We are about to start our summer small group reading CS Lewis’s The Great Divorce. A church member approached and in jest said, “We are coming, but I worry my wife is a little too interested in the title of this book.”
Lewis’s book begins with a reference to Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell. I have never touched Blake’s book, but splendidly the copyright is up and the book is available for free download. So I started reading. Fairly quickly it becomes apparent that Blake’s desire is not to arrive in Heaven, but Hell. A strange choice, until you see his vision for eternity: Heaven is a place of rules, Hell of freedom. As the book unfolds, you realize Blake is raging against a religion of restrictions. Against a belief that takes away actions – a puritanical religion of the law.
I can not deny this is the religion often taught. How many define Christianity as a list of things we can not do? Or by the groups we are against? Sometime Christians themselves promote the idea that our faith is reduction.
But that is like reading the title of Lewis’s book The Great Divorce and assuming it is a splendid list of ways to get rid of a spouse. When in reality his book opens the imagination to the time when heaven and hell will be separated. Beyond separation of locations, good will be separated from evil. Joy from sadness. Right now we live in a mixed world. Our joy. Our love. Our celebration. Each are interrupted by sadness, guilt, hate, fear, selfishness. Even Pixar senses Joy and Sadness are tied together. In this world it is hard to believe we can know one without the other. But Lewis imagines it – heaven’s perfection is a divorce from the tragedy of today.
This is Christianity. Seeking Real joy. Real friendship. Real compassion. Real honesty. Real love. This is the path of Christ. Divorced from the path of reduction, our faith seeks to add goodness.
“Every good and perfect gift is from God” (James 1:17). Everything. Beauty. Food. Art. Adventure. Sex. Laughter. Competition. Games. Friendship. Grass. Coffee. The Royals. All these things are from God. His gifts. Signs of the coming age. Glimpses of when we will know, really know everything – all in His love. All of these things we seek, add to our lives. We celebrate each of them. A taste of heaven still married to the Hell of Earth.
Blake, while I do not agree with his overall point, has some excellent quotes:
- “The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.”
- “What is now proved was once only imagin’d”