Saturday, October 22, 2022

On a mission from God

I've been getting CSL:The Bulletin of the New York C.S. Lewis Society since I was in graduate school. Invariably there is something interesting, often about books. This essay was about the few references to Jesus in That Hideous Strength:
.... Jesus is the subject of discussion in section three of chapter four, when Mark Studdock first encounters Reverend Straik, the "Mad Parson." Straik believes that the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E.) is on a mission from God, and he supports that nefarious mission with apocalyptic fervor. He does not pretend that the revolution they are seeking will come about without violence. "It is no part of our witness," he explains, "to preserve that organisation of ordered sin which is called Society." When Mark objects that the preservation of society is crucial since there is no afterlife in which wrongs will be set right, he expects disagreement. But Straik's views on heaven leave him speechless:
I repudiate that damnable doctrine. That is precisely the subterfuge by which the World, the organisation and body of Death, has sidetracked and emasculated the teaching of Jesus, and turned into priestcraft and mysticism the plain demand of the Lord for righteousness and judgement here and now. The Kingdom of God is to be realised here in this world. And it will be. At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. In that name I dissociate myself completely from all the organised religion that has yet been seen in the world.
At this outburst, Mark awkwardly mumbles "something about his ignorance of theology." Yet he is mistaken if he thinks this will mollify Straik: "It's not theology I'm talking about, young man, but the Lord Jesus. Theology is talk eyewash a smoke screen a game for rich men." "It wasn't in lecture rooms I found the Lord Jesus," he says, but in the ordinary travails of life to be found "in the coal pits" and in solidarity with those who suffer.

The faith Straik once had in the churches he now places in N.I.C.E., an "irresistible His hand." He sees himself as a prophet who "seeks the sign of His coming" and is eager to join together with all those ready "to sacrifice all merely human values.." Because they share "the tragic sense of life" which he could not find "amid all the nauseating cant of the organised religions," they will be among those who will "inherit the earth" and "judge angels." ....
"Imagine there's no heaven..."

Patrick Gray, "Cameo Appearance: A Note on Jesus in That Hideous Strength," The Bulletin of The New York C.S. Lewis Society, May/June, 2022.

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