mere christianity, grad school, & other thoughts…

Ever since I learned to read, C.S. Lewis has been one of my favorite authors… I have read & re-read everything of his that I could get my hands on. Narnia. The Space Trilogy. The Screwtape Letters. You get the idea. There weren’t many months in the last 35 years of my life where I haven’t been in the middle of a Lewis book…

With that said, I had never read through what many consider to be Lewis’ best work: Mere Christianity – a book that was compiled from a series of lectures Lewis gave on BBC Radio between 1941-1944, during the heart of World War II, a fact that cannot and should not be forgotten as the book is read.

Since I’ve only got about 4 or 5 books on my ‘reading list,’ I decided that now would be the time that I’d finally tackle it… don’t know what kept me from it all these years unless it had to do with my love & preference for the known works, & possibly because so many had suggested that I read it. (No, I’m not passive/aggressive. i just want reading it to be my idea…)

I’m 3/4 of the way through the book, & I’m enjoying it immensely… the provocation of thought, as well as the picture that is given, albeit indirectly, of a period in in Britain’s history as it was teetering on the brink of becoming post-Christian… with one man’s ‘talking’ through belief, & his own reasons to believe. If you like to think, as well as to consider & work through your own philosophical presuppositions, I’d highly recommend it to you.

With Mere Christianity as the backdrop – I’ve been researching & looking for a grad school to ‘attend’ – whether taking classes online &/or finding a program where the amount of onsite attendance is minimal… because I would like to pursue a graduate degree in an area that would supplement & augment my day job & the life I lead now, I’ve been looking at a lot of accredited christian colleges & university programs… And I’ve found a few that have piqued my interest, most notably the program at Gonzaga, which fits the bill for what I’ve been looking for, albeit for the cost of purchasing a highly sought after free agent in one of the major sports…

Something that has been a leeettle bit of a surprise to me is that many (most?) of the institutions I’ve pulled an application for have a policy written into their application addressing ‘conduct’ – a policy that any & all students, whether taking classes in person or online, need to agree to. That policy is one of no drinking alcohol (not moderation, but None. Zero. Zip.,) no smoking of tobacco products of any kind, no drugs, & for many, no social dancing.

I’ve written blogs in the past about my thoughts on alcohol, which you can read HERE. And, like my heroes JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, Sherlock Holmes, I enjoy reading & writing while smoking my pipe… which seem to DQ me from pursuing higher education from a christian institution unless I’d be willing to falsely sign a peace of paper stating one thing, while living completely differently… which I’m not willing to do.

Nor am I willing to sign a paper agreeing not to drink any alcohol or smoke a pipe as though by doing so I’m ascribing to a standard of holiness that seems to be aimed at bolstering the smug-ness meter of a legalistic religion being passed off as christianity. Sigh.

Now, back to Mere Christianity I came across a section where Lewis addresses “Morality” & “Virtue.” One of the virtues he discusses is “Temperance” – a word whose definition had been co-opted over time to mean Teetotaling, or complete abstinence from alcohol. Lewis’ writes:

It is a mistake to think that Christians ought all to be teetotallers; Mohammedanism (Islam), not Christianity, is the teetotal religion.

Of course it may be the duty of a particular Christian, or of any Christian at a particular time to abstain from strong drink, either because he is the sort of man who cannot drink at all without drinking too much or because he is with people who are inclined to drunkenness, & must not encourage them by drinking himself.

But the whole point is that he is abstaining for a good reason, from something that he does not condemn, & which he likes to see other people enjoying. One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he cannot give up a thing himself without wanting everyone else to give it up. That is not the Christian way.

An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons – marriage, meat, beer, or the cinema – but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.

One great piece of mischief has been done by the modern restriction of the word “Temperance” to the question of drink. It helps people to forget that you can be just as intemperate about lots of other things. A man who makes his golf or his motorbicycle the centre of his life, or the woman who devotes all of her thoughts to clothes or bridge or her dog is just as intemperate as someone who gets drunk every evening.

Of course it doesn’t show on the outside as easily; bridge-mania, golf-mania do not make you fall down in the middle of the road, but God is not deceived by externals.


6 thoughts on “mere christianity, grad school, & other thoughts…

  1. You can’t give any weight to what Lewis said…it was the 40’s. I should be hearing back soon on whether I was accepted into the institution of higher learning.

  2. So Murdoc, will you be abstaining from the drink, or did you falsely sign your agreement?

  3. Gonzaga too? Quite the dilemma . . . There have to be less stringent religious institutions/programs that would be able to accomodate you . . . Have you searched high and low or just the places that are most practical for your situation?

  4. murdoc. :)
    laura – I’m waiting to hear about that too.
    tpt – nope. not Gonzaga. But the $ to ‘go’ there is prohibitive. That’s why the sigh…

  5. Laura, I was completely honest in my application. I told them which "activities" I'd participated in over the last year & said that I fully subscribe the the college's stance & value of moderation.

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