C.S. Lewis

The Devil You Say?

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Considering all the extravagant evil in the world, I have always found it remarkable that so many people do not believe in the existence of Satan and his fallen angels.  Pope Leo XIII I believe foresaw this, which is why he gave us the prayer to Saint Michael.  In 1942 CS Lewis in The Screwtape Letters wrote what may be an epitaph for the age in which we live:

When humans disbelieve in our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us, we cannot make them materialists and  skepics. At least, not yet. I have great hopes that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, a belief in us (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy. The “Life Force,” the worship of sex, and other aspects of psychoanalysis, may here prove useful. If once we can produce our perfect work — the materialist magician, the man, not using, but veritably worshiping, what he vaguely calls “Forces” while denying the existence of “spirits” — the end of the war will be in sight. But in the meantime we must obey orders.

Man without God is nothing but prey for Satan.  With God and Man united Satan is  impotent.  Alexander Solzhenitsyn when asked why Communism seized power in Russia, used to say the following:

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened. Continue reading

Bleeding Christians

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The two churches nearest to him, I have looked up in the office. Both have certain claims. At the first of these the Vicar is a man who has been so long engaged in watering down the faith to make it easier for supposedly incredulous and hard-headed congregation that it is now he who shocks his parishioners with his unbelief, not vice versa. He has undermined many a soul’s Christianity. His conduct of the services is also admirable. In order to spare the laity all “difficulties” he has deserted both the lectionary and the appointed psalms and now, without noticing it, revolves endlessly round the little treadmill of his fifteen favourite psalms and twenty favourite lessons. We are thus safe from the danger that any truth not already familiar to him and to his flock should over reach them through Scripture. But perhaps bur patient is not quite silly enough for this church – or not yet?
At the other church we have Fr. Spike. The humans are often puzzled to understand the range of his opinions – why he is one day almost a Communist and the next not far from some kind of theocratic Fascism – one day a scholastic, and the next prepared to deny human reason altogether – one day immersed in politics, and, the day after, declaring that all states of the world are equally “under judgment”. We, of course, see the connecting link, which is Hatred. The man cannot bring himself to teach anything which is not calculated to mock, grieve, puzzle, or humiliate his parents and their friends. A sermon which such people would accept would be to him as insipid as a poem which they could scan. There is also a promising streak of dishonesty in him; we are teaching him to say “The teaching of the Church is” when he really means “I’m almost sure I read recently in Maritain or someone of that sort”. But I must warn you that he has one fatal defect: he really believes. And this may yet mar all.

CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

 

 

Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who takes up the cudgels so frequently for the Church that I have designated him Defender of the Faith, has a brilliant fisk at Midwest Conservative Journal detailing how upset some Episcopalians are at the Pope, because so many other Episcopalians are swimming the Tiber:

I said once before that if one of the marks of a genius was the ability to drive otherwise-sane people absolutely bat crap, then Pope Benedict XVI is Albert Einstein.  Come to find out that some Episcopalians are STILL bent about the Ordinariate.  Last weekend, Religion & Ethics Newsweekly did a story about a Maryland Episcopal parish that recently swam the Tiber:

In Bladensburg, Maryland, the Catholic service unfolds smoothly, a comfortable routine for priests and parishioners alike.

But one year ago, members of St. Luke’s parish were devout, devoted Episcopalians. This is the first Episcopal church in the country to convert to Catholicism under Vatican rules designed to attract disaffected Episcopalians.

Father Mark Lewis and his congregation preferred Roman Catholic order to the Episcopal tendency to make crap up as they go along.

We left the Episcopal Church not because we were running away from the issues of the Episcopal Church. We left the Episcopal Church because we were running to the Catholic Church. We came to the point where we realized the theology of the Episcopal Church is what was lacking. The theology of Rome, the authority of Rome, the unity in the Holy See and in the bishops: that was appealing to us.

As did Father Scott Hurd.

There is a real hunger amongst some Episcopalians and Anglicans for authority. It was the question of where can true Christian authority be found that was a key element in this community’s journey.

There wasn’t one particular reason, said congregant Stephen Smith.  There were a whole lot of reasons, each building on the last.

There’s not any one real incident you can point to, but it’s like the strands of a rope giving one by one, and each one weakens the rope as a whole.

Anne Marie Whittaker agrees.

All of a sudden it was do-your-own-thing mass, and there was a lot going on, for instance, a clown mass. I would come in and someone put a red nose on me! I saw children circling altars. One by one, parishes started to succumb to some of these practices in order to attract people, and it made it difficult for me to worship in that atmosphere.

Maryland Episcopal Bishop Eugene Sutton tried hard to be diplomatic.

I like to say that we are really one spiritual family. We believe about 90 percent of things in common. Where we disagree is on matters of authority and some other spiritual matters. But the important thing is that we are not fighting; we are not in competition with one another.

On the other hand, the Rev. Ian Markham, president and dean of the Virginia Theological Seminary, didn’t even try to hide his anger at the papists.

There’s quite a lot of traffic currently going both ways between the two traditions, especially at the level of congregants. What’s interesting here is you’ve got entire congregations and clergy making the shift. So, yeah, I think the Roman Catholic Church is a threat, because we’ve lost the sense of our theological understanding and identity.

How so?

There was a perception that this was poaching by the Roman Catholic Church of Anglicans around the world. It was discourteous, it was stealing sheep, it was unecumenical.

Stealing sheep?  Unecumenical?  In what way?

It’s viewed as not recognizing the value of and integrity of our traditions.

I’ve been covering the Current Unpleasantness since it began nine years ago.  And while some of you might feel the need to get into a theological argument with that line, I have arrived at a point where words like those just make me smile.

I wonder if Markham realizes how pathetic he sounds; I can’t conceive of an Orthodox or Roman Catholic Christian uttering those words or ever feeling the need to.  Because those words could not possibly occur to any person who is confident about his or her Christian tradition as Markham seems to imply here. Continue reading

Good Friday and Me

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When the creation of man was first mooted and when, even at that stage, the Enemy freely confessed that he foresaw a certain episode about a cross, Our Father very naturally sought an interview and asked for an explanation. The Enemy gave no reply except to produce the cock-and-bull story about disinterested love which He has been circulating ever since. This Our Father naturally could not accept. He implored the Enemy to lay His cards on the table, and gave Him every opportunity. He admitted that he felt a real anxiety to know the secret; the Enemy replied “I wish with all my heart that you did”.

Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis

Christ died for me.  The death of Christ on Calvary has immense theological significance:   the salvation of all mankind, the redemption from sin and the opening of the gates of Heaven.  I understand all of that on an intellectual level.  However, on Good Friday the fact that the Creator of All died for me, one of His creations, always hits me like an emotional freight train.  All of my life I have been fascinated by courage, especially sacrificial courage where men die to protect others.  We are such a flawed species, but capable of the heights of nobility when love and courage combine.  Then we put aside the great fear of death, and truly understand why we are here:  to love. Continue reading

Ronald Reagan, C.S. Lewis and Abraham Lincoln Comment On Our Times

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Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.

                                                                                             C.S. Lewis Continue reading

Stanley Fish, CS Lewis and Might Makes Right

 

Stanley Fish, probably the most noted American literary theorist of our time, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times on March 12, 2012 called Two Cheers for Double Standards in which he demonstrated how deeply wed he and other members of the Left in this country are to the Orwell axiom from Animal Farm that some animals are more equal than others:

If we think about the Rush Limbaugh dust-up from the non-liberal — that is, non-formal — perspective, the similarity between what he did and what Schultz and Maher did disappears. Schultz and Maher are the good guys; they are on the side of truth and justice. Limbaugh is the bad guy; he is on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy. Why should he get an even break?

There is no answer to that question once you step outside of the liberal calculus in which all persons, no matter what their moral status as you see it, are weighed in an equal balance. Rather than relaxing or soft-pedaling your convictions about what is right and wrong, stay with them, and treat people you see as morally different differently. Condemn Limbaugh and say that Schultz and Maher may have gone a bit too far but that they’re basically O.K. If you do that you will not be displaying a double standard; you will be affirming a single standard, and moreover it will be a moral one because you will be going with what you think is good rather than what you think is fair. “Fair” is a weak virtue; it is not even a virtue at all because it insists on a withdrawal from moral judgment.

I know the objections to what I have said here. It amounts to an apology for identity politics. It elevates tribal obligations over the universal obligations we owe to each other as citizens. It licenses differential and discriminatory treatment on the basis of contested points of view. It substitutes for the rule “don’t do it to them if you don’t want it done to you” the rule “be sure to do it to them first and more effectively.” It implies finally that might makes right. I can live with that. Continue reading

Jesuitical 13: Rush and Georgetown

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Part 13 of my ongoing survey of the follies of many modern day Jesuits.  Georgetown University, founded in 1789, is the oldest Jesuit college in the United States.  Last week it found itself at the center of the debate over the HHS Mandate.  How the powers that be at Georgetown reacted to all of this is instructive.

On February 16, 2012 Representative Darrell Issa (R. CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the ramifications of the HHS Mandate in regard to religious freedom.  Democrats had the opportunity to present witnesses.  Initially they were going to have Barry Lynn, a Methodist minister and Leftist political activist, and head of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, but for some reason that fell through for the Democrats.  They then proposed Sandra Fluke, identified as a third year law student at Georgetown.  Issa refused to allow her to testify on the grounds that she wasn’t testifying about the religious liberty issue but rather about a perceived need for contraception.  The Democrats, who realized that they were in trouble on the religious liberty issue, used this as an argument against the hearings, arguing that women were banned from the hearings as speakers.  This was a lie, as there were two panels which testified in opposition to the Mandate at the hearing.  The second panel included Dr. Allison Garrett and Dr.  Laura Champion who testified as to the dangers that the HHS Mandate poses to religious liberty.

On February 23, 2012, Nancy Pelosi (D.CA), minority leader, organized a Democrats only “hearing” at which Sandra Fluke gave her testimony.  Go here to read that testimony.  Among other statements she said that in three years contraceptives could cost a law student three grand.

The idea that someone at Georgetown Law School, an elite school that costs over 50k a year to attend, was crying poverty over the alleged cost of $1,000.00 a year, a sum about $800-$900 too high in relationship to the actual cost, to make illicit whoopee has its comedic possibilities, and this was  seized upon by Rush Limbaugh on Wednesday February 29:

What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps. (interruption) The johns? We would be the johns? No! We’re not the johns. (interruption) Yeah, that’s right. Pimp’s not the right word. Okay, so she’s not a slut. She’s “round heeled.” I take it back.

This caused an uproar and on Thursday March 1, John J. DeGioia, the first lay President of Georgetown, released this statement: Continue reading

Saint Athanasius On the Incarnation

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His epitaph is Athanasius contra mundum, “Athanasius against the world.” We are proud that our own country has more than once stood against the world. Athanasius did the same. He stood for the Trinitarian doctrine, “whole and undefiled,” when it looked as if all the civilised world was slipping back from Christianity into the religion of Arius—into one of those “sensible” synthetic religions which are so strongly recommended today and which, then as now, included among their devotees many highly cultivated clergymen. It is his glory that he did not move with the times; it is his reward that he now remains when those times, as all times do, have moved away.

                                                                                        CS Lewis

Something for the weekend.  O Holy Night sung by Celtic Woman.  I can think of nothing more appropriate for Christmas Eve than this passage from On the Incarnation by Saint Athanasius:

 

For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us. He saw the reasonable race, the race of men that, like Himself, expressed the Father’s Mind, wasting out of existence, and death reigning over all in corruption. He saw that corruption held us all the closer, because it was the penalty for the Transgression; He saw, too, how unthinkable it would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled. He saw how unseemly it was that the very things of which He Himself was the Artificer should be disappearing. He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them; He saw also their universal liability to death. All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery, rather than that His creatures should perish and the work of His Father for us men come to nought, He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own. Nor did He will merely to become embodied or merely to appear; had that been so, He could have revealed His divine majesty in some other and better way. No, He took our body, and not only so, but He took it directly from a spotless, stainless virgin, without the agency of human father—a pure body, untainted by intercourse with man. He, the Mighty One, the Artificer of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt. Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death instead of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.

Vacations and Reality

 

I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. You will see the first among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday. Among adults some pretext in the way of Jokes is usually provided, but the facility with which the smallest witticisms produce laughter at such a time shows that they are not the real cause. What that real cause is we do not know. Something like it is expressed in much of that detestable art which the humans call Music, and something like it occurs in Heaven—a meaningless acceleration in the rhythm of celestial experience, quite opaque to us. Laughter of this kind does us no good and should always be discouraged. Besides, the phenomenon is of itself disgusting and a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell.

Fun is closely related to Joy—a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us. It can sometimes be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling or doing: but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.

                                                                 CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

My family and I had a great time on our vacation.  Gen Con was grand as it always is, and, as the picture at the top of the post indicates, I made a new friend!  (I am the one who is not green.)

During vacations I attempt to studiously ignore the news, forget about the Law, and focus in on my family and fun.  I find that a bit difficult to do, as I always take a great deal of interest in the noteworthy events of the day, and my legal practice tends to be fairly consuming of my time during non-vacation periods.  Fortunately my family I also find fascinating, and after a day or two I am in full vacation mode and everything but my family fades into the distance for a time.

Alas, vacations always end.  When I go back to my office on Monday, I know that I will have many messages to return, and a full schedule of appointments and court appearances to deal with.  Back home with the internet, I will spend at least an hour each day getting up to speed with current events, and writing my blog posts, and my life proceeds in its familiar non-vacation manner.

It would be easy for me to think that the vacation was a temporary illusion and the way I normally spend my life the reality, but this is incorrect.  God gives us this life as an entirety and it is not for us to divide it.  Our different activities each year and each day are merely facets of the time on this planet we have as a free-will gift from our Creator.  What we do with the time, good and bad, is up to us, but no portion is less our reality than any other portion.  It is our task to enfuse everything we do with love of God and love of our neighbor.

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Hating the Near and Loving the Far

At the risk of being all-books-all-the-time around here, (and really, if one is going to run risks, that’s not a bad one to run, is it?) I can’t this. I’ve been working through a lot of analysis at work lately, which involves long periods of sitting at my desk alone wrestling with Excel and Access, and to help stay on task I’ve been listening to John Cleese reading C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. It’s probably been ten years since I read Screwtape, and I’d forgotten how quotable it is.

These two sections particularly struck me. The first about the tactic of getting the temptee to focus on loving those he doesn’t actually know, while disliking those he actually interacts with on a daily basis.

[from Screwtape Letter #6]

As regards his more general attitude to the war, you must not rely too much on those feelings of hatred which the humans are so fond of discussing in Christian or anti-Christian periodicals. In his anguish, the patient can of course be encourage to revenge himself by some vindictive feelings directed towards the German leaders, and that is good so far as it goes, but it is usually a sort of melodramatic or mythical hatred directed against imaginary scapegoats. He’s never met in real life. They are lay figures modeled on what he gets from the newspapers. The results of such fanciful hatred are often most disappointing. And of all humans, the English are, in this respect, the most deplorable milksops. They are creatures of that miserable sort who loudly proclaim that torture is too good for their enemies and then give tea and cigarettes to the first wounded German pilot who turns up at the back door. Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence as well as some malice in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbors whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remove circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real, and the benevolence large imaginary.
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Angel On My Shoulder

 

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One of my favorite actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood is Claude Rains.  Throughout his career he brought vibrant intelligence and a world weary cynicism to his roles.  From his screen personae, it might be assumed that Rains was an English aristocrat educated at elite English “public” schools.  Actually he was London Cockney, and had a very pronounced Cockney accent and a speech impediment as he was growing up.  He served gallantly in World War I in the Royal Army in the London Scottish Regiment, rising from private to captain, and being blinded in one eye as a result of a gas attack.

He quickly achieved post war success in England as an actor.  He began acting in American films and became an American citizen in  1939.  His first big hit was the title role in The Invisible Man in 1933.  He went on to achieve stardom with unforgettable roles, such as Prince John in Robin Hood (1938), Senator Joseph Paine in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and, doubtless the role he is most known for, Captain Renault in Casablanca (1942):

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In 1946 Rains appeared in probably the most unusual role in his career as Satan in Angel On My Shoulder.  The plot involves Satan’s attempt to use a deceased gangster, Eddie Kagle, played by Paul Muni, to discredit a living judge the gangster resembles.  The film is filled with bon mots by Rains, including him asking “What in my domain is that?” in reference to a ruckus caused by Eddie Kagle after he arrives in Hell.  The film has a rather profound sequence where Satan, or “Nick” as he is referred to in the film, expresses his exasperation with God for taking such concern over mortals.  He cannot understand why he loves them.  I suspect that is the case with the real Devil, and that the love of God is a complete mystery to him.  As CS Lewis noted in his The Screwtape Letters: Continue reading

CS Lewis Explains Why We Honor Veterans

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When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.  Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Division at Kohima.

We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, God permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame.  CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters

Sometimes simple questions can help illuminate great truths.   Why do we honor veterans? 

 Today is Veterans Day.  Ironically, many veterans will be working today as the “holiday” is mostly one solely for government workers, and most veterans in the private sector will be on the job today.  Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day and was observed to recall the ending of that conflict on November 11, 1918 and to honor the American veterans who served in it.  After World War II, veterans of World War I, many of whom had sons who served in World War II, spearheaded a move to change the name to Veterans Day to honor all Veterans.   Legislation changing the name of the holiday was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower on May 26, 1954.  All well and good, but why do we set this day aside to honor those who have served in the military?

One veteran of World War I, CS Lewis, perhaps can help us understand why we honor veterans.  Lewis served on the Western Front as a Second Lieutenant in 1917-1918 until he was  wounded on April 15, 1918.  Lewis, the future Oxford Don, was an unlikely soldier and he wrote about his experiences in the War with humorous self-deprecation.  However, he had immense respect for those he served with, especially the enlisted men under his command, for their good humor and courage under the most appalling circumstances.  His war experiences had a vast impact on Lewis, as can be seen in his Screwtape letters, where Lewis writes about war. Continue reading

C.S. Lewis Book, The Great Divorce, Coming to the Big Screen

The following is from Alex Birko of the A.V. Club reporting on C.S. Lewis‘s book, The Great Divorce, being produced into a movie:

Last week marked the arrival of the trailer for the third “Chronicles Of Narnia” movie, The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader, and as everybody knows, C.S. Lewis news always comes in twos. It appears that Lewis’ religious allegory The Great Divorce is the latest of his work be slated for the big screen, according to Variety’s announcement that production studios Beloved Pictures and Mpower Pictures are joining forces to co-produce. Children’s author N.D. Wilson, known for the 100 Cupboards fantasy trilogy and his parodies of the Left Behind series, is attached to adapt the screenplay. With luck, the arrival of Mpower (The Stoning Of Soroya M.) will jump-start the project, and let it avoid the seemingly never-ending gestation plaguing the film adaptation of Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, which was announced back in 2006, scheduled for a 2008 release, and delayed until 2010. It’s seen little discernable progress since.

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Parish Shopping

As my wife and I are expecting in November, we’ve started to consider where we’re going to baptize the baby. Most churches that we’ve seen want you to be a parishioner before they baptize you. This has brought up the question of what parish we really belong to. We’ve found that that’s not an easy question.

Over the weekend, Tito had a post that inquired about the existence of good parishes in Las Vegas for his family. Some of the things he looks for are an orthodox priest faithful to the Magisterium, a beautiful Church, and a liturgy that aspires to beauty and lacks some of the folksy elements of post-Vatican II as well as the more scandalous aspects of the “spirit of Vatican II” like liturgical dancers.

None of those desires are unreasonable. In fact, those things are the rights of the faithful.

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C.S. Lewis on Anscombe, France, and Meritocracy

Perusing the local used bookstore last weekend, I came across a copy of the Third Volume of the Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis. On the whole (or, rather, through the first hundred pages or so), they make an enjoyable light read, at least for Lewis fans. He is always readable and often insightful. Moreover, the letters offer an interesting window into life in mid-twentieth century England. It’s rather striking that six years after the end of the Second World War, common items like envelopes and certain foods were still either rationed or unavailable (many of the letters are expressions of thanks to sympathetic American friends who have sent Lewis one package or another). Here, in no particular order, are a few passages I found either amusing or interesting:

Writing to a U.S. Friend About the Korean War

“Seriously, though, we all sympathize with you in the position into which you have been forced; it’s all very well to call it a UNO war, but so far as I can gather, it is a USA war. Have you noticed the French contribution? One gunboat!”

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose….

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