Patriotism, Pacifism and a New Year
January 1, 2019
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It is New Year’s Eve and I am having a quiet evening reading C.S Lewis’ classic, The Screwtape Letterswhile I wait for 2019 to ring in. Meshell and I usually celebrate with the east coast and are asleep before the New Year comes to Rocky Mountain time.

I always love the time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve to reflect on the past year and think and pray about the New Year. I probably don’t spend enough time reflecting as I do projecting.

In reflecting about the state of the Church and the current state of our country and the move toward more extremism and the instability it brings, C.S. Lewis’ thoughts got me both reflecting and projecting.

First, a little background, The Screwtape Lettersare a fictitious compilation of letters from a worldly wise elderly devil Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood, a novice demon in charge of securing the damnation of a young man.  Screwtape writes to Wormwood in chapter seven, “I had not forgotten my promise to consider whether we should make the patient an extreme patriot or an extreme pacifist. All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged.” The Enemy the devil Screwtape is referring to here is the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe Lewis is pointing out a profound truth in the spiritual realm here. The devil will always work to move people to the extremes, for it is the extremes that usher in division and hostility and the utter breakdown of civility.

A bit later Screwtape writes to Wormwood saying, “Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the ‘cause’, in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war-effort or of Pacifism.”

Extreme Patriotism has no place within the Christian faith nor does extreme Pacifism. Extreme Patriotism merges one’s zeal for America with one’s Christian faith. Extreme Pacifism merges one’s anti-war, no just war position and unwillingness to fight with one’s Christian faith. Both of these positions lose genuine devotion to Jesus in pursuit of the cause or politics rather than the will of God and the kingdom of God.

But there is an extremism that is to be pursued and lived. It is extreme devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the hope for a restored world. Just what does extreme devotion to Jesus Christ look like? May we all catch a taste of it in 2019 and may His Church freshly awaken to His glory and grace in 2019!


About author

Stephen Woodrow

Steve is the pastor of Crossroads Church in Aspen Colorado. He is married to Meshell and they have 5 wonderful kids.

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