Reluctant Conversions

Just watched via Hoopla an off-Broadway production I have wanted to see for some time. Seems it is becoming the custom in this pandemic to place any number of good Broadway shows online where they can be streamed on demand (I confess a recent subscription to Disney plus just so that I could see the musical Hamilton).

Max McClean as C.S. Lewis

This show that I saw on hoopla from a Broadway company I have long admired features a bright light of the 20th century who combined with a handful of others saved my spiritual life from bankruptcy. C.S. Lewis the Most Reluctant Convert in England is a crisp monologue performed by the director of an organization called the Fellowship of the Performing Arts. The show logs in at a crisp hour and 15 minutes and packs more deep philosophical yearning and profound spiritual insight than anything Broadway has cooked up for some time.

The play begins with a Jack (Lewis’ nickname) determined to live his life as a materialist atheist and continue, “to be angry at God for not existing.” The show proceeds from that ironic point to chronicle Lewis’ conversion from materialist to theist to full-blown practicing Christian. It features throughout quotations from some of Jack’s best apologetic musings but never in a jarring, disconnected way. The exquisite quotes always come as a seamless part of the conversion narrative.

Honestly, I wept as I heard his revelations which reminded me of my own personal epiphanies. When Lewis talked about believing the possibility that there was one dying god myth among thousands that actually came true, it reminded me of believing that there could be one true Church among so many modern confessions of Christianity. And when Lewis described his arrival at faith in Christ like waking up, I heard in my head the words of that great singer and songwriter Keith Green who fed me on my journey to the ancient Church:

Like waking up from the longest dream, how real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I’ve been lost in a fantasy, that blinded me
Until your love broke through.

When I personally came home to the Orthodox Church almost 30 years ago I had the same reluctance as C.S. Lewis: I came kicking and screaming. With him, it was materialistic atheism; with me, it was a stubborn puritanical form of Calvinist fundamentalism. But whatever may be your personal demons, C.S. Lewis the Most Reluctant Convert proclaims the inimitable love of God, the hound of heaven who never gives up on fleeing sinners. For He is the God who pursues us despite our delusions, “who shows philosophers to be fools and constrains the learned to silence” (Akathist to the Mother of God).

He is the same God who so many decades ago brought this poor sinner to the doors of the Church I so earnestly desired not to meet because He knew I would find there salvation and unexpected joy. May He who called Nicodemus out of the tangled web of his mind, enable us to see him too in purity of heart. Through the prayers of his most Holy Mother whose Dormition we now celebrate, may we too like Jack Lewis see and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

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