Lewis & Evangelism--a Confession
C. S. Lewis concludes chapter two of The Four Loves with these words:
“If ever the book which I am not going to write is written it must be a full confession by Christendom of Christendom’s specific contribution to the sum of human cruelty and treachery. Large areas of “the World” will not hear us till we have publically disowned much of our past. Why should they? We have shouted the name of Christ and enacted the service of Moloch”. (The Four Loves. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc. 1960 P. 49).
I think Lewis is right and what he writes is hopeful and good. It certainly relates to evangelism and especially evangelism in the contemporary matrix. Unfortunately, it is only half the story. Thomas Aquinas once wrote in the Suma Theologica, “An abuse does not nullify a proper use”. Furthermore, if we judged any segment of society by its worst examples who could stand. You can always find bad professors, bad students, bad pastors, bad used car salesmen, bad lawyers, bad politicians, bad police officers, and bad student protestors. Christians cannot wait until all at the public table choose to confess their part in any given injustice. If we are truly secure in the love of Christ, we do not need others to initiate before we confess our own mea culpa.
Nevertheless, Christians also believe that no mere mortal in such a fallen world as ours is free of culpability. Furthermore, if the standard for judging any movement from Christianity to Marxism, rests in the performance of its adherents, we are all to be rightly labeled hypocrites at best, or criminals at worst.
There is another half to the story. I reread the Communist Manifesto about every three years, just to keep up with where I think the culture is heading. I went to college during the days of the Vietnam War and student unrest. Furthermore, I went to Whittier College, President Nixon’s Alma Mater; consequently, we had news crews from all the major networks on campus during riot season (Cable Network did not yet exist, and there was a decided riot season each year).
Marxism was pervasive, our student body president was a Marxist and member of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society, the most radical wing of which was the Weathermen, the group that blew up buildings and started fires at various campuses across America). I tried to total up, from a thumbnail sketch approximately how many died as a result of governments that were coerced to adopt Marxist ideology in the last hundred years. If Solzhenitsyn is right, just under Lenin and Stalin alone there were some 64,000,000 in Russia. A biography I read years ago about Cho en Lai also estimated that communists in China were responsible for some 96,000,000 deaths. Put these figures together and the number runs up to 160,000,000.
It is a staggering number and it fails to account for the deaths under the Communists in China during the Cultural Revolution, those who died in Russia after Stalin’s death, or those who perished under Po Pot in Cambodia, or the deaths that occurred in the satellite states such as North Korea, Albania, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia to name a few. The number, even by conservative estimates, begins to creep up to 200,000,000; this was over a period of some 75-80 years.
Christians should certainly come to the table confessing the comparative handfuls that have perished by some religious zealots among them who, naming the name of Christ and painting a “thus saith the Lord” across their excesses, have committed crimes against humanity. Perhaps, taking such a lead we could bring all others who have blood on their hands to the table for a serious, soul-searching dialogue.
I read the Communist Manifesto to remember that Marx wanted to create class conflict; he wanted to turn people against each other, he wanted revolution. Furthermore, he hated religion. He saw it as an opiate of the masses. It taught forgiveness, and if there is forgiveness, class conflict dies. By contrast, I read the New Testament and it speaks a message strikingly different from the Manifesto. It speaks of reconciliation. Its two prominent commands say to love God and love one’s neighbor. For Marx love is synonymous with lethargy; it brings to an end the revolutionary agenda.
Pascal, in the Pensees wrote that Christians had two laws better than all the laws of statecraft, “Love God and love your neighbor”. Where these two laws atrophy in a culture, Penal Codes begin to thicken. The shelves of Law Libraries fill and constantly, new laws proliferate. Some say, “You cannot legislate morality”. This should not mean that laws written cannot, or should not be ethical. It does recognize that the hearts of people will not be changed extrinsically. Neither coercion nor legal goading can produce the intrinsic, dynamic quality love can accomplish.
Say what they will, Marxism always fails, it is destined to fail as is any other explicitly political ideology and it fails for two reasons.
First, it has a false anthropology. One of the catch phrases of the Marxists is, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. It all sounds good. It would be ideal if those who made much would notice the needs of those around them and willingly contribute to their welfare. However, even Aristotle saw the naivety of such thinking. If you simply take from the one who has, and give to the one who has not, you destroy the incentive of both parties. Why should the one who has work at all, if what he has will be taken? Why should the one who has not even bother to work, when what is needed will be taken from others and given to him?
A second reason Marxism fails is found in the Marxist assumption that others are not capable of cultivating generous hearts towards the needs of others; therefore, the State will manage such things for them. The State will oversee the redistribution of wealth and the State will set right every injustice. While decrying the incapacity of the worker, the Marxist inflates his own capacity to distribute wealth magnanimously. If the worker cannot be trusted, why should the Marxist leadership expect that the worker will be eager to trust them? The Marxist has an inflated view of his own capacities to manage the resources of others.
Furthermore, he looks condescendingly on others. If the Marxist is so inflated in his assessment of his own abilities, if he lack self-awareness, why should anybody trust him to manage the wealth of the nation? The Bible makes it clear that charity is a good that benefits every culture. However, the Biblical anthropology is more honest, and because of this, it is far more fruitful.
Charity is a matter of the heart. The Good News is that through the Gospel hearts can be transformed. It all begins with the God who is love; it is inherent in His very triune nature. This love is extended in the transformational quality of Christ’s death and resurrection as the means to grant forgiveness and unconditional love to all who will trust in Him. Through Christ, we can be reconciled to God and to others.
It is an invitation to those who surrender to Him that He will enter their lives and begin the process of transformation. The change is one that leads to the intrinsic desire to love others in a host of practical ways. The call of the New Testament is to bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance, which is to cultivate acts of charity towards others. Lewis is right, we must confess our sins, in the hopes that all who follow that example of honest humility will restore interest in the Gospel without which no culture can hope to achieve health and recover from its wounds.