Friday, December 09, 2005

National Repentance?


I suspect that Jacques Barzun spoke for many when he recommended God in the Dock with the remark:

One need not be a believer in Lewis’s church to profit from his candor and powers of reasoning on common predicaments. One of his most telling pieces is on [Dangers of] National Repentance.

Apply its teaching to any of the fashionable emotions and see how many survive. Then, the mind cleared of easy sophistication, start afresh to find out what you think with your whole being about the subjects he proposes to uncluttered mother wit.

Eugene McGovern on C. S. Lewis

But hear John Jay Chapman:

We are met to commemorate the anniversary of one of the most dreadful crimes in history—not for the purpose of condemning it, but to repent of our share in it.

At the end of his essay, Lewis affirms the need for national repentance, but provides a warning:

Is it not, then, the duty of the Church to preach national repentance? I think it is. But the office—like many others—can be profitably discharged only by those who discharge it with reluctance. We know that a man may have to ‘hate’ his mother for the Lord’s sake. (Luke 14:26) The sight of a Christian rebuking his mother, though tragic, may be edifying; but only if we are quite sure that he has been a good son and that, in his rebuke, spiritual zeal is triumphing, not without agony, over strong natural affection. The moment there is reason to suspect that he enjoys rebuking her—that he believes himself to be rising above the natural level while he is still, in reality, grovelling below it in the unnatural—the spectacle becomes merely disgusting. The hard sayings of our Lord are wholesome to those only who find them hard. There is a terrible chapter in M. Mauriac’s Vie de J├ęsus. When the Lord spoke of brother and child against parent, the other disciples were horrified. Not so Judas. He took it as a duck takes to water: `Pourquoi cetter stupeur?, se demande Judas. . . . Il aime dans le Christ cette vue simple, ce regard de Dieu sur l’horreur humaine.’ (‘“Why this stupefaction?” asked Judas ... He loved in Christ his simple view of things, his divine glance at human depravity.’) For there are two states of mind which face the Dominical paradoxes without flinching. God guard us from one of them.

Truth depends on who, what, when, where, and why. And to what, and to whom.