Today in History
Ninety years ago today, on March 24, 1918, Edward “Paddy” Moore, Lewis’s friend and army roommate, is reported missing in action. It is later learned that Paddy had been killed three days prior resisting a German offensive at Pargny, France.
C.S. Lewis fought in one of history’s worst and costliest wars. He lost many comrades-in -arms, he won a medal for bravery and he was wounded by shrapnel from a nearby explosion that killed a soldier next to Lewis. In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis describes his impressions from the front lines: “the horrible smashed men still moving like half crushed beetles, the sitting or standing corpses, the landscape of sheer earth without a blade of grass, the boots worn day and night until they seemed to grow to your feet.”
Being a Canadian and a Lover of Peace
As a Canadian, I have cherished our global role as peacekeepers, even though some missions ended disasterously. Growing up during the Cold War and during a time when Canada was primarily engaged in "peace-keeping" I am only now—slowly—awakening to the reality of Canada's current war in Afghanistan. The question of pacifism is floating around in both Christian and non-Christian circles. What about war? To help answer the question, I turn to my mentor, C.S. Lewis.
Lewis on War
Despite loosing a friend and enduring such horrible experiences, Lewis ardently rejected pacifism. During the Second World War, although too old for active duty, Lewis volunteered to serve on home front duties. I recently read two lectures given by Lewis on the subject of war, “Learning in War-time” and “Why I am not a Pacifist.” The latter lecture is a model of Lewis's impeccably logical mind, and offers a powerful and persuasive case against pacifism. I have been mulling over for a few weeks as to how I would blog about this lecture. In the end, I must resort to simply refer you, if you are interested, to read the essay for yourself. What I will blog about is an excerpt from the former lecture, "Learning in War-time."
In "Learning in War-time," Lewis asks what war does to death? He first explains what is does not do: war does not increase deaths, “since 100 percent of us die;” it does not increase our “chances of a painful death.” He states that on the battlefield we have a better chance of a quick, painless death; “what we call a natural death is usually preceded by suffering.” He goes on to say that war does not “decrease our chances of dying at peace with God.” What other circumstance, Lewis argues, would “better persuade a man to prepare for death”?
“Yet war does do something to death. It forces us to remember it. The only reason why the cancer at sixty or the paralysis at seventy-five do not bother us is that we forget them. War makes death real to us, and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past. They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality. I am inclined to think they were right.”