A Christian Carol- The Subtle Christianity of Charles Dickens – IOTW Report

A Christian Carol- The Subtle Christianity of Charles Dickens

“Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence were, all, my business.”—[The Ghost of Jacob MarleyA Christmas Carol]


Of all the Christmas stories, nothing is to me more enduring and inspiring than Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Whether the tale itself or the 1951 black and white film version starring Alastair Sim—the scary old coot who Dickens himself would have cast for the role—the wonderful story of Scrooge’s haunting and ultimate redemption is indelibly seared into my memory and inspires me still. 

Dickens’ Christianity is revealed

Some say that Dickens is the father of the modern Christmas celebration—a tradition that was disappearing at the time he wrote the story. His portrayal of a Victorian snow-filled holiday celebrated with wassail, caroling, and families gathered around the table to eat the Christmas goose, perpetuated the secular Christmas celebration, which many Americans now enjoy. Yet, it was far more than a holiday tale.  A Christmas Carol was a powerful, almost subliminal, message of Christian values and morality—though Jesus, God and the New Testament are barely alluded to in the story. How many readers knew that Dickens was an unconventional Christian, whose calling was to lead the reader to a greater understanding of the New Testament?

Considered by some contemporaries to be a great Christian writer, Dickens did not consider himself a Christian writer. Though a Christian, he was not pious, nor did he practice religiosity. He despised hypocritical evangelists who pounded the Bible, told the masses how sinful they were, warned them of the fires of Hell, then committed the very sins they preached against. He disliked factional, sectarian religion, writing that sectarian arguments over the letter of the Gospel drove the spirit from the Gospel. Dickens championed the working classes and the downtrodden. He scorned the church establishment and the uncaring upper classes of his time.  Like Jesus, he loved the poor (the least of His people). His most sympathetic characters were the working class, the crippled, the poor and those charitable and humble souls who sought to help them.  Tiny Tim was the crippled son of a poor working-class family, who was destined to die at a young age. The humble men who solicited funds for the poor and who Scrooge so rudely dismissed were the antithesis of the pious men who ran the church establishment in Dickens’ day. Ignorance and Want were two ghostly street urchins whose gaunt appearance haunted Scrooge’s conscience. 

Dickens’ Christianity is revealed in a letter he wrote to a clergyman friend: MORE

10 Comments on A Christian Carol- The Subtle Christianity of Charles Dickens

  1. Dickens inspired so many people to use Christian actions rather than words. My favorite movie of A Christmas carol is the 1951 version with Alistair Sim. Even the music / soundtrack from that film combined for a happy ending for the repentant Scrooge. Thoroughly beautiful story and movie. Dickens was my favorite Author while growing up .

  2. Alistair Sim’s version is my very favorite! Watch it every year.

    Genipero – great minds, ya know!!!

    My favorite part is when the cleaning lady runs down the stairs afraid of the “new” Scrooge!

  3. My mother read the book every year. She hated the Sim version because it showed Scrooge’s former fiancé working into what amounts to a homeless shelter and that was not in the book. It did not go against anything in the book, but it was not in the book.

    I love the Sim version. He is the perfect Scrooge. When he walks into Fred’s house and looks timid and Audrey Hepburn’s twin sister urges him to go in. And his speaking to Fred’s wife has to be the most heartfelt performance I have ever seen in a move. Every performance in the film was fantastic.

    That reminds me: I need to watch it again.

  4. I try to collect the different versions. It is a great story and mostly if you follow it reasonably it will make worthwhile watching. My personal favorite is the Mr. Magoo version, Followed by the George C. Scott Version with the Alister Sim version coming in 3rd. I have about 15 versions now and enjoy all of them from the silents to the Musicals even the Disney version was not ruined. Muppets aren’t bad either

  5. @Claudia @Radio

    Yes, Alastair Sim was the perfection of Scrooge in film. He had the looks, voice, and maybe a bit of the temperment of Scrooge. Sim was a Scot, and they have a certain rep for thriftiness, warranted or not.

    When the cleaning lady runs down the stairs, Scrooge catches up with her and presses a valuable coin into her hand. She looks at him and says “What For”. A funny moment but you hope the kids don’t ask what it meant.


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