Friday, April 09, 2010

Screwtape

I find, thirty-five years after first reading, that The Screwtape Letters still makes accurate accusations against me. About every third chapter, something shows up. The rest of the accusations, of course, induce in me a self-congratulatory air that says "Yes! I guess he told them! They should read this."

Most disquieting is the knowledge that some of these accusations are those that applied on first reading, were dealt with, and went underground. They have re-emerged in newer, subtler form decades later. From Chapter VII:
Any small coterie, bound together by some interest which other men dislike or ignore, tends to develop inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration, and toweard the outer world, a great deal of pride and hatred which is entertained without shame because the "Cause" is the sponsor and it is thought to be impersonal. Even when the little group exists originally for the Enemy's own purpose, this remains true. We want the Church to be small not only that fewer may know the Enemy but also that those who do may acquire the uneasy intensity and defensive self-righteousness of a secret society or clique. The Church herself is, of course, heavily defended, and we have never yet quite succeeded in giving her all the characteristics of a faction; but subordinate factions within her have often produced admirable results...
That mutual admiration could certainly include sectors of the blogosphere, where we congratulate each other a bit. That is often simply encouragement and innocent enough. Yet it leads oh so quickly to disdain for the Others who don't get it.

I tread an especially dangerous ground in this on the political side, and should be more careful. As a postliberal, I am often concerned with disassembling the logical from the social and emotional arguments of the left. If there is one summary statement for my political side, it is Progressives believe their opinions are morally developed and morally motivated. This is demonstrably untrue. As that is confronting, and seems insulting even when it is merely an observation, I am quite intentionally knocking down the usual social barrier which suggests we conduct all discussions with mildness. As that is also the main barrier in discourse against insult, it is easy to slip into that without noticing that any line has been crossed.

In other settings I have been more notorious for confrontations in the other direction. But I regard this as a more public forum - the discussions are not all in-house - and in the national cultural conversation, the balance is still very far on the other side. It remains rare that liberals even entertain the possibility that their political views are self-serving. Ah well, all confrontation feels like insult, and they may just automatically shut down from listening further. In the meantime, my own task is to detach from my own beliefs those parts that are self-serving.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

從人生中拿走友誼,猶如從生活中移走陽光........................................

jlbussey said...

On seeing this, I dug out my copy to re-read. I don't consider myself to be particularly religious, but its psychological insights skewer me every other page or so too.

JC said...

Lewis came up with perhaps the best line ever when he said "There are two types of athiests. There are those who don't believe in God, and those who dislike Him personally".

Long time listener, first time caller. Keep up the good work.

JC

Anonymous said...

The updated, modern version of the book is "The Little Green Footballs Comments".