Just before the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Indiana Hoosiers kicked off their football game on ABC last Saturday, a good friend of mine posted the following quote on my Facebook:
Knowing how much of a fan I am of The Screwtape Letters John thoughtfully posted what he thought was an excellent quote regarding the role politics tends to play in our lives. I thought it looked “off”, but as I was sinking into the couch with my popcorn and about to loose myself in the game I didn’t have time to confirm the quote. (This is what the internet has wrought: we now have to fact-check everything because of course we do.)
It wasn’t until Sunday night that I had time to research it. It turns out it’s a clever, but fake, quote created by some blogger as a reimagining of what Uncle Screwtape would offer as counsel to Wormwood in our current political climate. It is a clever forgery and despite it not being from Screwtape it is a pretty good summing up of where we are today.
This got me to wondering what Lewis may have written regarding politics in the past. I took a look into my copy of The Quotable Lewis and found the following quotes of interest (to me, at least).
On Political Power:
Each generation exercises power over its successors: and each, in so far as it modifies the environment bequeathed to it and rebels against tradition, resists and limits the power of its predecessors. This modifies the picture which is sometimes painted of a progressive emancipation from tradition and a progressive control of natural processes resulting in a continual increase of human power. In reality, of course, if any one age really attains, by eugenics and scientific education, the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after it are the patients of that power. They are weaker, not stronger: for though we may have put wonderful machines in their hands we have pre-ordained how they are to use them. – The Abolition of Man, chapter 3, paragraph 4.
A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think much about his digestion. – The Weight of Glory, “Membership”, paragraph 4.
[After a few covering the area of politics I continued in the P’s and found more quotes which I thought relevant to today.]
But it is not only children who react thus. Few things in the ordinary peacetime life of a civilised country are more nearly fiendish than the rancour with which a whole unbelieving family will turn on the one member of it who has become a Christian, or a whole lowbrow family on the one who shows signs of becoming an intellectual. This is not, as I once thought, simply the innate and, as it were, disinterested hatred of darkness for light. A church-going family in which one has gone atheist will not always behave any better. It is the reaction to a desertion, even to robbery. Someone or something has stolen “our” boy (or girl). He who was one of Us has become one of Them. What right had anybody to do it? He is ours. – The Four Loves, chapter 3, paragraph 30.
[While Lewis is writing about a religious conversion, in our age in which politics and the state have replaced religion in many lives, I’ve seen this same “Us vs. Them” mentality on display. Tell me you can’t see it yourself, especially if you have a presence on social media. It’s everywhere.]
What you say about the present state of mankind is true: indeed, it is even worse than you say.
For they neglect not only the law of Christ but even the Law of Nature as known by the Pagans. For now they do not blush at adultery, treachery, perjury, theft and the other crimes which I will not say Christian Doctors, but the pagans and the barbarous have themselves denounced.
They err who say “the world is turning pagan again.” Would that it were! The truth is that we are falling into a much worse state.
“Post-Christian man” is not the same as “pre-Christian man.” He is as far removed as virgin is from widow: there is nothing in common except want of a spouse: but there is a great difference between a spouse-to-come and a spouse lost. – Letters: C.S. Lewis/Don Giovanni Calabria (March 17, 1953), paragraph 4-7.
[I have read words to this same effect on more than one occasion. Where we seem to be headed as a culture is much worse than pre-Christianity. The pagans, and here I refer to the ancient Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, are widely known to have referred to what they (in their pre-Christian mind) called divine providence. These philosophers recognized the divine and the hope of man to transcend their human state. There was natural law. As is evident in our culture today, where gender is fluid and changed like the oil in our cars, and “marriage” between people of the same sex is not only accepted but encouraged, there is a wholescale rejection of natural law and the divine. While the easy thing to do is to divide the sides into “liberal vs. conservative” or “left vs. right”, we are more accurately a people who are divided thusly: you either believe in the supernatural or you don’t. In a post-Christian world there will be no need for the supernatural, or natural law, because man is a god, the state is the bigger god, and there is no natural law…only what the state on their whim, and man as an individual (“my truth”) says is the law.]
The descent to hell is easy, and those who begin by worshipping power soon worship evil. – The Allegory of Love, chapter IV.II, paragraph 21
[When a political party realizes that they can stay in and gain even more power by selling themselves to special interests that can at best be described as inhuman, evil or even satanic (Planned Parenthood, anyone?), they no longer are merely interested in power but have themselves become pawns of evil.]
Since I have begun to pray, I find my extreme view of personality changing. My own empirical self is becoming more important, and this is exactly the opposite of self-love. You don’t teach a seed how to die into treehood by throwing it into the fire: and it has to become a good seed before it’s worth burying. – Letters of C.S. Lewis (1933?)
[I included this quote in order to end on a positive note, and to show that there is always hope. But, as the saying goes, change begins with me. This is the hard part. It can be done. I’m living proof.]