C S Lewis, Kim Davis and False Equality

The book that made C S Lewis a household name in England wasn’t the Chronicles of Narnia, it was a small book called The Screwtape Letters in which a senior tempter, Screwtape gave advice to his nephew, Wormwood to help damn the soul of an unnamed Englishman during the second World War. After numerous calls to resurrect Screwtape, Lewis eventually wrote a piece entitled Screwtape Offers A Toast; Lewis’ Diabolic alter-ego advises young devils, newly graduated and preparing (with proper trepidation) to “bring food or be food,” and explains why Hell is winning so many souls, and one of the reasons why is the phrase all American’s love: “I’m just as good as you are.”

Now don’t get Lewis, wrong, he is not arguing against democracy; through his discussion one can easily see that Lewis supports the early growth of the middleclass as a very good thing. Instead, Lewis is rather arguing that this phrase creates a false equality that operates not by building up the lower and middle classes, but rather by tearing down the accomplishments, education and training of others. “I’m just as good as you are” essentially states not that we have political equality at the ballot box, in our rights as citizens, or in our nature as humans, but rather that this is a statement about the choices we make. In short, “I’m just as good as you are” is to move away from any belief that one set of choices or lifestyles is better or worse than another.

Picture for a second two brothers; they both grew up in poor family with an alcoholic mother and an absent father. One becomes a Christian, and it deeply affects his life. He marries and stays married, works productively, has two children with her, and remains involved in their lives. The other brother goes a different route, he doesn’t always manage to stay employed, begins drinking and taking drugs, has several children out of wedlock to whom he is devoted when speaking with his parole officer, but otherwise knows very little about them. If we take this wrong spirited, “I’m just as good as you are,” we essentially diminish the admirable choices of the first brother to comfort the second—failing to realize in doing so that the second brother is no better off; he is still addicted, broke and spiritually destitute. If that second brother would sit and examine himself then there might be hope, but first he must realize his failure. The most important thing to understand about the gospel is that God delights in rehumanizing us from the dehumanization of our sinful nature.

This tells us a lot about Kim Davis, and same sex marriage. The goal of the Supreme Court in legalizing same-sex marriage is to say the homosexual married couple is just as good as the heterosexual couple. Let us leave off questions of taxation for a moment, the question of Social Security benefits, and the legitimate interests of government; let us not ask the jurisdictional question at the heart of my last column (on what grounds does the Supreme Court have the authority to make this decision). This is a religious judgment the court has made (otherwise they would have referred to this as a Civil Union to avoid the religious connotations of the word “Marriage”) declaring all types of unions as being equal. And this is why Kim Davis is being compared to Warren Wallace and other racists.

What Davis has apparently requested is that her name be taken off all licenses, something the judge has the authority to do, but has refused. Her name being placed on the license, she believes means she is consenting to the gay agenda’s statement “we’re just as good as you are, our lifestyle just as moral as yours;” and Davis has effectively replied, “no your choices are wrong, and your lifestyle is sinful.” In this, she is not measuring them according to her own measuring stick, she is simply repeating what our Creator has said. And she speaks this respectfully as someone who herself has found the mercy of God in recent years.

I believe this is why they will seek to destroy her. I believe this is why she was thrown in jail for contempt of court; in other jurisdictions, activist clerks and mayors illegally began providing marriage licenses to homosexual couples while it was clearly against the law, but there were no consequences for their violation of the rule of law. After all, both she and the former mayor of San Francisco were operating on the strength of their convictions but his breaking of the law was somehow meritorious.

The moment we say all lifestyles are the same, we effectively say, “there is no such thing as ethics.” When we say all lifestyles are the same, we say there is no need of a Savior; when we say all lifestyles are the same we remove the spurs that God would use us to bring us to Himself. At its heart, this is a Spiritual conflict and we should therefore remember that this is not ultimately a question of government, civil liberty or even “freedom of religion.” This is about spiritual warfare, and the fate of souls.

Screwtape would be proud.

11 thoughts on “C S Lewis, Kim Davis and False Equality

  1. I wasn’t much a fan of The Screwtape Letters, but I did like Screwtape Offers a Toast. Along the same lines, I love the quote from Thomas Jefferson that “There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.”

    I don’t think you’ve shown, however, how homosexual marriage is in any way unequal to heterosexual marriage. You can think it’s sinful, but individual religious beliefs cannot be used to determine what, in the eyes of the law, makes people equal or unequal.

    • But the eyes of the law cannot declare people to be equal or unequal. The problem with using the world marriage rather than civil unions they are making an ethical, and religious statement, making the court’s ruling an “establishment of religion.” The moment the state, then requires a Christian to recognize a homosexual relationship as ethical in any way, shape, or form, they have violated the first amendment. As I noted in previous articles the states right to recognize marriages is constitutionally limited to the couples relationships to the state, not the couples rights in any other venue.

      But, this article isn’t making the legal case, but its a discussion assuming Christianity in the discussion of the “noetic effects of sin” (those who profess themselves to be wise, choosing to become fools); and the reaction Kim Davis seems to be receiving.

      • If the use of the term marriage is a religious statement, and if different religious groups have different meanings of the word marriage, then how does the government decide which definition to accept without offending one or more parties? If the government’s job is to stay neutral on religious issues, then it would seem wisest to leave the definition of ‘marriage’ to each individual religion. If the church doesn’t acknowledge homosexual marriage, they don’t conduct them. If the church does acknowledge homosexual marriages, they can conduct them. The government, and by extension its employees, stay neutral.

        No one is asking you to recognize it as ethical. I fully support your right to view it in any light you choose. You can think that drinking is unethical, but if you work in a grocery store, you can’t refuse to sell alcohol without expecting to lose your job. You can think that premarital sex is a sin, but you can’t refuse to rent a house to a couple just because they aren’t married.

      • The last part is where I would disagree with you. The moment you compel me to use my property, or allow my property to be used in a way that goes against my religious beliefs, you have compelled me to abandon those beliefs, and therefore, have violated the first amendment by forming an “establishment of religion.” The problem with the comparison to racial identifies is there is no behavior component in those topics as there are here. Freedom to discriminate what behaviors are moral and immoral, even in the public square, is entailed in the first amendment, both in the establishment and free exercise clause, and the freedom of assembly which has a freedom to disassemble as a necessary corollary.

        The private sector is a different matter, and has a few attendant complexities (such as the distinction between so I won’t address the storefront directly. Suffice it to say, the rules for the private sector are necessarily different than the rules for the public sector.

        I would say the government could only assert a couple is married when there is universal agreement as such, otherwise one would also have to assert logically that polygamy is legal and allowable on the same grounds as given or gay marriage. This is why I say the supreme court has exceeded its authority in this ruling.

      • but wouldn’t that, too, apply to the religious groups that accept homosexual marriage? Should they be allowed to practice their religion in light of how they interpret ‘marriage,’ or should their practice be limited by the views of another religion?

      • How? I’m arguing the government cannot force someone to accept or reject gay marriage, I’m saying this entire line of discussion is something the first amendment forbids the government from being involved with in the first place. I have no problem with a religious group recognizing a gay marriage. There may be consequences – if they are Christian then their denominational body has the responsibility to remove them from the denomination, and this may entail a loss of property if they are in organized in lines where the denomination holds the property, but I’m a Baptist and this later point wouldn’t come up in our circles, I don’t know who it would be handled by Methodists or episcopalians.

        If someone wants to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, I have no legal qualms about that–I have some other reservations, I believe enabling a homosexual couple is dangerous to their souls, but then, this is not a legal matter. The problem is when the government compels men to offer incense to the genus of the emperor, to accept gay marriage, etc.,

      • If you are saying that the government should be out of the marriage business in every way, then I completely agree with you.

        However, I have to ask: If the owner of a bakery was Catholic, would you support their right to refuse making a cake for a Protestant wedding? If a county clerk interprets the Bible to say that interracial marriages are a sin (and yes, some people still make this claim), do they have the right to refuse a marriage license to an interracial couple?

        Yes, people have the right to their religious beliefs (in thought and in practice) but these rights do not extend so far that they can violate someone’s basic civil liberties. When it comes to those rights, we all are, in fact, equal. Going back to the message in your post, there are many ways people are unequal; however, when it comes to civil liberties, we are all equal.

      • 1. If the owner of a bakery were a Roman Catholic, I would support their right to refuse to bake a cake for a protestant wedding. No one has a civil right to another person’s services or property.

        2. The difference with the clerk in this case is in the jurisdiction, first there is the question I have previously raised about the court’s authority to make this ruling in the first place. The fourteenth amendment explicitly states that Congress not the courts, has the authority to enforce the 14th amendment. This presumably would include defining what falls under. The court’s powers to interpret the constitution are clearly limited to the text itself, we would all understand that the Supreme court could not violate the constitution by allowing a president to run for a third term, because the constitution precludes such an action, the ruling for gay marriage is ultimately the same thing. The constitution does not give the supreme court the authority to expand it powers and in the ruling itself it acted unconstitutionally.

        Additionally, the hermeneutic used in discussing the 14th amendment by modern’s is simply dishonest. Unless the author of the 14th amendment would assume this would extend to gay marriage, then it is not a part of the authorial intent, and therefore it is not a valid interpretation of the reading. The issue on the other hand of interracial marriage would be very germane to the amendment’s intent.

        3. YOu again assert when it comes to civil liberties we are equal, well yes, but is this really a matter of civil rights? No, I don’t think it is. Civil rights are not issues of behavior, lifestyle or worldview. We do not define ethnicity based on what someone does, in fact if someone defines ethnicity on these types of grounds, we would rightfully call that person a racist.

      • 1) I certainly wouldn’t agree, but I respect that you’re at least consistent.

        2) I would be over my head trying to debate constitutional law, so for the sake of this argument I’ll concede the point of jurisdiction. However, regardless of whether the jurisdiction belongs to congress or the courts, it certainly does not belong to a county clerk. If her boss is tasking her with distributing marriage licenses, then that is her job.

        I don’t think that’s the greater point, though. If this had gone through congress as opposed to the supreme court (making it constitutional by your criteria), then would you say that county clerks should give marriage licenses regardless of their religious convictions?

        3) I don’t agree that it is simply a matter of lifestyle when genetics have been shown to be a factor. Also, I would argue that civil rights can be issues of behavior. We extend the right of free speech, for example, regardless of whether the person takes part in civil discourse or hostile verbal assaults. As for worldview, if civil rights don’t cover that, then you lose a lot of the protection of religion–you would be free to practice it per the first amendment, but other people would have every right to discriminate against you.

      • 1. Thanks.

        2. No, because the Constitution still prevents congress from passing laws establishing religion; this is the heart of the argument — the government can legalize civil unions, but not marriage. The authority of government to legalize gay unions is limited to discussions of the relationship between the couple and government, (inheritance law, communal property rights, taxation, etc.), not the relationship of the couple to the civil society.

        This genuine area of concern for the government of course would include county clerks, but if Congress passed a civil union statute, I would probably suggest Kim resign rather than protest, though I might consider the details.

        3. I don’t think the case has been made on the genetics; identical twin studies would need to have a much higher correlation (at least 90%) of gays with identical twins also being gay for a genetic argument to be taken seriously, the study with the highest numbers is under 60%, and that study is rightly criticized for being sloppy in the methods used. reasonable numbers are far lower and do not rule out environment since most of the identical twins surveyed grew up in the same environments. More recent discussions (such as hypotheticals about hormone exposure in the womb) seem very difficult to discuss empirically. But even if everything that was said were true, who said that the sin nature did not have an underlying basis in our genetics or in nature? Genetics are ultimately immaterial because there is still a worldview assumption in play. Christians assume man is “basically evil,” some modernists believe man is basically good or neutral, though the problem for the modernist is he has no epistemic grounds for these beliefs (If we accept foundationalism, and atheism, then moralism and a belief in rights is irrational). To even make the point you do, we must assume Christianity is false at the outset, something that is outside the first amendment.

        Even from a medical perspective, the way homosexuality and transgenderism is treated is not rational — in any other circumstance we would identify these traits as diseases; if a man thinks he is a bovine (and it happens) he is committed for his own good because even a cursory examination indicates he is not a bovine. So why do we treat it differently if a man says he is a woman?

        As to discrimination, that’s precisely my point, the government does not have the right to discriminate on the basis of worldview, but individual citizens do under the first amendment. I would not concede this is discrimination in the same lines as racial discrimination since it is on the basis of behavior, but it is discrimination in the classic sense, to say one thing is good and another is bad, and therefore the person engaging in the latter is evil is a central an necessary tenet of ethics, but it is a discrimination against the good and the bad.

        I have freedom of speech, but the law cannot force you to listen to me; one can say in not listening to me that you are “discriminating against me;” but this is immaterial. Nor do you have the responsibility to provide me with a platform. Discussions of civil rights are what the government cannot do to you, they do not entail what the civil society is required to accept.

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