71st Anniversary of First Broadcast Talk
August 6, 2012
Note: Because of this special anniversary the next podcast in The Narnia Code series will post tomorrow.
On August 6, 1941 a chapter in the life of C.S. Lewis began which had far reaching consequences. That evening (at 7:45, local time in England) he debuted on the BBC giving the first of what was then planned as only four talks related to his Christian faith. This first series of broadcasts was expanded to include a fifth talk dealing with answering questions from listeners. Lewis went before the microphone many more times in the next few years to do three more groups of talks. As noted in my post, 60th Anniversary of Mere Christianity, they were all eventually collected in the now famous book.
Why did he even go on the radio in the first place?
On April 6, 1942 (exactly eight months later) Lewis wrote the preface to Broadcast Talks where he noted, “I gave these talks, not because I am anyone in particular, but because I was asked to do so.” Interestingly, the person who did the asking, James Welch, had never heard Lewis speak before! Having worked professionally in radio in the past myself, I can tell you this is something you just don’t do! Yet, Welch had read Lewis’s The Problem of Pain and because he thought it was so well written he invited Lewis to step up to the microphone. If you’ve heard Jack speak then you know Welch took a good risk. If you haven’t heard him speak, then visit my special post featuring the ONLY surviving talk from the one of his later broadcasts.
When this first series of talks was promoted they were called “Right and Wrong: A Clue to the Meaning of the Universe.” The debut talk later became known as “The Law of Human Nature” when included in Mere Christianity. However, it was first in the book Broadcast Talks (see Two Anniversaries for 7/13) without any title. Yet, there IS another title associated with this broadcast: “Common Decency.” That’s because, even though Lewis spoke live on the radio, he didn’t just say whatever came to his mind! Everything he said was written in a script that was read and the first one was given the two-word title. A book by Justin Phillips entitled C.S. Lewis in a Time of War provides many more details about this and all of the other talks (it is also published under the title C.S. Lewis at the BBC).
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Also see my post on Phillips’s book.