CS Lewis (Was: Favourite books)

Margaret Ball margaret at onr.com
Thu Dec 30 01:02:25 EST 2004

Paul wrote:

>But sometimes I worry about what it actually means. It sounds good to
>say "it isn't what you *say* you are worshipping but whether you
>behave in good ways in the process", but what are "good ways"?
>Consider the Aztec priest, busily cutting a man's beating heart out
>with a big knife because he genuinely believes that that's what God
>wants him to do - is he covered, even though his actions are
>reprehensible from a Christian viewpoint?

I've always assumed he was covered, but you raise a good point.

To bring it closer to the modern world: what about the anti-abortionist 
who burns an abortion clinic or shoots a doctor. Is he covered? Is he ok 
if he truly believes abortion is murder, but on the shit list if he has 
a sneaky underlying desire to kill someone and get notoriety and has 
latched onto this "cause" as an excuse?

What about the Moslem who killed a Dutch filmmaker recently because he 
didn't like what his films said about the treatment of women under Islam?

>would Lewis say that I'm working from a false premise, and that no
>man could *really* believe that God actually wants him to do a thing
>like that?
Presumably God knows what he *really* believes. We don't have to make 
that judgement.

An associated point that worries me, though, is: at what point are you 
obliged to interfere with another culture's practices? 

Two cases in point.

A lot of Africans eat by dipping their fingers into a mass of fufu or 
rice or posho or whatever the carbohydrate of the region is, pulling out 
a ball of the sticky stuff, swishing it through whatever sauce or soup 
they have managed and then eating it. All this from a communal plate. 
This horrified my father when I came home from Africa and absentmindedly 
started to eat a curry and rice with my fingers this way, even though I 
was being perfectly polite by African standards (didn't use my left 
hand).  Now, we wouldn't send missionaries into Africa preaching the 
gospel of knife and fork. I don't think.

But - a lot of Africans also practice clitoridectomy. Do we stand aside 
there and say, "Oh, that's their culture, I mustn't interfere?" or do we 
yell, "It's wrong to mutilate young girls!"

Is there some kind of absolute moral standard we can all hold to? Like: 
It's not nice to cut out people's hearts, or their clitorises, or to get 
blind drunk and drive a heavy, dangerous machine at high speeds?  And 
who's going to define the absolute moral standard? Probably an 
impossible task.

Margaret Ball

It's finished! The bead embroidery book is here. Lots of pretty pictures at

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