Thursday, July 4, 2013

"Real" Life

I had never read any C.S. Lewis prior to my mission. A ward member bought Elder Anderson and I copies of The Chronicles of Narnia for Christmas one year, but I never cracked any of Lewis' philosophical/apologetic writings until my first year of marriage. I still remember quite clearly lying in bed in our first apartment reading the first chapter (letter) of The Screwtape Letters and being struck by the following (from the demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood):

C.S. Lewis
Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily 'true' or 'false', but as 'academic' or 'practical', 'outworn' or 'contemporary', 'conventional' or 'ruthless'. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don't waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous--that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about. The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle on to [God]'s own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below...Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it 'real life' and don't let him ask what he means by 'real'.[1]

I also remember asking myself afterwards what exactly I meant by 'real'.

1. Lewis, Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters: Complete In One Volume (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2003), 241-242.

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