C.S. Lewis Got it Wrong on Violence & War

Several months back I reread C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. I was struck at how many things he said with a tone of being new or controversial, while in todays Christian worldview they were commonplace. I can only assume that in that important work of Christian literature he established a new normal within Christianity, and for the most part I’m thankful for that. I love Lewis, he’s brilliant, he loved the Lord. I also think he was wrong about some things. For all the ways that he ignored culture and had a vision for the world as God saw it, in many ways he was also a product of his time.

While I think Lewis would shutter to know how readily many Christians rush to support war and violence today. He was far from a pacifist, and he left no doubt with this passage…

…the Christian in arms for the defense of a good cause – is one of the great Christian ideas.  War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken.

I say all of this because I want to borrow (steal?) Lewis’s rhetoric and turn it on it’s head, because it’s the exact (opposite) way I feel about the issue.

I can respect the honest violence-apologist, but only after they’ve ready closely the words of Jesus and how Christians have interpreted those words throughout history, especially before Constantine ushered in the idea of Christian military power.

More to the point if you’ve honestly read the Sermon on the Mount with a fresh ear, and read Christian literature on non-violence and still don’t see Jesus’s call in scripture to it, then although I still disagree with you, you’ve certainly earned the right to believe that God allows violence. But more than not, those I hear beating the war drum in the name of Christ have no theology behind it other than some vague notion about violence in the Old Testament, and a feeling that ‘God is on our side’. It seems like when something as serious and sacred as a human life is on the line, we had better do our homework and make sure that what we believe is based on something substantial.

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