In 2012 I am beginning a new project. I plan on reading all of C.S. Lewis's works. All of them. No exceptions. Poetry, prose, theology, and fiction. I'm very excited about it. I am actually so excited I've already begun to get a head start on it. I picked up Weight of Glory most recently. Which, as it turns out is only one of a series of lectures my copy contains.
I just completed Why I am Not a Pacifist and I found myself very uncomfortably confronted with some things that I have been taking for granted. I'm very much a pacifist though not in the official political sense. I engage in confrontation only when it's necessary and only when it's someone I deeply care about. I believe nations should try every means possible to avoid war, using it only as a last resort. I don't relish violence or fighting at all, but I do adhere to Thomas Aquinas's just war theory. I only do this; however, when I'm really pushed up against a wall. C.S. Lewis in his typical way pushed me up against a wall.
The concepts of war and peace are very big concepts and easy to get emotional about. Lewis strips off all of the emotional baggage and attacks merely the actual logistical and theological reasons for a strong pacifist belief. I was left at the end of lunch break just staring off into the distance digesting it all. I'll probably still hold to the belief that nations should try every means possible to avoid war, but I'll be a little less shoot from the hip about war being hell from now on.
The lecture titled Learning in Wartime is fantastic too. If you have read The Screwtape Letters you'll recall the letter from Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood chastising him over being "delirious with joy" over the war. Wormwood is exceptionally excited because he thinks the war will make it easier to capture souls, but Screwtape knows better. He knows that war opens up new more eternal questions, causes men to act selflessly and turn to God in their fear. Learning in Wartime re-opened some of those thoughts and gave me fond memories of The Screwtape Letters. I think that will be the first in my 2012 Lewis Marathon.
Learning in Wartime specifically addresses the pursuit of learning and creating and beautifying the world during a time of war. His main point is that for a Christian, we’re always at war, a bigger and more eternal war. So we should go on living our lives and practicing our arts and vocations and exercising our skills for the glory of God. It’s a very uplifting and surprisingly relevant essay.
Before I go let me leave you with a quote from Learning in Wartime that I found particularly close to my own thoughts, but naturally worded much better. "The war creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun." I'm actually still right in the middle of the collection of essays so I don't have much to say on the book as a whole, but I'm really enjoying it. I may update again after I’ve completed it, but I’m reading so many things right now it will be a mercy if I can write much about them at all.
 Lewis, C.S. Learning in Wartime Sermon presented at Evensong in St. Mary the Virgin , Oxford, England, October 22, 1939