The Christian Faith of “Wrinkle in Time” Author Madeleine L’Engle

"A Wrinkle in Time" author Madeleine L'Engle. (Crosswicks)
“A Wrinkle in Time” author Madeleine L’Engle. (Crosswicks)

It took 26 publisher rejections before Madeleine L’Engle could get “A Wrinkle in Time” into print in 1962. The book was an instant hit, winning the Newbery Medal the following year, but despite its wild success, L’Engle still had fierce critics — including a good number of them who disliked her book for faith reasons.

While L’Engle considered herself a devout Christian, and sprinkled the book with scriptural references, she was accused by some conservative Christians of promoting witchcraft and the occult — an accusation made later against “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling.

The religious wariness likely also contributed to some publishers’ rejection of the book, but it didn’t stop “A Wrinkle in Time” from being popular for more than 50 years after it was finally saw the light.

A Disney film adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time,” which opens Thursday, stars Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine and Zach Galifianakis, and is directed by Ava DuVernay of “Selma.” In the story, 13-year-old Meg Murry, played in the film by Storm Reid, is guided by three angelic beings on a quest to find her father, a scientist who had gone missing.

“If I’ve ever written a book that says what I feel about God and the universe, this is it,” L’Engle wrote in her journal about “A Wrinkle in Time.” “This is my psalm of praise to life, my stand for life against death.”

Before she died in 2007 at age 88, L’Engle was the rare writer who ran in both liberal mainline Protestant circles and elite literary ones in New York City, and who also had made conservative evangelical fans around the country. L’Engle was part of an exclusive society of authors, including Eugene Peterson, Richard Foster and Philip Yancey, who remain popular among evangelical readers.

“Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys,” L’Engle wrote in her book “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.”

L’Engle is sometimes compared with 20th-century British author C.S. Lewis, who wrote popular children’s literature, as well as books defending and explaining the Christian faith. L’Engle graduated from Smith College, and a collection of her papers is held at Wheaton College, the evangelical school in the Chicago suburbs that also holds some of Lewis’s papers.

She wrote that publishers had trouble with “A Wrinkle in Time” “because it deals overtly with the problem of evil, and it was too difficult for children, and was it a children’s or an adult’s book, anyhow?”

A woman named Claris Van Kuiken, who was a member of the Christian Reformed Church, wrote a 1996 book titled “Battle to Destroy Truth,” tying L’Engle’s work to New Age spirituality. She argued that L’Engle’s works “preserved the ‘ancient wisdom’ or ‘secret doctrine’ condemned by God Himself.”

L’Engle was baffled and frustrated by some of the vitriol she faced from fellow Christians, her granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voiklis said Wednesday. Although she once considered herself an atheist, after L’Engle became a Christian, she had a daily practice of reading the Bible and praying. Her granddaughter said L’Engle’s coming to her faith was slower “acceptance of what she had always known to be true,” rather than a sudden conversion moment.

“She was a Christian because she was deeply rooted in its traditions and language, and she was moved by and trusted in its stories,” Voiklis said.

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SOURCE: Sarah Pulliam Bailey
The Washington Post