Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 4
(Book 3: Christian Behavior, Chapters 4-6)
Lewis entitles chapter four of Book 3 Morality and Psychoanalysis. Lewis begins by stating that we must do two things at once. Apply, “do as you would want done to you” into all aspects of our society AND try to become the people who would apply it on the inside if we knew how.
Lewis goes on to explain that when a man makes a choice there are two things involved. One is the act of choosing. The second is the psychoanalysis process and the felling and impulses that come to him, which are the raw material of his choice.
In this process, there can be normal feelings or unnatural feelings. It may be normal and consist of the feelings that are common to all man or it might consist of quite unnatural feelings through the things that have gone wrong in his subconscious.
The first would be a fear of something dangerous that keeps you safe.The second would be a fear of cats or spiders.Psychoanalysis seeks to remove those subconscious things that have brought you to those unnatural fears and feelings.
Rarely does it start with that acts and choices itself, the psychoanalytical problem has to be cured, before the moral problem can begin. Because now that someone is cured, they have the choice to make the right moral decisions. Once the raw material is improved the man has the free choice to but himself first or to put others first. And that free choice is the only thing morality is really concerned with.
Bad psychological material is not a sin, but a disease. It doesn’t need to be repented of, but cured.This is important, because as humans we judge one another by their external appearances, but God judges people by their moral choices.
Take the person who has an unnatural fear of cats and yet sees a cat in distress and helps it down. He may have done more than a typical person with a typical neurological makeup who showed bravery in war.
Flip this around, those of us with a normal heredity and makeup, seem outwardly like pretty nice people, may have used their typical makeup and good upbringing in such a small way, that God would view us in a worse light than those that we consider to be fiends.
Can we have be sure how we would have behaved had we been saddled with the bad psychological outfit and bad upbringing and with the power, say of Himmler?
That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results of man’s choices. But, God does not judge them on the raw material, but what he has done with it.
Most of the man’s psychological make up is due to his body. When he dies, all of that will fall off. And the real central man, the thing that chose, the thing that made the best or worst out of this material will stand naked. All of the good things that we thought we did that were just because of a good upbringing will fall off of us. All of the bad things that someone did that were really just due to a psychological disorder will fall of them. And then we really see for the first time people as they really are.
People often think that God is making a deal. If you keep rules, I will reward you. If you don’t I will give you the other thing. But, think of it more as a central part of you, every time you make a choice, your turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all of your innumerable choices, you are slowing turning this thing into a heavenly creature or a hellish creature. Either into a creature that is harmony with God and other creatures and yourself. Or into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, its fellow creatures and itself.
To be first kind of creature is heaven, joy, peace, knowledge, and power. To be the other is madness, horror, hideous, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness.
Each of is progressing to one state or the other.
Think of someone who murders and then think of someone who yells and spouts off mean words. You would think of course the murderer is worse. Except for, in his case that central part of the man, each time the murder murders and each time the second man rages, it distorts and twists the central part of their beings a little further, So, that each man, in this way is equal and the only thing that can straighten them out is for God to put them right. Each man moves equally far away from God with their rage, even though the outward looks very different.
One last point, the right direction leads not only to peace, but to knowledge. When the man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left within him. As a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less. Think of this, you understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know the nature of good and evil. Bad people know neither.
In Chapter 5, Lewis goes on to talk about sexuality morality and the Christian rule of chastity.
Chastity is not modesty, which is the amount of coverage a woman has in a particular society or a particular time, which can change. Chastity does not change. An extreme modesty is not necessarily a sign of chastity.
Since this isn’t a firm standard, the elderly should not be so quick to judge the young for their new fashions, etc and the young should not be so quick to call their elders prudes and out of touch.
Chastity is the most unpopular of all of the Christian virtues. There is not getting around it. It’s sex within the confines of marriage and complete fidelity to your partner or complete abstinence.
Lewis asks the question of what has caused the overwhelming lack of respect for sex.Either Christianity has gone wrong or biological sexual desires have gone wrong.
The biological need for food is to give energy. The biological need for sex is to bare children. If we were all to just eat whatever we want, whenever we want, we would all eat too much. But, only to a certain extent, we might eat enough for 2 people, not for 10.
But if a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined and each escapade produced a baby, in 10 years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.
Think of this, there are large audiences at strip clubs all the time to watch women undress, but imagine if there was a society where you could get a large audience together to put a covered plate on stage and then to uncover it just to see what food was underneath. Wouldn’t you think in that country something had gone wrong in regards to their appetite for food?
Someone visiting us from another planet would probably think there was something equally odd with the sex instinct within our society. Sexually appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. You find very few people who use food for other things than to eat. Food perversion is rare. The perversion of sex is ramped.
Christianity never said sex in itself is bad. Christianity actually glorifies marriage, lifts up the body – – Christ came down in a human body; we will have a new body in heaven – – Sex for reproduction and as a form of pleasure is true and Christianity uplifts this.
People say that sex is an instinct just like any other natural instinct like hunger or pain, but that is not true.When people say sex is not to be ashamed of, in the Christian sense of reproduction and pleasure that is true. In the sense of just being a natural instinct to do whatever you want, it is shameful. If people made food take up half of their life, just talking about it all day and looking at pictures of it, that would be quite odd.
Our society has put out the propaganda that sexual unchastity is the norm.There are people who want to keep our sex instincts inflamed in order to make money off of us.
Lewis says (regarding sexual temptation/sin) that God knows our situation and He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.
Chastity is very difficult to achieve and even to desire. Before we can be cured, we must want to be cured. Those who really wish for help will get it; but for many modern people even this wish is difficult. We can say with our lips, “Our Lord make me chaste,” but our hearts say, “but not yet.” (St. Augustine)
Three reasons why it is hard to desire, let alone achieve complete chastity.1 – Our warped nature. All of the temptation and the contemporary propaganda for lust. It can make you feel that the desires you are trying to resists are natural, so why try to resist them?It has been propaganda that has told us every sexual desire at any time is healthy and natural and normal. But, take heart. There are many things including sexual restraint where we must restrain in order to have a happy, healthy and successful life.
2 – People often think that Christian chastity is impossibleBut that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Just like a very, very hard question on a test. You don’t leave it blank. You try it and you do your best. Just as you may get some credit for getting certain parts right and certain parts wrong. You will get no credit for not trying at all. We must ask for God’s help. But after each failure, ask for forgiveness, pick yourself up and try again. Very often what God helps us to first is not the virtue itself, but to always try again. The only failure is to be content with anything less than perfection.
3 – People often misunderstand what psychologists teach about repression. It teaches us that repressed sex is dangerous, but that’s misusing the term suppression for repression. Your suppressing your desire and you are very conscience of your choice. Where, repression is something blocked because it has been so awful (since childhood or something).
While there was a lot to say about sex and Christian morality, it is not the center of Christian morality. The sins of flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all the sins. All worst sins are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting, the pleasure of power, of hatred.
For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. That is why a cold. Self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course it s better to be neither.
Lewis follows up his chapter on sexual morality with Christian marriage.
Christina doctrine on marriage is based on Christ’s words that a man and a wife are to be regarded as a single organism. That is what the word “one flesh” would be in modern English. He was not given a sentiment, but a fact; just as a lock and a key are one mechanism. And a violin and a bow one instrument.
So, the Christian view is that the pleasure must be coupled within marriage. Just as with food you shouldn’t try to get the taste without digesting it. You don’t chew up your food and spit it out just for the taste.
Some churches won’t allow divorce under any circumstances. Some do very reluctantly under extreme circumstances. What churches agree on and are much more in agreement with each other than with the outside world is that divorce is not a good thing and that it is more like cutting off a leg than just separating so easily as the world does when any little thing doesn’t go right.
Anyone who is married in a church makes the promise till death do you part, however this is often see as just a mere formality. But, why make the promise then? Who are they trying to trick? Often, it’s the public. They want the formality of a respectable wedding, without intending to pay the price of actually meaning what their marriage vows say. If people do not believe in the permanency of marriage, it would be better for them to live together unmarried, then to become married and make vows they do not intend to keep.
The idea that being in love is the only reason to remain married really leaves no room for marriage as a promise at all. If love the love is the whole thing, than the promise could add nothing. And if it adds nothing, then it should not be made.The promise is not to remain in love. You can’t promise to continue to feel a certain way. The promise is about what you can control, the actions, what you do, regardless of the feeling.
What’s the use of keeping two people together if they are no longer in love? There are several sound social reasons.First, to provide a home for their children.Second, to protect a woman, who has probably sacrificed her own career to get married, from being dropped whenever the man is tired of her.
Being in love is great in one way, no one would deny it is better than common sensuality or complete selfishness. But the most dangerous thing you can do is take any one impulse of our nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs.
Too often we want to say that something is just good or bad. But, there’s good, better, best. There’s bad, worse, worst. And being in love is a good thing, but it’s not the best thing. There are many things below it, but also many above it. It’s noble feeling, but just a feeling. No feeling can last in it’s full intensity or can even be relied on to last at all. Knowledge, principles and habits can last, but feelings come and go.
Ceasing to be in love, does not mean ceasing to love. IN this sense, love is not merely a feeling, it is a deep unity maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace with which both parents ask for and receive from God.
They can have this love for each other even in moments when they do not like each other. They can maintain this love, even when if each allowed themselves, they could easily be “in love” with someone else. Being in love first moved them to promise fidelity , this second quieter promise allows them to keep this fidelity . It is on this love that the engine of marriage runs. Being in love was the explosion which started it.
We must learn from our own marriage and those around us what is really true and not from movies and books. We must disentangle this and see what is reality and what is fantasies that have permeated through our brain through fiction.
Think of anything, anything that the first experience or thinking about it is so exciting, but the reality of it does not stay at that peak , but something lasting comes instead. (this may apply to my teaching).
Often when we settle down and continue in that interest even after the initial excitement is over, we find a thrill in something new, For example, the one who goes off to live in “the perfect place,” the excitement died down, but then found a new thrill in gardening.
Lewis believes this is one of the things Christ meant when he said a man may not truly live until he dies. If all you try to do is live all off of thrills, they would get weaker and weaker. You would end up living as a delusioned person. You must settle into a quieter peace that comes from the ongoing fulfillment and take the new thrills as they come along away.
It’s also by movies, etc that falling in love seems so irresistible that you just can’t help it , but Lewis says that yes you meet someone whose beautiful and clever and witty, And in a certain sense we should love these qualities. But, don’t we have much more choice than we tend to say or believe in whether or not we fall in love with them?
A Christian doctrine on marriage even more unpopular than the permanence is that Christian wives promise to obey their husbands. The man is said to be the head.
The need for some head follows the thought that the marriage is permanent. Typically, the couple should agree, but when there is a real disagreement, what is to happen?Either they must separate and go their own ways or one must have the final decision.
Why should the head be the man?Does the woman really want to be the head of the house? Even a woman who says she wants to be the head of the house, does not see it the same when it’s her neighbor. “Poor Mr. Smith. Why does his wife boss him round like that? That’s just not right.” There must be something unnatural of the rule of wives over husbands because wives themselves are half ashamed of it and despise the husbands whom they rule.
Also, a woman is so focused on her family and fighting for their needs, she finds it hard to be just to those in the outside world when it comes to issues dealing with her family. Where a man tends to be more just to all involved.If your child had hit another child, who would you rather talk to about it? The dad or the mom next door?
Also, wives think of this. Don’t you think one of the failings of your husband is he seems to see the other person’s point of view too much. Is a bit of an appeaser. Doesn’t go all out to defend you and the kids.