My Musings on Mere Christianity (Part 1): C.S. Lewis on Sexual Morality
I just finished reading C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity weeks ago. I was amazed at the depth of insight Lewis had. So I decided to write (a series) about some parts of the book that made an impact on me. The first one: Sexual morality.
Lewis writes three reasons why it is difficult to desire complete chastity, or the state of being chaste, pure, virgin, or abstained from sexual intercourse. He gives the first one:
In the first place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires we are resisting are so “natural,” so “healthy,” and so reasonable, that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them. Poster after poster, film after film, novel after novel, associate the idea of sexual indulgence with the ideas of health, normality, youth, frankness, and good humour.1
Lewis may have lived at a different time, but what he wrote decades ago still remains true in our day. There is still in our day what he calls a “contemporary propaganda for lust.” Movies teach that pre-marital sex is acceptable. Billboards and magazines show images that are stripped off modesty and are even inappropriate for the product endorsements. This contemporary propaganda seems to be growing and becoming stronger than before. Sadly, people, even Christians, are lured into it.
Lewis gives the second reason:
In the second place, many people are deterred from seriously attempting Christian chastity because they think (before trying) that it is impossible. But when a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or impossibility. Faced with an optional question in an examination paper, one considers whether one can do it or not: faced with a compulsory question, one must do the best one can. You may get some marks for a very imperfect answer: you will certainly get none for leaving the question alone.2
We often think that abstinence from sexual intercourse is impossible. So we give up too soon, without even trying at all.
Some of you may say: “Okay, chastity is possible. But it’s too difficult. So why still attempt?” Lewis writes:
We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help.3 (Emphasis added)
That’s it! We must ask for God’s help. This “cures our illusion about ourselves,” that we cannot help ourselves, and “teaches us to depend on God.” Chastity is difficult or perhaps even impossible. But with God nothing is impossible.
Lastly, Lewis writes on repression:
Thirdly, people often misunderstand what psychology teaches about “repressions.” It teaches us that “repressed” sex is dangerous. But “repressed” is here a technical term: it does not mean “suppressed” in the sense of “denied” or “resisted.” A repressed desire or thought is one which has been thrust into the subconcious (usually at a very early age) and can no come before the mind only in a disguised and unrecognisable form. Repressed sexuality does not appear to the patient to be sexuality at all. When an adolescent or an adult is engaged in resisting a conscious desire, he is not dealing with a repression nor is he in the least danger of creating a repression. On the contrary, those who are seriously attempting chastity are more conscious, and soon know a great deal more about their own sexuality than anyone else.4
More on C.S. Lewis soon. Keep in touch.
1C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: Walker and Company, 1987), 152.
2C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 154.
3C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 155.
4C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 155-156.