with all of that grading that awaited me. I’m grateful for those few days at Montreat. May Lewis’s influence and relevance continue to increase: we need his insights and wisdom in a time when polarization and confusion over culture and politics has damaged the Christian church.