Dorothy L. Sayers on the Christian Faith

by | May 22, 2020 | Books, Christian living, Tamara's Blog

Do you ever wonder what people would think about you if they really knew you, not the life you let them see, but the parts underneath, hidden away, or maybe whitewashed? Then I recommend spending some time reading about this remarkable and imperfect Christian woman.

Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957) was a passionate and complicated woman with personal joys and sorrows and tragedies. Sayers was a mystery novelist, a Christian scholar, a playwright, one of the first women to be awarded a degree from Oxford, and credited for the revival of Classical Education. She is most remembered and loved for the creation of her dashing sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey and his amateur partner, Harriet Vane. Amongst her closest friends and colleagues she was loved and highly respected. Nonetheless, after her death a hidden life was revealed. Sayers had a son out of wedlock who she never acknowledged publicly; a secret she kept from even her closest of family and friends, including her parents. This revelation changed her image and gave deeper meaning to, and understanding about, her life and work, and most importantly, the Christian faith that sustained her.

“For Dorothy Sayers, the Christian faith was the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man.’ Christ himself was no ‘household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies’, but God made flesh, ‘a shattering personality…a dangerous firebrand…hero and victim,’ wrote David Comes in Dorothy L. Sayers: A Careless Rage for Life.

Dorothy Sayers’ description of Christ

“True, He was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers and humble before Heaven; but He insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites…He went to parties in disreputable company…He drove a coach-and-horses through a number of sacrosanct and hoary regulations; He cured disease by any means that came handy, with a shocking casualness in the matter of other people’s pigs and property; He showed no proper deference for wealth or social position; when confronted with neat dialectical traps, He displayed a paradoxical humour that affronted serious-minded people, and He retorted by asking disagreeable searching questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb.” excerpt from ‘The Greatest Drama Ever Staged’, the Sunday Times, 3 April 1938

Christ and Women

‘Are Women Human?’ Women, Sayers wrote, “had never known a man like this Man—there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as ‘The women, God help us!’ or ‘The Ladies, God bless them!’; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfish-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything ‘funny’ about women’s nature.”

“Of all the presuppositions of Christianity, the only one I really have and can swear to from personal inward conviction is sin. About that I have no doubt whatever and never have had. Neither does any doctrine of determinism or psychological maladjustment convince me in the very least that when I do wrong it is not I who do it and that I could not, by some means or other, do better.” page 368 Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul by Barbara Reynolds

Being a Christian

“God is a Person from the beginning (the same Person that was manifested as a man in Christ), and He has made us persons in His own image … Sin, by turning the self away from God, depersonalises us; our real selves are rooted in God …

“Christianity is as plain and common as bread, The simplest person or the youngest child can be a Christian, by faith and baptism. The faith is faith in a Person; the baptism is baptism into His Body.” page 369

“When we go to heaven all I ask is that we shall be given some interesting job and allowed to get on with it. No management; no box-office; no dramatic critics; and an audience of cheerful angels who don’t mind laughing.” page 371

Further reading on the life of Dorothy L. Sayers:

Dorothy L. Sayers by James Brabazon

Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul by Barbara Reynolds

The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers chosen and edited by Barbara Reynolds

Dorothy L. Sayers: A Careless Rage for Life by David Comes