Temperance and Lewis

“But the whole point is that he is abstaining, for a good reason, from something which he does not condemn and which he likes to see other people enjoying. One of the marks of a certain type of bad man is that he can not give up things himself with out wanting every one else to give it up. That is not the Christian way. An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons – marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.” – C.S. Lewis; Christian Behaviour, Chapter 2

Having a proper kvetch about teetotalers can be a pleasant past time. You sit with the lads over pints and it becomes like shooting fish in a barrel. The tricky part about legalisms is that we all have them and while we taking potshots at the sacred cows of others we are shocked and appalled when someone cruises past our pasture like Baby Face Nelson looking for something he hates worse than coppers. *

I find the above quote from Lewis is a good corrective for approaching my own pitfalls. There are multiple things that I abstain from, and I would argue, for very good reasons. I think I can build a pretty sturdy case against certain genres of television or film, and even stronger cases against specific shows or movies. I deeply dislike liturgical calendars as I detect the stench of the East wafting by way of Rome in them still. I can cite other opinions I hold to on the ridiculousness of vegetarianism and his absurd little cousin veganism. And yet… Lewis challenges me to enjoy my turf and turf and my sister to rabbitlike enjoy her pureed carrots masquerading as a beef patty, without either of us looking down our noses at each other. I must admit no one is forcing me into an Ash Wednesday service or penitential season, so I can I be happy for those who find these things to give them needed structure?  

I think the temptation is there for every Christian to become the kind of bad man who gives something up and wants everyone else to as well. Just as I want to cling to my cigars, scotch, bourbon, pork, lamb, chicken, beef, and many other open handed things in a world of yes. There are others who want to hold just a dearly to their, horror films, oxymoronic veggie burgers, lenten seasons, and Clive Cussler books. This is at the heart of, “do as you would be done by” and “removing the log from our own eyes before removing the splinter from our brothers.”

*If you don’t get this reference leave now, go watch O Brother Where Art Thou, then come back and finish.

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