The interfaith book club at the University of Toronto is taking a deep dive into C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters with three one-hour online sessions over the next month. Photo from Register files

Interfaith book study delves into C.S. Lewis

By 
  • January 13, 2021

While University of Toronto students are still closed off from campus due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the institution’s interfaith book club is still coming together in an ecumenical spirit online.

A series of book discussion gatherings, open to all students regardless of religious affiliation or background residing in the GTA, will centre around The Screwtape Letters, the seminal Christian apologetic fiction novel written by British writer and lay theologian C.S. Lewis in 1942.

The crux of The Screwtape Letters penned by the author best known for The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of 31 letters composed by a devil figure called Screwtape.

He writes to his nephew Wormwood about the various temptations that can be offered to humans to steer them towards embracing Satan rather than God.

Starting Jan. 18, participants — who were provided with a copy of a book once they registered — are meeting virtually for the first of three one-hour online discussions. The second and third meetings are slated for Feb. 1 and Feb. 22 respectively.

The first session is entitled Love, Relationships and Ego, and serves as the backdrop for a discussion about what it truly means to be religious, and what actions taken by humans could be viewed as “fake religiosity.”

The second meeting dives into social justice and ethics activism, with a particular emphasis on addressing the fake news and false perceptions that are evident today.

The concluding online meeting is an educational seminar about the defining literature of each religious sect and how The Screwtape Letters can be considered a book of universal value because of how different groups can come together and reject Satan and turn to God.

Punita Lumb, the U of T’s student life program co-ordinator for education and co-curricular programs, told The Catholic Register in an e-mail that Lewis’ novel is an ideal text to study because the letters “are about the universal human experience of good and evil and have been used as a moral literature for many faith groups.”

Indeed, the book — a work Lewis dedicated to The Lord of the Rings author and close friend  J.R.R. Tolkien — is acclaimed to this day. It is lauded on Goodreads.ca as a “classic masterpiece of religious satire that entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life,” and a work that is “wildly comic, deadly serious and strikingly original.”

Besides the immediate success of The Screwtape Letters upon release during the Second World War, the enduring legacy of the novel nearly 80 years later remains evident. Marvel Comics produced a comic version of Screwtape in 1994, a 1961 stage adaptation by James Forsyth called Dear Wormwood continues to be performed in the 21st century, and the Called to Arms progressive metal band based its entire 2010 concept album Pearl and the Patient around the book.

Lewis died in 1963 at the age of 64.

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