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Evangelicals Crave Myth-Makers

One trait I share with many in the Values & Capitalism community is a spasmodic reaction to just about anything C.S. Lewis, which has resulted in many posts—including here, here and here. Learning from Lewis about human nature and the moral imagination has been deeply influential in shaping my worldview and honing my political philosophy. His fiction writing introduced me to many other fascinating authors, and I was excited to read a recent article in Relevant Magazine, “5 Great Christian Authors (Who Aren’t C.S. Lewis).” My “to-read” list is two piles high on my bedroom floor, but I have no qualms about adding to it. To say I was disappointed with the recommendations would be too strong of a statement. “Underwhelmed” is the better word. The said five great Christian authors that R. Eric Tippin, who blogs at The Ink Society, recommends are G.K. Chesterton, Malcolm Muggeridge, Frank W. Boreham, Dorothy L. Sayers and George MacDonald. All excellent authors to be sure, but none were a surprise as they were all British contemporaries of Lewis. For those who have “exhausted your C.S. Lewis catalogue,” as Tippin claims might be true of his readership, they too were old friends. Perhaps I had gotten my hopes up. Regardless, what this article represents is a thirst among evangelical readers for powerful, thought-provoking, soul-searching fiction. We don’t need more story-tellers, we need myth-makers. Motivated to find such authors, I will offer my suggestions as they come up. To begin, I humbly submit to you the recently passed Ray Bradbury. Not known for being a Christian author, faith was one thing Ray Bradbury held dear. Russell Kirk, the famed social critic of the last century, described his friend Ray Bradbury’s faith in his book, “Enemies of the Permanent Things: Observations of Abnormity in Literature and Politics:”
Bradbury’s hope is that man will let God work through him; for it is not the dead universe which is divine, but “God fleshing himself in sentience”—the living God making Himself felt through human energies. “I speak of no errant usurpation from the Deity. I speak of no paranoiac illusion of mythology which would supremacize man to the detriment of the Supreme Being. I seek only to weld the two. I seek to fuse them in religious fervor until they cleave, entwine, are bound so feverish tight no light can be seen between them; they are the light.”
Bradbury is best known as a science fiction author, but his myth-making diverges greatly from the likes of H.G. Wells. Wells was an atheist and a socialist for much the same reasons—he believed that through combined efforts and applied science, mankind would conquer the universe and thereby become gods. He believed that through science, man was building anew the Tower of Babel. Bradbury, however, understood original sin and believed “that man may spoil everything, in this planet and in others, by the misapplication of science to avaricious ends.” Kirk went on to write:
That man may replenish the universe for the greater glory of God, Bradbury would have man fling himself to the most distant worlds. But this is an ambition far different from the arrogance of Wells and his kind — who, in the phrases of Robert Jungk, aspire to the throne of God, and who exhort man “to occupy God’s place, to recreate and organize a man-made cosmos according to man-made laws of reason, foresight, and efficiency…” If man flings himself from Earth to other planets, it will be the act of God, who “does not intend to risk His sentience, His awareness, His chance for eternity, by allowing Himself to remain upon one lonely planet earth.”
His novel that speaks directly to man’s excursions into the universe is “The Martian Chronicles.” It is not a book for the faint of heart, since it is “chiefly a record of darkness.” It is dark because it is a story about human nature, which may not have been interesting had it been set on earth, but is made fantastic by the scenery of Mars. It reminds us of what Lewis might call the “solid” things, what Kirk calls the “permanent” things. It reminds us of life itself, which Bradbury calls “a miracle we can never explain.” Bradbury’s most famous work, “Fahrenheit 451,” is one that I have recommended before on this blog and for SingleRoot’s summer reading list. “Fahrenheit 451” is famous for being part of the dystopian trifecta, along with “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell and “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley. The book includes a discussion about society’s forgotten faith, and Montag, the main character, even tries memorizing parts of the Bible. This summer, Chase Roden over at Patheos shared that the scene where Montag attempts to memorize Scripture memorably portrays “what it means to try to follow Christ among the distractions and temptations of a world that’s satisfied just being comfortable.” Ray Bradbury did not shy away from his distinction as a moralist, and C.S. Lewis famously rebuked those who would dismiss the moral imagination saying that they are a “prisoner to their own political obsessions.” Maybe Lewis had Wells in mind. Kirk commends his friend in closing saying, “Bradbury, with Lewis and Tolkien and Collier and some few others, is nobody’s prisoner and nobody’s jailer.” While I cannot speak to Bradbury’s politics or theology, his work is remarkable for the manner in which it puts rich language to the precepts of Christian conservatism. His words have painted scenery and pricked souls, making him a must-read myth-maker for any evangelical bibliophile.