The 150th anniversary of “Alice in Wonderland” has been widely celebrated this year, but it is odd, a recent essay at the New Yorker notes, that how seldom the religion of its author, Lewis Carroll, is considered.
The scant attention given to Carroll’s Christian faith is particularly striking since he is, in many ways, the direct predecessor of authors C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, who are practically Protestant saints in literary circles. Acolytes of Lewis and Tolkien readily dismiss suggestions that their works of fiction are mere allegories of the Christian faith. Yet, at the same time, their fans value both writers for their literary apologetics.
While a few critics may try to read allegories of doctrinal debates into the work of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll was Dodgson’s pen name), no one would accuse him of writing Christian allegory, although that trippy rabbit hole certainly lends itself to all kinds of fun possible interpretations. Perhaps such strangeness explains why neither literary specialists nor Christian readers pay much attention to the relationship of Dodgson’s faith to his work.
But Dodgson’s writing bears subtle witness to the wonders of both creation and its creator in ways that deserve more attention. He was a committed, lifelong member of the Church of England. Although he balked at taking Holy Orders, he was ordained as a deacon in the church in 1861.
While his doctrinal views parted ways with those of his high church ancestors (his great-grandfather had been a bishop and his father a clergyman), Dodgson shied from the religious controversies plaguing the church at the time, remaining essentially what would have been considered orthodox.
“Most assuredly I accept to the full the doctrines you refer to — that Christ died to save us, that we have no other way of salvation open to us but through His death, and that it is by faith in Him, and through no merit of ours, that we are reconciled to God,” Dodgson wrote in a letter to a friend in 1897, “and most assuredly I can cordially say, ‘I owe all to Him who loved me, and died on the Cross of Calvary.’”
As one biographer writes, “The hard core of his belief was too sacred to be tampered with by what he believed to be heretical elements.”
Or, as the Queen tells Alice in the book’s sequel, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!”
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SOURCE: The Washington Post
Karen Swallow Prior