C.S. Lewis on Mere Liberty (Part 1)

by David Theroux (Reprinted from the Independent Institute)

For decades, some Christians, both “conservative” and “liberal,” have unfortunately embraced an ill-conceived “progressive” (i.e., authoritarian) vision to wield intrusive government powers as an unquestionable and even sanctified calling for both domestic and international matters, abandoning the Christian, natural-law tradition in moral ethics and economics. In contrast, the Oxford/Cambridge scholar and best-selling author C. S. Lewis did not suffer such delusions, despite the gigantic and deeply disturbing advances and conflicts of total war, the total state, and genocides that developed during his lifetime.

Lewis’s aversion to government was clearly revealed in 1951 when Winston Churchill, within weeks after he regained office as prime minister of Great Britain, wrote to Lewis offering to have him knighted as “Commander of the Order of the British Empire.”Lewis flatly declined the honor because he, unlike the “progressives,” was never interested in politics and was deeply skeptical of government power and politicians, as expressed in the first two lines of his poem “Lines during a General Election”: “Their threats are terrible enough, but we could bear / All that; it is their promises that bring despair” (in Poems, p. 62).

Lewis had held this view for many years. In 1940, he had written in a letter to his brother Warren, “Could one start a Stagnation Party—which at General Elections would boast that during its term of office no event of the least importance had taken place?” He further stated, “I was by nature ‘against Government’” (Letters of C. S. Lewis, p. 179).

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