Muscular Christianity is a movement, originating in nineteenth-century Britain, associated with promoting physical health, athleticism, and active evangelism. Many critics say that C. S. Lewis, particularly in his fiction, drew from this tradition:

... Lewis's creed of clean-living, muscular Christianity, pipe-smoking, misogyny, racism, and the most vulgar snobbery. (Philip Hensher, The Independent column of 4 December 1998)

Not surprisingly, some readers embrace Narnia's pagan flavor in preference to its muscular Christianity. (Naomi Wood, God in the Details, in Revisiting Narnia, ed. Shanna Caughey, 2005)

... his polemical, somewhat muscular, orthodox Anglican Christianity ... (Terence Brown, C. S. Lewis: Irishman?, chapter in Ireland's literature, 1988)

Did Lewis have anything to say about "muscular Christianity" as an idea, and did he associate himself with the concept? I would certainly count him as a forceful defender of Christian ideas, but not as someone particularly interested in physical fitness.


1 Answer 1



C.S. Lewis converted to Christianity in 1931. While there is no doubt that Muscular Christianity, as a movement, was still around at that time, the largest proponents for muscular Christianity, Charles Kingsley and Thomas Hughes, died before 1900.

This, of course, does not preclude C.S. Lewis from adhering to these views. However, his corpus does not include any significant writings regarding Muscular Christianity.

We can presume that even if he held these beliefs (as your quotes suggest), he was not a vehement supporter of this movement, due to his lack of writing on the subject.

  • I suspected the critics were using the term somewhat loosely - probably based on a surface impression of the Narnia books being "good clean fun" for healthy, well-behaved, self-reliant English children. Thank you for confirming his lack of actual ideology on the subject.
    – James T
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 11:50
  • 3
    @JamesT My personal opinion/stereotype says that since he was a scholar and a pipe smoker, he probably wasn't hugely into athletics. Also, everything I've read seems to indicate he's more of an intellectual rather than a physical type of guy. Finally, does this look like a guy heavily involved in athletics?. Again, these are pure stereotypes and opinions. But still...
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 12:08

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