Faith and Our Future: Lessons from C. S. Lewis in Time of Pandemic

Apr 9, 2020 by

by Glenn Moots, Public Discourse:

We must indeed make policies and trade-offs in peace or war, sickness or health. But whatever goes into our policymaking, and however many comfortable years we hope to eke out by human interventions, we must remain focused on the true hope of everlasting life.
[…]C. S. Lewis on Death and Eternal Death

Perhaps death has become our utilitarian coin of this policy realm: counter dead people with more dead people—or other more valuable, less mortal dead people. Death is a pretty solid coin, after all. Even Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus, and Woody Allen had to admit that while he didn’t mind dying, he just didn’t want to be there when it happened. Unlike the fiat money about to be thrown from helicopters, death is a hard coin that is hard to devalue. Perhaps death is the trump card for my neighbor’s decision. Sacrificing—not the carb-fasting that used to feel like sacrificing, but real sacrificing—seems apropos when people are dying.

C. S. Lewis knew this line of argument when he addressed Oxford students in an evensong message in October 1939. He engaged the objections of his opponents, “How can we continue to take an interest in these placid occupations when the lives of our friends and the liberties of Europe are in the balance?” Was not scholarship a kind of fiddling while Rome burned? But Lewis upped the ante. It is not death that should concern us most: it is eternal death. And yet in the face of both, culture continues. “Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice,” Lewis tells us. Whether that precipice is war or plague, we cannot wait for normalcy in order to resume our vocations.

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