16 December 2011

Passing On the Pride

At this time of year, magazines and organizations start giving out annual awards. Time Magazine has “Man/Woman/Superhero of the Year” on its cover.  There is one person who won’t see next year’s cover: a famous author and critic, also an antagonistic atheist, has just died from cancer.   Unfortunately, the adjective that came to mind when I saw the death announcement was “proud,” as in “a proud man.”   I hope his memorial service is kinder to his memory than my first thought was.   Surely he was loved, but his words were barbs, more like weapons than winning or even winsome. You need to be an accomplished trickster and author to cover up who you really are when you write. Since he was a writer, my reading of him made me think he was both intelligent and proud. Why was he antagonistic towards God and towards Christianity? Only he and God truly know, so I won’t speculate. More to the point, why is anyone so accomplished as he so antagonistic?  My guess: fear of being seen as weak and sentimental; many intellectuals are afraid of that kind of branding–like a 3 year-old is afraid of a monster.
Religion, at least the Christian religion, teaches us that vengeance should not come from us. (What a wonderful world this would be!) Because restraint from vengeance is seen, not as strength, but as weakness by most men, this makes Christians look weak and weak-willed.  Further, educated intellectuals (and Chuck Norris) wish to be perceived as stronger than all their competitors, the shoe of Christianity doesn’t fit their foot. (In a seeming paradox, Christianity also teaches that timidity should not come from us, either. And, meekness and boldness are both be evidenced in Christian adherents).
But, in the end, it is usually pride (whose root is fear) which freezes the fellow’s heart: when the heart’s frozen, he’s in the iceberg of aloneness. He’s isolated himself on an island of Me, Myself and My Great Ideas. He wants no great spiritual fire to light his insides: he might be misunderstood, or criticized, or not be in charge.  Pride (of the bad sort) is blinds you and it is your own killer, and this kind of pride has no known good side to it.
“Prostitutes are in no danger of finding their present life so satisfactory that they cannot turn to God: the proud, the avaricious, the self-righteous, are in that danger.” - CS Lewis
Lewis elaborates on this: “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
A proud man or woman can give a reason, or a rationalization, for whatever deceit he or she chooses to tell himself or herself for the apathy, disinterest, and antagonism towards God.  In the end, Lewis puts it bluntly: “Oh, Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!”

(Sorry, Chuck Norris, your name just slipped out of my fingers.)