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Local C.S. Lewis expert shares passion with class

By Corene Brisendine

Ron Ratliff knows more about C.S. Lewis than pretty much anyone you’ll find.

Ratliff works as the reference librarian and adjunct instructor for Manhattan Christian College, but while he was working on his four degrees, he discovered a passion in the works of the famous author.

Ratliff said he began delving into Lewis’ life after learning that “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was full of Christian references.

Ratliff said that led him to read more of Lewis’ lesser-known works, mostly lectures, on Christianity. Ratliff said he likes the way Lewis describes Christian beliefs and values through alternate fiction – and it’s changed Ratliff’s view of his own faith.

Now taking his own passion and sharing it with the young, Ratliff teaches a class on Lewis and his work. Ratliff said he prefers to use Lewis’ more obscure works because most of the students haven’t read them.

He said his favorite work by Lewis is “The Abolition of Man.” Ratliff said the work is a series of lectures written by Lewis during WWII on what would happen if civilization abandoned morality.

Another class favorite is “The Question of God: C.S. Lewis Debates God, Sex, and The Meaning of Life” by Armand Nicoli. Ratliff said that Nicoli compares viewpoints of Lewis and psychiatrist Sigmund Freud in a book that illustrates how they are in complete opposition.

He said once his students read the book, they spend hours discussing who they think is right and who has it wrong.

Ratliff said he likes to teach through discussion points rather than simply lecturing students. Although he said he keeps his opinion to himself in class, he’s admits he’s not able to explain things better than his hero.

“With Lewis, you have to let Lewis talk,” Ratliff said.

In his quest for more knowledge on Lewis, Ratliff said he has also befriended a professor In Britain who actually knew Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Ratliff said one fun fact he learned from the friendship is that if it weren’t for Lewis prodding Tolkien to finish “The Lord of the Rings,” it probably never would have been published.

Ratliff has lived in Manhattan for the past 13 years, but he’s no stranger to the community. Prior to earning his various degrees, he grew up in Junction City.

As for his college career, Ratliff began with a bachelor’s degree from Manhattan Community College. From there he traveled to Dallas to gain a master’s degree in theology. Then he came back home to earn a second bachelor’s degree in English from Kansas State University, and finished up with a master’s degree in library science from Emporia.

Ratliff said he earned four degrees because he fell in love with learning.

He said that coming back to Manhattan Christian College has provided him the ability to do different things.

He can teach class, study up on Lewis or pursue another of his favorite authors, like Tolkien.

Librarian and instructor…for Ratliff, it’s a dream job.

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