A Clash of Faith: What Happens When Punk Rocker Terry Chimes Reads “Mere Christianity”

It’s hard not to love The Clash, though they started filling the stage with noise when I was still in diapers. That’s okay, since Clash headman Mick Jones said in his last performance,

“This here set of music is now dedicated to making sure that those people in the crowd that have children, there is something left here later for them in the centuries.”

They then sang “Know Your Rights.” That’s what they do.

Recently, the founding drummer of The Clash, Terry Chimes, talked about the influence of C.S. Lewis in his autobiography, The Strange Case of Doctor Terry and Mr Chimes. In this memoir he discusses what has been called his “spiritual awakening” and his “journey back to Catholic faith,” inspired by C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. Madeleine Teahan of  The Catholic Herald has covered the story.

Chimes describes stumbling across a copy of CS Lewis’s book Mere Christianity at a car boot sale in 1998 and reading about Lewis’s analysis of the sin of pride.

Chimes said:

“There was a chapter entitled The Great Sin. The great sin is pride, the tendency we all have to think we are better than someone else. I had always known that pride existed but wondered why it’s referred to as the great sin. That was until I realised the significance of pride as an obstacle to spiritual growth.

“The problem with pride is that those who have the most see it the least. CS Lewis said that if you have done some good works, read some spiritual books, perhaps practiced meditation or given up drinking and you take pride in that, thinking that you are more spiritual than someone else, then Satan will rub his hands with glee, because he will have caught you in a spiritual trap from which escape is very difficult.”

He continued:

“As I read those words I had the chilling awareness that I have been in just such a trap for twenty years. I put the book down and went to sit on the sofa. I was reeling from the realisation that I’d been in a trap for all of that time. Within minutes I was having the most extraordinary experience of my life.”

The 57-year-old goes on to describe the ‘extraordinary experience’ which followed as a presence coming through him “in strong waves.” He said:

“At that moment, everything material and concrete seemed like nothing compared to the power and majesty of this presence. Everything in my world seemed to be instantly shattered, leaving me feeling tiny, naked and exposed. At the same time I felt the most extraordinarily powerful love. This presence knew everything about me and yet still loved me.”

He continued:

“There were many tears, but also the most profound feeling that I would always be loved until the end of time and beyond. I also realised at that moment that my life could never be the same again. There was the feeling that all of the hairs on my head were standing on end and tingling, a feeling that has stayed with me on and off ever since.

“I decided to set about rearranging all of my life’s priorities…When I came across the following poem, by Saint Augustine, it expressed perfectly my feelings at that time: ‘You made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you. Beauty at once so ancient and so new, late have I loved thee. You were within me, and I was in the world outside myself. I searched for you. You were within me but I was not with you. You called me. You cried aloud to me. You broke the barrier of my deafness. You shone upon me.’”

After his time with The Clash, Chimes went on tour briefly with the rock band Black Sabbath, in the late 1980s. He subsequently began to distance himself from his rebel, rock image when he became a teetotal vegetarian and trained as a chiropractor in 1994.

Many thanks to the Catholic Herald. People often talk about the influence of C.S. Lewis fairly glibly, with a general sense of his literary, creative, or spiritual importance. While the storyline, “punk drummer to vegetarian chiropractor” isn’t guaranteed to thrill, I think the sensitive conversion story of this Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer is really the story of a lot of people: that inexplicable, unplanned moment when the foundation of the universe shifts and the whole world look different. In that sense, it is a story worth telling.

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About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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18 Responses to A Clash of Faith: What Happens When Punk Rocker Terry Chimes Reads “Mere Christianity”

  1. robstroud says:

    Never been into the punk scene (and didn’t even recognize the name of the band–that’s how remote the music is from my life) but this is an amazing and wonderful testimony. It will be amazing to learn one day just how many scores of thousands of lives God has changed in a positive way through the work of C.S. Lewis.

    Like

  2. elly2122 says:

    Wow. Thank you for sharing. What a great story and testimony to the power of the presence of God! I would be interested to read his autobiography.

    Like

  3. Mikey Scars says:

    As I told my friend that shared this blog on his Facebook: Incredibly interesting. The Clash were so important to me that they sometimes were a greater ‘god’ to me than…well…God. A lot of people won’t understand my choice but I gave up all non-worship music, which meant my Clash and tons of other stuff that people would weep over. This is an amazing little article or blog or whatever the kids call it. Feels like a nice book-end to my Clash Life that began in 1996 and ended in 2013.

    Like

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