Light at the Lighthouse
C. S. Lewis and COVID-19 By: Dr. Bill Fleury
Most Christians know who C. S. Lewis is: the English guy who wrote “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” “The Screwtape Letters” and many more allegorical tales to help us understand how our Christian faith fits into the modern world.
Professor Lewis, who lived through World War II and the Cold War, along with others in “the greatest generation,” had firsthand knowledge of the terrors of war and the crazy, and unpredictable chance of nuclear annihilation at any moment, should the wrong button in the Kremlin get pushed one fine morning.
Here is what Mr. Lewis advised about living in the Atomic Age, (or the COVID-19 Age), “the valley of the shadow of death:”
“How are we to live in this atomic [or COVID-19] age? I am tempted to reply: ‘why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’ In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation.”
As a young physician in my 30’s I was entertaining friends over dinner with some of the bizarre occurrences from my Residency that pass for Hospital Humor. As laughter subsided, one friend suddenly got serious, and asked me, “Tell me Bill, have you ever had a patient die?” I couldn’t resist laughing at the naivete of his question as I answered, “Sure, all the time, it’s a normal part of life!” I could tell from his shocked look that he was wondering “What kind of lousy physician is this guy, that he has patients dying?”
There is a collective craziness in our culture, a denial of the inevitable, a disbelief in our own mortality. But folks, we ain’t none of us gettin’ outta this situation alive! C. S. Lewis put it this way: “Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before [the coronavirus] was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways.”
So how should we plan for the inevitable? “The first action is to pull ourselves together…If we are all going to be destroyed [by COVID-19] let that [coronavirus] when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep…They may break our bodies…but they need not dominate our minds…
“The sacrifice [of dying] is not so great as it seems…Those who care for Something Else more than civilization are the only people by whom civilization is at all likely to be preserved. Those who want Heaven most have served Earth best. Those who love Man less than [they love] God do most for Man.”
Thus, the formula for calming our fears, making sense out of the world’s craziness, and finding eternal peace and joy lies in a life of faith and service. As commanded by the Son of God: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind…And love your neighbor as yourself.”
Fellow Christians, our work is cut out for us!
Bill Fleury is the Founder and Director of Light at the Lighthouse Festivals