Get Religion covers the latest fad in Lewisania: speculation that a young Lewis had premarital sex with his longtime housemate, Mrs. Moore. (yawn.)
London newspapers have been teasing this stuff for a week and now the New York Times is in on the act. American media only know that Lewis is popular with evangelicals and therefore must be a hypocrite, television evangelist or pervert. When they discover that Lewis haters like A.N. Wilson and Phillip Pullman are already talking about ol’ Jack the kinky boy, expect the two and three column stories to appear with regularity.
About the only book on C.S. Lewis that hasn’t been written by some adoring evangelical is a book on Clive’s sex life. But is that because evangelicals would abandon Lewis if they learned he had sex before his late-life marriage to Joy Davidman?
Evangelicals can always stand a reminder that Lewis was an old school Anglican with no affection for the kinds of American fundamentalists who love to cite him. Evangelicals who equate Lewis with some view of a fundamentalist apologist in their tradition have a lot to learn anyway, but the “questions” about Lewis’s sexual life have hardly been a secret. I’m no Lewis scholar, but I’ve read Lewis and Lewis books for three decades, and the facts are in:
1) Lewis was a normal male. He thought about sex a lot, and says so in his writing. Lewis’s appreciation of the erotic is there throughout his career, from his days as a young romantic poet to his mature Christian work.
Being a soldier, a bachelor and living with university students his entire life, Lewis knew very well what sexual excess was all about. He was hardly a sheltered person.
2) He confesses to the loss of his virginity as a young man. Despite this, there is little doubt among any mainstream Lewis scholars that Lewis was a chaste man the majority of his adult life. Nothing in Lewis’s life–before or after his career as a Christian writer–in any way disqualifies him from writing on Christian ethics and morality.
3) He teases readers with a possible sexual component to his misery in boarding schools. I have reread these passages many times, and I am less clear than ever what Lewis is hinting at, but if he is hinting at homosexual behavior among boys in school, there is no evidence that Lewis himself was a perpetrator of such behavior.
Lewis’s relationship with Arthur Greeves has also given some fodder to those who are looking for a homo-erotic note in Lewis’s life. I have not read their correspondence, but I have never heard any credible case for this and I am aware of no evidence that the relationship was anything other than the chemistry of the mind and imagination between two young men who thought no one loved to read what they loved to read.
4) He hints that thoughts of sadism may have troubled him throughout life.
5) He lived with a woman 26 years older than him for many years. And her daughter. And his brother. He never says a word about a romantic relationship of any kind, but he again teases readers of his autobiography with a cryptic statement that he is intentionally passing over some particularly bad aspects of his life at that time. Overall, it’s obvious he found her to be something less than enchanted, as she appears in thinly veiled guise in several books as quite tedious, overbearing and self-possessed.
It’s not unreasonable, given Lewis’s age, the oddity of the whole arrangement and his subsequent loyalty to the woman, to speculate that some sexual episode may have been part of the relationship at one time. But no one who credibly and calmly studies this material would believe that Lewis actually loved or had a continuing sexual relationship with Mrs. Moore. He was loyal to her out of a vow to a friend who died in World War I.
At its worst….what does this mean? Lewis wasn’t the pastor of a church. He wasn’t the author of anything at this point. He was just beginning his spiritual journey. During the likely years of a possible sexual episode with Mrs. Moore, Lewis was an atheist, then a theist, and later a new convert. If the New York Times wants America’s evangelicals to know that Lewis had the sexual history of an Augustine, I suggest they look harder…or just make it up. It’s not here. Lewis’s relationship with Mrs. Moore was odd, and it may have been sexual, but that relationship bears no significance to Lewis later work.
And by the way…did I say, “Who cares?”
6)Lewis’s sexual history with Joy Davidman is unclear to some scholars, primarily because Lewis’s relationship with Joy was, again, odd. What is clear is this: When Lewis married Joy, he had a normal sexual relationship with her, and he describes his marriage to her in terms of unmistakable joy. Those who have lobbied for a sexless Jack-Joy marriage are nuts, to put it kindly.
Yes, Jack Lewis had sex. In marriage. And before. Maybe more than once. He wrote Christian books, and (gasp) he wrote Christian CHILDREN’S books. Does anyone have the feeling that the media is trying very hard to get the words “Lewis,” Sex” and “Christian Children’s books” into one sentence so we won’t have a repeat of that “Passion of the Christ” business? Well there. I wrote it for you.
Let’s face it. The media must assume that serious Christians are seriously unhealthy people, and what better cause can one find for rolling out those freshman psych classes and all that Fruedian repression in the name of religion? Anyone who writes children’s books in his 50′s must have issues, y’know.
Interestingly, in the movie “Shadowlands”, one of Jack’s drinking partners teases him exactly along these lines, inferring that the “fur coat” in the wardrobe was really a Fruedian symbol of sexual initiation. It was stupid then when it was a laugh in a movie, and it’s even dumber now when serious newspaper journalists run the same drivel as if “the public needs to know the truth.”
Stand by for future posts, as we learn that the author of the popular Christian children’s books also drank, smoked, liked a bawdy joke and had theology that would drive the Truly Reformed into a hissy fit.