C.S. Lewis Interview: Crystal Hurd

C.S. Lewis The Wardrobe Door

To celebrate 10 years of blogging here at The Wardrobe Door, I wanted to speak with some others who read, appreciate and study C.S. Lewis. Over the next few weeks, each day will feature an interview with one of these individuals (and maybe a few more).

Crystal Hurd

Photo by Lancia E. Smith

Dr. Crystal Hurd is an educator and researcher from Virginia, where she lives with her husband and three dogs. A self-proclaimed “book nerd,” her interests include reading, writing, photography, and listening incessantly to MUTEMATH. Over the past decade, she has read and researched both biographical and rhetorical aspects of C.S. Lewis.

She loves discussing Lewis as well as various aspects of spirituality, apologetics, and leadership theory. Her dissertation applied transformational leadership theory to the life and works of Lewis. She is currently researching the role of artists as leaders. Just last month, she released her new book, Thirty Days with C.S. Lewis: A Women’s Devotional.

Wardrobe Door: What do you remember about reading C.S. Lewis for the first time?

The first time I read Lewis was in 2002. I had just graduated with a degree in English Literature and was working as a customer service representative at a cell phone company. I was discussing with a co-worker the woeful lack of Christian literature which would satisfy my intellect as well as my heart.

The individual recommended that I read Mere Christianity. Unfortunately, I cannot remember who it was, but if I ever do, I owe him/her a big handshake and warm appreciation.

I distinctly remember reading this passage and thinking, “this guy gets it”:

“When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest. If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children. The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost. Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen?”

All through my academic life, I had been told that believing in Christianity was an insult to my intellect. Faith was for people who lacked the pragmatism to truly dissect and comprehend their world. But Lewis empowered me to be curious about my faith, gave me permission to ask questions.

Here, a Christian man was making a bold assertion against that dismissive philosophy. He had the courage to ask of the naysayers, “But don’t you see that your lens is skewed?”

I felt that we finally had a representative who wasn’t afraid to argue back, who wouldn’t shrink in the presence of antagonism. I knew then that I was smitten with the works of C.S. Lewis.

WD: While it may be next to impossible to answer, what is your favorite Lewis work, one you consider most overlooked, and one that you tend to enjoy less than others?

It seems to constantly change, although I would probably say that Mere Christianity is my favorite because that is what attracted me to Lewis. Doug Gresham answers the question by saying, “Whatever I’m reading right now,” but there are several others I adore.

I suggest the The Collected Letters are an excellent read, as is God in the DockNarnia, and The Space Trilogy. My favorite work of fiction is probably Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold.

Everything he wrote is just saturated with his philosophy, which is something I adore about Lewis. He never compromised his message, but was willing to alter his approach and packaging to attract the audience.

WD: Here are 50 of my favorite, what is your favorite Lewis quote?

Probably this one from Mere Christianity:

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.”

WD: Why do you think he continues to maintain such influence in modern evangelicalism?

Many folks have asked, “Who is the contemporary C.S. Lewis?” I argue, “no one.” There will never be another C.S. Lewis. There will never be another individual with his upbringing, armed with his war experiences and academic background, with his penchant for blending philosophy and practicality and imagination.

Most people in the evangelical world don’t have the depth of literary experience that Lewis had. He was a reader before he became a writer. He insisted upon studying before he wrote or spoke one word. He was careful like that, and his commitment to “walk the walk” is unparalleled by even many contemporary pastors.

I think this is why Gen X is having such a difficult time attending church. They crave authenticity, and Lewis always delivered. He spoke openly and honestly about his own battles with pride.

My doctoral degree is in leadership (my dissertation argued that Lewis was a transformational leader). Through the research, I realized that people want an honest leader. Lewis did that for them.

He was a layperson like them, but had the prodigious insight of a scholar and priest. That is why people keep coming back to him. There are lots of frauds evident in many aspects of our world, and when we finally encounter something that is legitimate, we cling to it. Lewis was and is that for many people.

WD: Like all of us, Lewis wasn’t perfect. Where do you find yourself disagreeing with him or his approach?

Frankly, there are many spiritual dictates that I agree with when it concerns Lewis. Personally, I don’t always agree with his characterization of women early in his career (especially in “Modern Man and His Categories of Thought”).

I discussed this on my blog during the “Lewis and Women” blog series. He was a rather conventional man when it comes to many things, so I am not resentful about this.

I believe that one of the worst things to do is take a man out of context and use his own words against him. People in the past are guilty of this, and that is why I felt that the blog series was necessary. If you are going to make accusations, at least do the research first!

WD: If you had to choose, what is the most invaluable lesson you learned from him?

Humility. C.S. Lewis was a humble man. Even when his pride began to swell, he remained humble. So many people let popularity get to them, allow it to corrupt and destroy them. For Lewis it didn’t.

He was always concerned about his finances because he gave so much money away to help others. And he didn’t brag about it when he did.

He was simultaneously self-conscious and unselfconscious (as Madeline L’Engle put it). That is the type of person I aspire to be.

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.