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CS Lewis on patriotism

Comprising most of Lewis' writings.

CS Lewis on patriotism

Postby ladysherlockian » 27 Apr 2010, 08:42

I wonder if CS Lewis wrote anything about patriotism. This is still a very vivid and sometimes controversial issue in my country, and I would like to know what Lewis thought about it. Many people say that patriotism is something positive, but I still have my doubts. It would be good to know Jack's opinion. To be honest, his book Till We Have Faces, which I read just this year, was a breakthrough in my thinking about what true love is, in contrast to what I imagined to be love prior to reading this book. So I think that his advice about patriotism will be very precious. I would love to read some key quotations. Thank you in advance.
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Re: CS Lewis on patriotism

Postby Sven » 27 Apr 2010, 20:01

There's quite a bit in the second chapter of The Four Loves, the one titled Likings and Loves for the Sub-Human. A tiny bit more in The Screwtape Letters, numbers 5 and 7.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Re: CS Lewis on patriotism

Postby Nerd42 » 27 Apr 2010, 20:42

I have not read all the way through Till We Have Faces. It's the first Lewis book that I actually quit reading because I got bored, having not really studied Greek mythology for myself. But I'm glad you enjoyed it. Maybe someday I'll return to finally vanquish that beast. I recommend people interested in the definition of love read Joshua Harris. (but let's not sidetrack this thread with that particular debate please)

There are certainly alot of quotes in Lewis's body of work about patriotism. I myself am an American (or United Stater if you prefer) who subscribes to some of the basic tenets of American exceptionalism when it comes to foreign policy. I know many other Lewis fans are much more internationalist. I don't think Lewis was trying to push us in either direction. According to Screwtape, this is just one of the things the demons want us to fight about. He said:
Screwtape wrote:You complain that my last letter does not make it clear whether I regard being in love as a desirable state for a human or not. But really, Wormwood, that is the sort of question one expects them to ask! Leave them to discuss whether "Love", or patriotism, or celibacy, or candles on altars, or teetotalism, or education, are "good" or "bad". Can't you see there's no answer? Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to move a particular patient at particular moment nearer to the Enemy or nearer to us. Thus it would be quite a good thing to make the patient decide that "love" is "good" or "bad".

Patriotism vs Pacifism is discussed at greater length in Screwtape Letter number 7.

In Mere Christianity chapter 2, Lewis describes patriotism as an impulse:
C. S. Lewis wrote:It is a mistake to think that some of our impulses--say mother love or patriotism--are good, and others, like sex or the fighting instinct, are bad. All we mean is that the occasions on which the fighting instinct or the sexual desire need to be restrained are rather more frequent than those for restraining mother love or patriotism. But there are situations in which it is the duty of a married man to encourage his sexual impulse and of a soldier to encourage the fighting instinct. There are also occasions on which a mother's love for her own children or a man's love for his own country have to be suppressed or they will lead to unfairness towards other people's children or countries.

My favorite quote from Lewis on this subject is from Ransome in That Hideous Strength:
if one is thinking simply of goodness in the abstract, one soon reaches the fatal idea of something standardised-some common kind of life to which all nations ought to progress. Of course there are universal rules to which all goodness must conform. But that's only the grammar of virtue. It's not there that the sap is. He doesn't make two blades of grass the same: how much less two saints, two nations, two angels. The whole work of healing Tellus depends on nursing that little spark, on incarnating that ghost, which is still alive in every real people, and different in each. When Logres really dominates Britain, when the goddess Reason, the divine clearness, is really enthroned in France, when the order of Heaven is really followed in China-why, then it will be spring.

I suppose I would add that it will be spring when the United States really has liberty and justice for all.
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