I went to see the CS Lewis play, The Great Divorce, a while back. The play was off Broadway and in a very small theatre. What a production! It was amazing. If you’ve never read the book, consider it. It’s the story of a bus ride from hell to heaven. At the gates of heaven, each of the bus riders are given the opportunity to get into heaven, but all but one ultimately choose hell. I’ve read it over and over again. Lewis isn’t making a theological statement in the book. If you are reading it with that in mind, you are missing the point. But the characters at heaven’s gates are all very provocative!
For example: One of the characters was grumbler. The actor walked across the stage mumbling and grumbling. The words cascaded from her lips like water over a water falls. Grumble grumble grumble. Over and over. Lewis used the character to highlight what happens when one becomes the qualities that get us into hell. He notes in the book, “The whole difficulty of understanding Hell is that the thing to be understood is so nearly Nothing. ….It begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it: perhaps criticizing it. And yourself, in a dark hour, may will that mood, embrace it. Ye can repent and come out of it, again. But [here Lewis warns us through the character, speaking in the book] there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood, nor even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine.”
Do you see what he’s saying? There may come a time when sin literally consumes us. It’s become so much apart of us, that it is us and when that happens, its hell. Hell is the by-product of what sin does to us—we become dehumanized and less of what we’ve been created to be to the point where we eternally disintegrate. Sobering!! The whole idea of hell as flames of fire is a metaphor for the eternal, non ending, disintegration of a human soul. Biblically it is searing heat and fire. It is outer darkness and isolation. We never become what we were created to become: its utter, complete, and entire hopelessness. Lewis seeks to communicate that in the book.
After it was all done, we went out to dinner and discussed which character was most compelling. It made for good conversation. Read the book. The play was put on by The Fellowship of the Performing Arts which is a theatrical company committed to sharing theatre from a Christian worldview. The play, The Great Divorce, had taken several years to perfect and has gotten some great reviews. Max McClean, the founder, came out after the performance and took questions. There were three actors who played sixteen roles!! Honestly, living in NYC has its benefits when it comes to the arts. It was an amazing experience.