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.

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.
This entry was posted in Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 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.


  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.


  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.


  4. Pingback: Justin Phillips, C.S. Lewis at the BBC (a review) | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  5. Pingback: 3 Pop References to The Great Divorce | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  6. Pingback: The 7 Super Best Posts of 2014 (According to the Stats Squirrels) | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  7. Pingback: 2015: A Year in Books | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  8. Pingback: The Top 12 Posts of All Time | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  9. Pingback: How You Can Read C.S. Lewis Chronologically | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  10. Pingback: How to Read All of C.S. Lewis’ Essays | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  11. Pingback: Brooke Fraser on C.S. Lewis (Friday Feature) | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  12. Pingback: Fun With Stats 1: Lessons on Growth from 5 Years of Blogging | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  13. Pingback: The Women That Changed C.S. Lewis’ Life #InternationalWomensDay | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  14. Pingback: Diana Butler Bass on C.S. Lewis and the Inklings | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  15. Pingback: The Secret C.S. Lewis Giveaway by Damon Moore | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  16. Pingback: The Top 6 New Posts of 2017 | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  17. Pingback: The Periods of C.S. Lewis’ Literary Life | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  18. Pingback: Billy Graham, C.S. Lewis, and Me | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  19. Pingback: “Not Because I am Anyone in Particular”: C.S. Lewis’ Original Preface to The Broadcast Talks (1942) | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  20. Pingback: 2018: A Year of Reading: The Nerd Bit | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  21. Pingback: Literary Diversity and the Bottomless C.S. Lewis: A Unique Journey in Books | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  22. Pingback: I Passed my Viva! | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  23. Pingback: “A Sense of the Season”: C.S. Lewis’ Birthday Pivot and the Cambridge Inaugural Address | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  24. keebslac1234 says:

    Bono is another who was influenced by C.S. Lewis. (You probably already know that. I’ve not read the totality of your blog.) And, Bono, and U2, can speak of Christianity and punk rock. Here’s link to a particularly pointed story: Focus on the Family President Jim Daly interviews Bono, an incongruous moment, in my book, but here’s a bit of what Bono said:
    What broke into the life of Mick Jones is much like what Bono is quoted in a portion of that story: “Bono recalled the section in Luke 9 when Jesus told a man not to wait and bury his father but to follow Jesus immediately. Daly responded to Bono’s summary, ‘Seems cold-hearted.’
    “Bono replied, ‘No, seems punk rock to me. He could see right into that fellow’s heart. He knew he wasn’t coming and he was just, it was pretense. We’ve gotta be a bit more cutting edge, not look to the signs of righteousness. Look to the actions’
    It sticks with me. If you haven’t seen this, you might find the story a good read: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/bono-david-sang-the-blues-and-jesus-did-some-punk-rock/2013/06/24/f7398bde-dcfd-11e2-a484-7b7f79cd66a1_story.html.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, I totally missed this! Sorry about that, and thanks for the comments. I teach Eugene Peterson’s courses at Regent College, so know ab it about Bono’s interest there. I’ll look at the article.


  25. Pingback: Review of “C.S. Lewis and the Christian Worldview” by Michael L. Peterson | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  26. Pingback: “A Sense of the Season”: C.S. Lewis’ Birthday Pivot and the Cambridge Inaugural Address | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  27. Pingback: A Toy Left on the Lawn: C.S. Lewis and the Controversy of The Four Loves | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  28. Pingback: “A Sense of the Season”: C.S. Lewis’ Birthday Pivot and the Cambridge Inaugural Address (Updated) | A Pilgrim in Narnia

  29. Pingback: “A Sense of the Season”: C.S. Lewis’ Birthday Pivot and the Cambridge Inaugural Address (Updated 2022) | A Pilgrim in Narnia

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.