If you are an American and are 63 or older, you probably remember exactly where you were and what you were doing on November 22, 1963 when you learned that President John F. Kennedy had been fatally shot. Today’s generation might think of the radical jihadist attack on New York and Washington D.C., since remembered as “9/11.” November 1963 found me on leave from college and at work in my parents’ family bookstore, earning money to return to school a year later. I went to lunch alone that Friday, a sheltered nineteen-year-old in an innocent world. What happened in Dallas during that lunch became the symbol of a decade now historicised for its assassinations, social revolution and civil unrest.
Overshadowed by the President’s death in the U.S., another well-known individual also died on November 22, 1963, at his home in England, seven days before his 65th birthday. That man was the recently-retired Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge. His parents named him “Clive” and his friends all called him “Jack,” but we know him by his initials as “C. S. Lewis.” Poet, novelist, literary critic, Lewis was a longtime atheist until, at age 31, he was overtaken by the One for whose relentless pursuit of sinners, English poet Francis Thompson labelled “the hound of heaven.”
Two years after renouncing atheism, Lewis became a Christian. Throughout the next 30 years, he became perhaps the most widely-read and influential Christian apologist of all time. Among his most popular works, Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and Chronicles of Narnia all stand out. The Narnia <Chronicles alone have sold more than one hundred million copies. On November 22, two days from now and fifty years after the day he died, Clive Staple Lewis will be memorialized (but not interred) for future generations in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey in London, joining the likes of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dickens and Milton.