To Mr. C.S. Lewis: A Reconsideration

Visions from the City
August 20, 2010
A Letter to the Questioning
August 24, 2010

Dear Mr. Lewis,

I’ll get right to the point. Though I am occasionally willing to excuse some of your offenses regarding sexuality, owing to the generation in which you live and lack of adequate knowledge on the subject, I cannot altogether dismiss them.

You have undertaken a bold project in introducing sexuality through the lens of Christianity, and though I recognize it as important, I cannot help but feel your conclusions need a reconsideration. Take, if you will, this passage from “Mere Christianity”: “When a man makes a moral choice, two things are involved. One is the act of choosing. The other is the various feelings, impulses, and so on which his psychological outfit presents him with, and which are the raw material of his choice. Now this raw material may be of two kinds. Either it may be what we would call normal: it may consist of the sort of feelings that are common to all men. Or else it may consist of quite unnatural feelings due to things that have gone wrong in his subconscious. … The perverted desire of a man for a man is of this kind.”

Understanding that your knowledge of Christianity comes, in large part, from the tradition of the Catholic Church and its established teaching, I ask you to read very carefully the work of Fr. John McNeill, S.J. in “The Church and the Homosexual.” It seems to me, that while claiming to discount any semblance of true authority in the finer points of theology, you have just stumbled into quite a contentious argument which does, in fact, require finer points of theology. Surely it is difficult to avoid theological discussions altogether given the nature of your book, but do be careful what conclusions you draw and assumptions you make without the profit of true research. I, for one, would have been better pleased with this particular chapter (“Morality and Psychoanalysis”) had you considered things not quite as flatly as you do. Read up on it, Clive, and you will find sterling arguments against society’s present assumptions.

The point must also be made that sexuality, which you discuss subsequent to morality, is not well defined, even in accordance with catechetical teaching on the subject. “The biological purpose of sex is children,” you aver, but this is where it ends. Now surely you cannot fully consider this the substance of sex even as you later say, “There is nothing to be ashamed of in the fact that the human race reproduces itself in a certain way, nor in the fact that it gives pleasure.” It is as though the emotional and spiritual elements to sexual intimacy are but a passing fancy, and not really worth the attention of a Christian. Let me be clear: It is the persistent argument of many modern-day scholars and theologians, and myself besides, that sex is in one part a biological function but that this on its own does not manifest the gift of sexuality as given by God. Which is why it is so important (both to heterosexuals and homosexuals), to recognize the beautiful spiritual and emotional components from which we derive the pleasure you suggested earlier. Now these, surely, are more complicated issues, more profound than the biological one you articulate, and yet you leave it alone. Why? I beg you to give this an earnest reconsideration—not according to ecclesiastical teaching or tradition, but according to the discernment of the person. After all, no one ponders the import of church teaching mid-coitus.

I believe that’s all for the moment, but there will be more. Need I say again that I appreciate your treatment of the Christian case? Not “case” as though it need be cured (more of your phraseology I wish you would do away with), but case in the grander spiritual sense—an earnest articulation of what it means, in the present day, to be a Christian. It is a consideration not many have made, and many more should.

In faith,

Jeff

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