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CS Lewis on Gender: Men and Women in the Purgatorial Kitchen [a repost]

From a letter to an American woman, 31.7.62

I have a notion that, apart from actual pain, men and women are quite diversely afflicted by illness.  To a woman one of the great evils about it is that she can't do things.  To a man (or anyway a man like me) the great consolation is the reflection "well, anyway, no-one can now demand that I should do anything." I have often had the fancy that one stage in purgatory might be a great big kitchen in which things are always going wrong - milk boiling over, crockery getting smashed, toast burning, animals stealing.  The women have to learn to sit still and mind their own business: the men have to learn to jump up and do something about it. When both sexes have mastered this exercise, they go on to the next.

A clarification written 03.09.62

[this] is simply my lifelong experience - that men are more likely to hand over to others what they ought to do themselves, and women more likely to do themselves what others wish they would leave alone.  Hence both sexes must be told "mind your own business" but in two different senses.


I think that's very incisive.  By the way - how serious do you think he is about "purgatory"?

5 thoughts on “CS Lewis on Gender: Men and Women in the Purgatorial Kitchen [a repost]

  1. James

    I hope he's joking to make a point about the differences between men and women...I've always found him particularly insightful on this (men/women) not purgatory! He's great on it in the Screwtape Letters too.

  2. David

    I don't think he was being that serious about purgatory, he just had a very strong fondness for medievalisms; and to be fair, he uses it to make a very good point about men and women.

  3. John Fricis Ievins

    In "Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer" (or whatever it's precisely called), he explicitly stated that he believed in purgatory.

    Lewis was a great apologist, but he was alas no evangelical.

  4. Si Hollett

    Indeed, CS Lewis had all sorts of iffy doctrines. However most of his iffy theology is in more obscure works, less intended for public consumption and in his main works - while bits shine out - he proclaims Christ and attacks the false theologies of the day (modernity, post-modernity, etc). Evangelicals thus love him - a bit like how Reformed people like Mark Driscoll, even now, despite it being really obvious he's got a lot of iffiness going on in his theology.

    Contrast Rob Bell and others who are rather a lot less iffy in their evangelicalism than Lewis, and may have excellent Jesus-centred private ministries that evangelicals would love to be under, but whose public ministries are about taking out evangelical darlings (with adverts for the books to make them more controversial than they actually are), thus they attract a lot of flak and aren't loved by evangelicals.

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