Threat to Narnian Tranquillity

Angie Fiedler Sutton/Flickr

By John Martin

A row has broken out in Oxford about a proposal to build apartments near the Kilns, home of the late apologist and novelist C.S. Lewis.

A planning application submitted to Oxford City Council seeks approval of a building development of nine apartments, which the C.S. Lewis Foundation says “will destroy the quiet Narnian environment of C.S. Lewis’s beloved home.” Also at risk is the unique character of the nearby C.S. Lewis Nature Reserve.

The planning application seeks permission for an access road to be built directly across from the Kilns, at the end of Lewis Close in Risinghurst on the edge of Oxford. The proposed road would run along the boundary of the C.S Lewis Nature Reserve.

The Lewis Foundation believes the project “will destroy the peace and tranquility many find on this quiet cul-de-sac as they come on pilgrimage to visit the home of an author who has inspired millions.”

“The Kilns welcomes children, families, school groups, and tourists from around the world, offering the experience of viewing the historic Blue Plaque home. Further, scholars and clergy live in the home throughout the year, finding a place of quiet study as they work on research and writing projects.”

“This should not be allowed to happen,” said Douglas Gresham, whose mother, poet Joy Davidman, married Lewis and lived at the Kilns. “This proposal would have the effect of putting the C.S. Lewis house in the middle of a development that it does not belong to. … It would destroy what is a quiet cul-de-sac, and what for many is a holy retreat, for the sake of a profit-grab idea.”

Welby Reflects on the Holocaust

A third visit to the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp was for Archbishop Justin Welby “even more appalling” than previous ones.

The clergy were out in the cold for five hours during their visit. Prisoners held there would be out for 12 hours.

“We were fed. They were starved,” Welby wrote. “There are so many statistics about Auschwitz/Birkenau, but it defies description. Eighty-five percent of prisoners died. Many in just days of arriving.

“Then there was the industrialized killing of the gas chambers. The vulnerable, the disabled, marginalized minorities, and above all the Jews: children, adults and the elderly, taken from a train to their deaths in as little as 30 minutes. Accounts were kept, profits were sought. No one can deny the reality of what happened. There is simply far, far, far too much evidence.”

The visit raised questions for the archbishop and his party. “Having seen this terrible place, could we still speak of God? Could we still pray, and if so in what way? Could we hear the tunes of evil in such a way that we recognize their modern variations? Even if we recognized evil, how could we know we would have the courage to protest, to lament — and not be silent when horror threatened?”

He said three things will stay with him.

“First is the way that the perpetrators at Auschwitz tried to dehumanize their victims — in a way that actually cost the humanity of both. It worked to some extent. Prisoners killed others in order to live — and were then killed themselves. Others gave their lives, like St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Edith Stein.

“Second, these atrocities were committed by ordinary people. When one of the priests leading our retreat was asked who was to blame, he said: ‘People did it to people.’

“Third, it was idolatrous and demonic. It was evil in the strict sense of human-created alternatives to the grace and providence of God. It reversed everything good with everything bad.”

He added: “I’ve come away with too much to write, and no words to write it. We must protest to the limit against evil: before it occurs, as it happens, and in its aftermath. But there is also a need for silent reflection — in which we honor the victims, mourn our capacity for evil, and learn to beware.”

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