YIMC Book Club, “Mere Christianity” Week 8

This week we read Book IV, Chapters 6, 7, and 8.
I have a close friend who suggested to me to give you lubberly book club members questions to help motivate you to read and comment on CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity. To which I say, Phooey on that! Maybe you guys all finished the book three weeks ago and didn’t tell me about it. Jimmy-crack-corn and-I don’t-care!

Oh, what’s that? You don’t know what lubberly means? Look it up, lazy bones. Because here’s the thing: if you quit reading or you’ve gotten side-tracked, or you just don’t understand what CSL is saying, that’s not my fault. And it’s your loss too, because Jack has been saving the best for last.

Much like last week, I’ll skip the chapter by chapter grind and leave the majority of comments up to you. That didn’t work really well last time but so be it. Interestingly, Jack issues a wake-up call this week and quite frankly we all need to hear it. I wrote a post last week on the difficulties of walking The Way. Jack backs me up this week but also clarifies something. The Way is hard and easy. But before we tackle that concept, look what Jack says here:

Teachers will tell you that the laziest boy in the class is the one who works hardest in the end. They mean this. If you give two boys, say, a proposition in geometry to do, the one who is prepared to take trouble will try to understand it. The lazy boy will try to learn it by heart because, for the moment, that needs less effort. But six months later, when they are preparing for an exam, that lazy boy is doing hours and hours of miserable drudgery over things the other boy understands, and positively enjoys, in a few minutes. Laziness means more work in the long run.

Lots of great stuff like that from Jack this week. He discusses why we were given free will by God. Sure, it’s a two-edged sword, but it’s better than being a slave or a robot. Want to make everybody into a little you? Jack talks about why that is a bad idea, and why it isn’t Gods plan. Tempted not to give a hoot about anyone but yourself? Sure you are, but Jack sheds light on why that is no solution either. For practical application of this, see Webster’s post on Anna Deveare Smith.

Jack’s writings in these chapters force you to look deep inside at the real you. Courage, me hearties! Are you an Individualist, a Totalitarian, or somewhere in between?  And

What difference does all this theology make? It can start making a difference tonight. If you are interested enough to have read thus far you are probably interested enough to make a shot at saying your prayers: and, whatever else you say, you will probably say the Lord’s Prayer.

The fact that Jesus taught us to pray by first saying the words Our Father should astound you from reading Mere Christianity this far, if it didn’t amaze you already. You may or may not know that this alone, calling God Father, is impossible for Muslims, for example.

Have you ever heard the expression fake it until you make it? Jack endorses this as a way to begin the process of transforming ourselves into the new person we must become to be Christians. Now we are getting to the hard and the easy I alluded to earlier. Jack even flips this on its head by claiming that maybe God is the one doing the pretending:

The Three-Personal God, so to speak, sees before Him in fact a self-centered, greedy, grumbling, rebellious human animal. But He says, “Let us pretend that this is not a mere creature, but our Son. It is like Christ in so far as it is a Man, for He became Man. Let us pretend that it is also like Him in Spirit. Let us treat it as if it were what in fact it is not. Let us pretend in order to make the pretence into a reality.”

Golly, looking in the mirror like that makes me wince. How’s that for shaking up your world view? I was bantering with Webster via e-mail the other day about an upcoming post, and I said something that prompted him to respond that he is glad he isn’t married to a Marine. I sent him back this from Jack with the reply of “Yeah, look what you’ve married into now”—

The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked-the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.”

I think I’ve said before that, for me anyway, the Marine Corps was a cake-walk compared to being a Christian. Jack summed it up nicely here, don’t you think? You really can’t continue on as you were before. And in case you think you can, I’ll leave you to ponder how Our Lord considers the lukewarm.

Your thoughts on this week’s readings (and even the previous weeks’—sheesh!) in the comment box are appreciated.

Next week, we finish by reading Book IV, Chapters 9, 10, and 11.

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  • Webster Bull

    There are a number of cool points in this week's reading, and I will comment on them individually as I stumble across them. Here's the first, from the end of the first chapter, "Two Notes." CSL writes: "[The devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs—pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse." This recalls to mind our Church's wisdom in frequently adopting both-and positions, as in the case of pacifism and "just war." And conversations when I was in school about whether the active or contemplative life is better. Well, duh: both-and!And one of the distressing things about American politics, where I think the devil has a pretty strong foothold: Every issue is used by politicians to polarize the electorate, whether it's an issue you may not care about (global warning), one you're concerned about (war in Iraq), or one you feel passionately about (abortion). In fact, I suspect the devil can make best use of the polarizing issues we feel passionately about.

  • This pregnant woman has utterly failed in her MC reading. I'm trying to make it through the Bible as well…which I've also been slacking severely on. Sorry to poo-poo out! 🙂

  • Webster Bull

    A truly stunning thought in the next chapter, "Let's Pretend"–When you say the Our Father and call God "Father" or "Abba," "You are dressing up as Christ."Did anyone ever thinking closely about the book title "The Imitation of Christ"? It says the same thing. We are not man-gods; we are fallen beings, corrupt, sinful, the whole gamut of human failings. But we can *attract* Christ's presence in our lives; He can become present to, even alive within us, if we "dress up," if we "imitate" him. Powerful stuff for reflection. Frank, you're right, this book has gotten better as it's gone along. We're definitely out of the hallway and into the room. There's just no sign on the door reading "Catholic." Big deal.

  • Frank,I must wait for you to lead. My computer died Dec. 30. The new computer was bought late Jan. By that time, I missed what chapter you are doing for each week. Include in this that I am using an audio book while I commute to and from work – no bookmarks or notes. Hence, I am clueless of what chapters I should be "reading".This week, I was listening to the chapter concerning a new kind of evolution. Man changing not by genetics but by a totaly different way. Durring the same time, I was reading Immaculee Ilibagiza's book Led By Faith. It is her story of surviving the Rwanda genocide in 1994. She said that during the 91 days hiding in a bathroom she would pray to God but the Our Father's "forgive those who tresspass against us", made her mouth dry. She finally understood forgiveness because we all belong to God. This while still in hiding and her family murdered!I had an Aha moment. I understand forgiveness, to open up my heart and know that God want me to love. This is conversion. This is the new evolution. This is putting on Jesus.To pray for the selfish, the vain, the greedy person. To pray for the person who insults me or angers me. I must pray that God will help them. But, I too must want what is best for them – I must love them.You Sister in Christ,mary R

  • Michelle, LOL All is forgiven. Reading the Bible is a life long endeavor. Reading MC? Nine weeks little one! You can catch up! Just read this weeks stuff!

  • Ah, yes, but Frank I made a goal to read the entire (Catholic) Bible in the 100 days before my baby is due (I have 40 days left). I just finished the OT today!! The NT will be a breeze and I can't wait to read it. I think I'll have more time to read MC now that I'm done with the first "half".

  • Whoops! I inadvertantly put this as week 7 in the title. Fixed it.