Why I Am Not a Pacifist
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"Why I Am Not a Pacifist"

1940

C. S. Lewis gave this address to a pacifist society in Oxford at their request.  He gave a copy to George Sayer, one of his students during the war years, but made no effort to publish the piece.  Sayer gave his copy to Walter Hooper (the original having been lost) when Hooper was assembling a collection of Lewis's work.  It was published for the first time posthumously.


1.  What is the question presented?  Which of the three options are you drawn to?  Check and see if you have the same answer at the end of the essay.



2.  Lewis analogizes Conscience (deciding matters of good and evil) to Reason (deciding matters of truth and falsehood) to demonstrate the elements of his process.  Summarize the elements Lewis describes:

(1) Facts


(2) Intuition


(3) Argument


Authority


Passion



3.  What does Lewis think is happening when a person "can't see"?  How does he use the example of the "temperance fanatic" to illustrate this point?  Which pacifist position does Lewis rule out based on this category?



4.  Next Lewis applies his syllogism to the proposition: "It is immoral to obey when the civil society of which I am a member commands me to serve in the wars."  How does he fill in the blanks?


(1) Facts


(2) Intuition


(3) Argument


Authority (civil and divine)


Passion



5.  What will eventually happen, according to Lewis, if governments adopt the pacifist position?



6.  How does Lewis interpret the "turn the other cheek" teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-40?  Do you agree/disagree?



7.  Toward the end of his address, Lewis insinuates that passion may be behind the pacifist position.  The threats facing a pacifist are less than the threats facing a soldier.  What is your reaction to this section? 





Note:  You can go online and find blogs and articles where writers have agreed or taken issue with Lewis for his position in this essay.  Marvin Hinten of Bowling Green State University wrote the entry for this essay in The C. S. Lewis Readers' Encyclopedia.  He concludes by saying:

[T]he religious writers Lewis quoted supporting war are all Catholic and Anglican, which permitted him a façade of unanimity; had he mentioned writers before 350 (Origen, Tertullian, etc.) or writers from peace churches (Woolman, Fox, Simons, etc.), the deck would not have been so neatly stacked.


© 2011 by Allyson Wieland