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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stanley Hauerwas on C.S. Lewis

Today I read an article by pacifist Stanley Hauerwas about C.S. Lewis (not a pacifist) and his views on pacifism and war -- Nonviolent Narnia: Could C.S. Lewis have imagined a world without war? About half way through it I was struck by a bit under the heading "Why C.S. Lewis was not a pacifist" ...

It is certainly true, Lewis acknowledges, that the lesser violence and harm is to be preferred, but that does not mean that killing X or Y is always wrong or can be avoided. Nor can it be shown that war is always a greater evil. Such a view, Lewis argues, seems to imply a materialistic ethic, that is, the view that death and pain are the greatest evils. But surely Christians cannot believe that. Only people parasitic on liberal societies can afford to be pacifists, believing as they do that the miseries of human suffering can be eliminated if we just find the right cures. But Lewis contends it a mistake to think we can eradicate suffering. Rather we must "work quietly away at limited objectives such as the abolition of the slave trade, or prison reform, or factory acts, or tuberculosis, not by those who think they can achieve universal justice, or health, or peace."

I don't know - I think the violence of war could be grouped with the other particulars he mentions, like slavery or TB, and worked against rather than accepted. And anyway, I think universal justice, and health, and peace are all worth working toward, whether they can ever be completely achieved or not. While I do agree with David Foster Wallace that some things are worth dying for, I believe the majority of suffering (including that in war) isn't endured for some greater good but would instead fall into the "meaningless' category and should be striven against.

The second half of the article is Hauerwas explaining how Lewis could have been/should have been a pacifist.


Blogger PrickliestPear said...

Crystal, have you ever read Jesus and Nonviolence by Walter Wink? I read it a few months ago and found it very compelling. If I wasn't already sold on nonviolence before I read it, I'm confident I would have been afterward.

6:55 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi PrickliestPear,

No, I've never read that. I remember my first blogging pal, a Quaker, really liked him. Maybe I should look for his book.

9:20 PM  
Blogger Deacon Denny said...

I missed this exchange earlier!

But all means, look for that book. We used it for JustFaith last year, instead of a longer and more "theological" -- or perhaps metaphysical -- book entitled The Powers That Be. This one is very readable. And I agree with PP -- it's very compelling.

11:33 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


I remember you mentioning him too recently on your blog. I really have to look him up.

1:44 AM  

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