Joseph Loconte’s lecture at the Christianity & National Security Conference, 2022.

Joseph Loconte discusses C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and war’s impact on society. The following is a transcript of the lecture.

Good morning, everybody. How’s everybody doing? Good. Hear me back there in the bleacher seats? Very good. Uh, you know, every year with these conferences I beg Mark Tooley to build in a little bit of airtime, you know, a little breathing space in between speakers, but he ignores me every year. So I will once again publicly denounce him for that turning this conference into a Soviet War Camp other than that. Now I’m kind of an odd duck at this conference, because I’m not a national security expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I think it is useful when we think about these issues of war and peace to think, to reflect on the writings of two really impressive Christian men, authors who lived through two world wars. That’s worth thinking about, right? So let’s get into it. 

Uh, just over a century ago, 100 years ago, the National Peace Council of Great Britain, a… a group of religious and secular peace organizations issued the Proclamation: “Peace, the babe of the 19th Century is the strong youth of the 20th Century because war, the product of anarchy and fear,” let that phrase hang in the air. “War, the product of anarchy and fear is passing away under the growing and persistent pressure of world organization, economic necessity, human intercourse and that change of spirit, that social sense, the zeitgeist of the age.” 

That’s from the National Peace Council in 1914 made the prediction in its 1914 edition of the peace yearbook. Within a matter of weeks, the nations of the earth became embroiled in a global conflict, the First World War. The most destructive and dehumanizing war the world had ever seen. So… So much for liberal delusions about human nature and the nature of human conflict. Two of the most beloved Christian authors of the last century, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were both thrust into the jaws of the industrial slaughterhouse of the first world war. Both served as second lieutenants with the British expeditionary force in France, and remember, friends with the soldiers on the Western Front had to endure the mortars, the machine guns, the tanks, the poison gas, the flamethrowers, the barbed wire, the thousands of miles of trenches and the mud. 

Never before had technology and science so conspired to destroy both man and nature. “When it was all over,” wrote Winston Churchill, “torture and cannibalism were the only expedience that the civilized scientific Christian states had been able to deny themselves.” C.S. Lewis was injured and nearly killed by a mortar shell with obliterated his sergeant standing nearby. Most of his friends perished in the war. He wrote his father from the hospital bed, “I could sit down and cry over the whole business.”  

J.R.R. Tolkien fought at the battle of the Somme, one of the fiercest concentrations of killing in the history of human combat. On the opening day of the solemn offensive, July 1st 1916, the British lost over 19,000 men killed on a single day. Nineteen thousand. It remains the single deadliest day in military history. And you think about it. That’s a lot of military history, right? Listen to Tolkien: “One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel his full oppression,” he says. “To be caught up in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years,” he says. “By 1918, all but one of my close friends were dead.”  

So these men had no romantic illusions about the horror and the human cost of war. “We remember the trenches too well,” Lewis said. And yet both men use the experience of combat, the experience of combat to engage their imaginations. They viewed the hardships of war as a crucible for moral and spiritual growth. Let me say that once again. They use the experience of war, the hardships of war, as a crucible for moral and spiritual growth. 

When Lewis arrived in France 1917, he was an atheist. He was literally an atheist in a foxhole, and his poetry during the time rages against a silent and uncaring Heaven. Here’s a few lines: “Come let us curse our master, ere we die, for all our hopes and endless ruin lie. The good is dead. Let us curse God most high.” That’s C.S. Lewis in 1917. Well, Tolkien said that his love for fantasy was quickened to full life by war. His love of fantasy quickened to full life by war. He began writing the early parts of his mythology about Middle Earth when we was in the trenches by candlelight. He says, in bell tents, even some down in dugouts under shellfire.  

It’s during this period that he conceives the story of the fall of Gondor, the tale of how the Elven city of Gondor is betrayed into the hands of Mordor. Listen to a few lines from that story: “there at the end of a weary night in the gray of dawn, he saw a land defiled and desolate. The trees were burned or uprooted. All, now, was but a welter of frozen mires, and a reek of decay like a foul mist upon the ground.” Think about that landscape. Does that sound like Mordor? Tolkien called this the first real story of his imaginary world. It’s not only the experience of the trenches that gave these men a sober view of war. Twenty years after the end of the first World War, Tolkien and Lewis have to endure a second World War, and they faced the onset of that conflict with Great Britain now near the center of it with a sense of revulsion, foreboding, and dread. 

Lewis writes to his friend Dom Griffis April 29, 1938, “I have been in considerable trouble over the present danger of war twice in one life,” he says. “And then to find how little I have grown in fortitude despite my conversion,” he converted in 1931 to Christianity, “how little I have grown in fortitude despite my conversion,” he writes to his friend again October 5th 1938. “I was terrified to find how terrified I was by the crisis. Pray for me for courage.” Students, here especially, he’s writing this letter in October 5th, 1938. What’s the crisis… what’s the crisis he’s talking about? What crisis October 5th, 1938? In my class on Western Civ, I don’t ask my students to remember many dates, but here’s one. You want to remember September 30th, 1938. September 30th, about a week before this letter from Lewis.  

The Munich Pact. The Munich Pact, when the democratic allies make a pact with Hitler, the agreement that sells of a portion of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland, right, for the promise of peace and the iconic images of the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returning to England holding the piece of paper: “Peace in our time.” Peace in our time. That’s the crisis he’s talking about. 

Well, um, for Tolkien and Lewis, their personal and professional lives were bracketed by the most destructive wars in human history, when Western Civilization itself seemed to sit on the edge of a knife, and yet here’s the amazing thing to me. The experience of war, it deepened their spiritual quest, and it shaped their literary imagination, because out of war came a great friendship, and out of their friendship came their great imaginative works, stories about the conflict between good and evil, about heroism, about sacrifice for a noble cause. War, friendship, and imagination, to boil it down to that. War, friendship, and imagination. 

In the shadow of war, Tolkien creates The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Lewis earns fame for the Chronicles of Narnia, the Screwtape Letters, the Space Trilogy, and Mere Christianity. Conflict… the conflict between light and darkness is center stage in each of these works. SO what’s their approach to war? These two men, what was their approach to war? Many veterans World War I, they published blistering anti-war novels and poetry in the 1920s and 30s, right? Farewell to Arms, Goodbye to All That, All Quiet on the Western Front, right? An entire generation of Christian ministers vowed never to support Britain in another war.  

The students at the Oxford Union society, now this is the cream of the crop, the next generation of political leadership, the… the students of the Oxford Union society, 1933, they voted quote “this house will under no circumstances fight for its king and country.” The resolution passed 1933. They… They cast that vote, that resolution. They passed it about a week after Adolf Hitler came into power in Germany 1933. Well, there’s a cultural lurch toward pacifism. That’s what’s going on in Great Britain and else… and elsewhere. But cultural lurch toward pacifism after the devastation of the first World War. But both of these authors resist it. Tolkien repeatedly just de—decried the “utter, stupid waste of war,” is how he put it. But he also acknowledged it’ll be necessary to face it. 

“In an evil world,” C.S. Lewis writing in 1944 quote “we know from the experience of the last 20 years,” think about that writing in 1944. “We know if the experience of the last 20 years that a terrified and angry pacifism is one of the roads that lead to war.” Think about that. Well, both men fought honorably in the first World War. They become part of the Home Guard during the Second World War, in addition to their life experiences. What shaped their approach to war? Well, they’re both educated in the literary canon of Western Civilization, Homer, Vergil, Dante, Milton, remember the early lines from Paradise Lost. “Friends, peace is despaired, for who can think submission, war then war open or understood must be resolved.” Satan at war with God, at war with the world that He’s made. 

C.S. Lewis said that outside of the Bible, Vergil’s Aeneid had the greatest impact on his professional career. The Aeneid has been described by one scholar as quote “the single most influential literary work of European civilization for the better part of two millenia.” Maybe we ought to read it, right? It’s a war story, friends. It’s a way story. It’s a story about origins, the founding myth of ancient Rome written by Rome’s greatest poet when his nation was in the throes of an identity crisis. The mission of Aeneis is not only to wage war and to defeat the defiant tribes. His supreme mission is to establish a new civilization. Listen to a few lines from Vergil. “Romans, remember by your strength to rule Earth’s peoples, for your arts are to be these: to pacify, to impose the rule of law, to spare the conquered, to battle down the proud.” Classical scholar A.T. Reyes says this about C.S. Lewis and his relationship to the Aeneid: “For Lewis, a veteran of the first World War, the beauty and fascination of Vergil’s poem lay in its expression of waste and loss. What affected him most was Vergil’s need to depict the human tragedy within war.” 

I think that’s partly right. I don’t think that’s partly right. I don’t think he’s got it all right. It’s not just a tragedy of war, and the sense of loss that moved Lewis… Lewis wrote a letter to his friend Dorothy Sayers in 1946. Here’s what he says in a note: “I’ve just reread the Aeneid again,” he read it many times, C.S. Lewis did, “I just reread it. The effect is one of the immense costliness of a vocation combined with a complete conviction that it is worth it, following your calling no matter what the cost is.” That deeply appealed to him. Tolkien expressed the same kind of appreciation for the work Beowulf. 

Beowulf, considered one of the greatest surviving Ol English poems, one of the most important works of Western literature, the story of a Scandinavian warrior battling the forces of evil. Beowulf captured Tolkien’s imagination when he was a young man. He studied it. He translated it. He lectured on it for decades. As Tolkien described it in his 1936 lecture, “Beowulf is the story of men caught in the chains of circumstance or of their own character torn between duties, equally sacred, dying with their backs to the wall.” One of the likely sources of Tolkien’s dragon in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. A lot from Beowulf isn’t possibly, which also features a dragon and stolen treasure. In the story, Beowulf defeats the demon Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and a fearsome dragon but at the cost of his own life.  

Tolkien was fascinated by these tales with their portrayal of the persistence of wickedness, the danger of pride, the value of heroic sacrifice for a noble cause. Listen to Tolkien, a lecture he gave on dragons at a Christmas program 1937 “for the dragon bears witness to the power and danger and malice that men find in the world.” Let me read that one again. “For the dragon bears witness to the power and the danger and the malice that men find in the world.” And he says “he bears witness also to the wit and the courage and finally to the luck of grace that men have shown in their adventures. Not all men,” he says, “and only a few man greatly.” And then he says this: “dragons… dragons are the final test of heroes.”  

Well, these men were not warmongers. They were not tempted to jingoism or to militant nationalism, but they did reject the moral cynicism of the 1920s and 1930s. Remember, friends, the watchword of the age of the 20s and 30s is disillusionment. Exciting pause. Disillusionment, the disillusionment of the post-war generation. It finds an outlet in literature, the arts, philosophy, science, politics and religion. Just consider some of the books that are being published in the years after the first World War. Book titles. I got some of these on my shelf. The end of the World, 1920, Social Decay and Degeneration, 1921, the Spanglers, the Decline of the West 1922, the Decay of Capitalist Civilization, 1923, the Twilight of the White Races, 1926, Will Civilization Crash, 1927, the Problem of Decadence, 1931, and W.H. Auden’s the Dance of Death, 1933. How about that for a Loconte book of the month club? The Dance of Death. Come on in. Free coffee and doughnuts, right?  

Well to many of the best and brightest, Christianity lacks any explanatory power, right now. Christianity… it seems to be irrelevant. It can’t answer for it’s role in the remorseless violence unleashed by the supposedly Christian nations of Europe during the First World War, but Tolkien and Lewis resist these intellectual currents in their day. The two men first met at Oxford, 1926, and they soon become the best of friends. They eventually decide to take on the literary establishment, and it happened in a conversation the two of them are having, I think at the East Gate Hotel. I was out there, actually, at the East Gate, uh, just a few weeks ago hanging out over there. Basically, go there for lunch a lot. Fun place. And, uh, Lewis had a nickname for Tolkien. His name was “tollers.” T-O-L-L-E-R-S. Tollers. Here’s what he said to Tolkien: “Tollers there’s too little of what we really like in stories. I’m afraid we shall have to try and write some ourselves.” 

And that’s what they do. Tolkien publishes the Hobbit in 1937, starts working on the Lord of the Rings. Lewis writes Out of the Silent Planet, the first of the Space Trilogy 1938. Both authors navigate between extremes, and this is a great lesson for all of us in life, especially as people of faith navigating between the extremes, between militarism and pacifism, between cynicism and utopianism. They carry no illusions about war because they had no illusions about the problem of evil, the tragedy of the human condition, because of man’s fall from grace. This is the subtext, I think, for Lewis’s Space Trilogy as well as The Chronicles of Narnia where the White Witch has got all of Narnia under her thumb who makes it always winter, always winter and never Christmas. It’s like a Mark Tooley dinner party. Always winter and never Christmas. Where’s the word there? Just kidding. Just kidding, Mark. I’m… I’m partially on his payroll, so I better retract that publicly. 

Um, remember the Lord of the Rings, uh, the words of Elrond, of the Council of Elrond, and the elves deemed that evil was ended forever and it was not so. You see this in Tolkien’s children’s story, the Hobbit. Remember the goblins in the story, in the Hobbit? Listen to how Tolkien describes the goblins. “Now, goblins are cruel, wicked, bad-hearted. They make no beautiful things, but they make many clever ones. Hammers, axes, swords, daggers, pickaxes, tongs, and also instruments of torture. They make them very well. It is not unlikely,” he goes on, “that they invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, for wheels and engines and explosions always delighted them.” 

What does that sound like? Sounds like the industrialized slaughter of the first World War, the abuse of science and technology. So what do we make of the ring in The Lord of the Rings? The battle between Mordor and Middle Earth is called the War of the Ring. Why go to war over a ring? Well, if you know the story, the ring gives you the ability to make yourself invisible and whoever possesses the One Ring controls all the others. “One ring to rule them all, ne ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them, my precious.”  

In the 1950s, at the start of the Cold War, many people assume that the ring was a symbol of atomic power, right? The bomb is out, the hydrogen bomb, all the rest of it. Tolkien sets them straight, “but of course, my story is not an allegory of atomic power, but of power exerted for domination.” He tells us what the story is about power exerted for domination. The ring as the embodiment of the will to power, the desire to exploit, to dominate, to control the lives of others. Friends, this is the story of the 20th Century. In a lot of ways, isn’t it the will to power?  

Well, the National Peace Council, uh, claimed in 1914 that war was the product of anarchy and fear. Today’s progressive elites, I think, they talk as if war could be eliminated through arms control agreements or international treaties, the spread of democracy, the global redistribution of wealth, or maybe the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the Vladimir Putin, right? Modern liberalism will not face honestly the problem of the will to power. C.S. Lewis tackles this theme directly in his essay: Why I Am Not A Pacifist. I commend this essay to you. Why I’m Not A Pacifist. He challenges the claim that wars never do any good. Let me read you a few lines. “It is certain that a whole nation cannot be prevented from taking what it wants except by war. It is almost equally certain that the absorption of certain societies by certain other societies is a greater evil. The doctrine that war is always a great evil,” he writes, ”seems to imply a materialist ethic, a belief that death and pain are the greatest evils. But I do not think they are,” he says.  

It seems indisputable to me, at least, that the Ukrainian people represented by their President Valdimir Zelenskyy would agree with C.S. Lewis this is what Zelenskyy said just before Russia… Just before Russia invaded his country: “but if we come under attack,” he says, “If we face an attempt to take our country, our freedom, our lives, and the lives of our children, we will defend ourselves. When you attack us you will see our faces. Not our backs, but our faces.” 

Sometimes war is a tragic necessity. This is a major theme in the works of Tolkien and Lewis. So what’s the purpose of war according to these guys? What good could it achieve? From the Lord of the Rings, a few lines, Faramir, Captain of Gondor: “War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all. But I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness,” he says, “nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” War as a moral necessity to protect the innocent from great harm, to preserve human freedom, to defend civilization against barbarism. This is the moral core of the Christian just war tradition from Augustine to Aquinas, Degrodius. 

Tolkien and Lewis wrote epic fantasy, right? Epic fantasy. They revied the medieval concept of the heroic quest. Think about that for a minute. The medieval concept of the heroic quest. They’re reinventing it for the modern mind. Tolkien said that, uh, when he read a medieval work, it stirred him to produce a modern work in the same tradition. And remember what Lewis does in the Chronicles of Narnia. “Narnia is a realm of kings and queens,” right? “Or a code of honor holds sway, where a knighthood is won or lost on the field of battle.” Now was this just medieval nostalgia? Is that what’s going on here? 

With these authors, nostalgia for the medieval era and its values… Many people assume that fantasy writers are just people who are trying to evade the bitter realities of life. Fantasy as escapism. But think about this. What if the experience of the two world wars had the opposite effect on these authors? Maybe they weren’t trying to escape reality at all. Maybe they were trying to help us to understand it and to face it with hope and resilience. Listen to Lewis on why he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia, and while he was writing it for children: “Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.” 

Maybe the theme of war, of our responsibility to struggle against the darkness of our own age is essential in our age of moral cynicism. In the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien presents us with two kinds of heroes in wartime, right? Two kinds of heroes from Tolkien. There’s the extraordinary man, the hidden king determined to fight for his people, uh, against, uh, a great evil. But then there’s the ordinary man, the Hobbit. The hobbit. The person like us who’s not made for perilous quests. Where did Tolkien get the idea for the Hobbit in the first place? Well go back again to the first World War, to the Western Front where Tolkien served as second lieutenant, struggling with his men to stay alive. Listen to Tolkien: “I have always been impressed that we are here surviving because of the indomitable courage of quite small people against impossible odds. The hobbits were made small,” he explained, ”to show up in creatures of very small physical power the amazing and unexpected heroism of ordinary men at a pinch.”  

He’s talking about the men that he fought alongside in the trenches of France. That’s who he’s talking about. The British Expeditionary Force. They were not a professional army, for the most part. They were not. They were citizen soldiers, shopkeepers, bartenders, clerks, farmers, fishermen, and garden. “My Sam Gamgee,” Tolkien said, “is indeed a reflection of the English soldier, of the privates that I knew in the 1914 war and recognized as so far superior to myself.” He just tells us. Think about that. One of the most beloved characters in modern fiction is based on the ordinary English soldier at his post, doing his duty, reay to fight and die for his contry, for his band of brothers. 

Well in May of 1939, a few months before the outbreak of the second World War, Lewis wrote to his friend Dom Griffis to say that he was not joining the territorials were an extension of the regular army to defend Great Britain against a possible invasion, right? This is 1939 before the war starts. He says this in the letter: “I’m too old and it would be hypocrisy to say that I regret this. My memories of the last war haunted my dreams for years. Military service, to be plain, includes the threat of every temporal evil,” Lewis writes, and then he lists them “in pain and death which is what we fear from sickness, isolation, from those we love, which is what we fear from exile, toil under arbitrary masters, injustice, humiliation, which is what we fear from slavery, hunger, thirst, cold, and exposure, which is what we fear from poverty. I am not a pacifist,” he says, “if it’s got to be… it’s got to be… but the flesh is weak and selfish and I think death would be much better than to live through another war.” 

Wow. Lewis does serve his country in wartime in the second World War in numerous ways. As does Tolkien. Midway through the second World War, a producer of the BBC decides that the nation needs spiritual encouragement. The BBC, sweet Jesus help us, the BBC… he turns to C.S. Lewis to explain and defend the Christian faith to a nation in crisis. One of the first broadcasts that Lewis makes, January 18 1942, and think about that date. 1942, January. By this time, Germany, Nazi Germany controls virtually all of Central and Western Europe, all the ports, the airfields, and the Nazis have invaded the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the Japanese… the Japanese, after bombing Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack on the United States, are launching their own Blitzkrieg in the Pacific and they’re kicking the stuffing out of Britain and the United States. Our forces over there at this moment in time, in January 1942, totalitarianism seems to be on the winning side of history. They don’t know how the story is going to end, and it looks pretty bad. 

Lewis takes a train to London. Now the city of London has survived the blitz, but London remains a target of Nazi bombers. But off he goes. He arrives at the BBC studio in the early evening hours. His talk is called The Invasion. The Invasion. Here’s a few lines: “Christianity does not think this is a war between independent powers. It thinks it is a Civil War, a rebellion, and that we are living in a part of the universe occupied by the rebel enemy occupied territory. That is what this world is,” he says. An then he goes on. “Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” 

Is that how we think about our lives? We’re in a great campaign of sabotage, living in enemy occupied territory. That’s how Lewis saw the world. Well for these two giants of literature, there’s only one truth. One singular event that can end the long war against evil undo the tragedy of the human condition, and bring lasting peace. One event. It’s the return of the king. In Narnia, the king is Aslan, the great lion, the Christ figure. Only Aslan knows the way to that blessed realm that lies beyond the sea. The light ahead was growing stronger, Lewis writes, in the last battle. And then Lucy… Lucy saw that a great series of many colored cliffs led up in front of them like a giant staircase, and then she forgot everything else because Aslan himself was coming leaping down from cliff to cliff like a living cataract of power and beauty.  

This king comes in power and in beauty as the voice of conscience and the source of consolation as the lion and the lamb. In Tolkien’s story, this king is Aragorn, the chief epic hero of the Lord of the Rings, heir to the kingship of Gondor. His life is devoted to the war against Sauron. His true stature is made known only after Sauron’s defeat, when he finally assumes his throne. Here’s how Tolkien describes that moment, see if it doesn’t bring something to mind. “When Aragorn aroose, all that beheld him gazed in silence, for it seemed to them that he was revealed to them now for the first time, tall as the sea kings of old. He stood above all that were near Ancient of Days he seemed, and yet in the flower of manhood and wisdom set upon his brow and strength, and healing were in his hands and a light was about him. And then Faramir cried, ‘behold the king.’” 

Well, here are stories of courage and clashing armies, tales of loss and recovery, of betrayal and redemption. It is in these stories of war, friends, of war that we find a clue to the meaning of our earthly journey. Is everything said going to come untrue? Ask Sam. For the creators of Narnia and Middle Earth, here is the deepest source of hope for the human story, the belief that God and goodness are the ultimate realities, and that the shadow of sin and sufffering and death will finally, finally be lifted from our lives. The great war will be won, this King who brings strength and healing in His hands will make everything sad come untrue. Thank you for listening. 

And we’ve got some time for questions. 

Q&A 

Question: Yes. Foreign University, and I want to ask about… so Lewis writes in the Abolition of Man about men without chests, men without courage, character formation. How do you see that as effect… as an effect of the enlightenment? The scientific revolution may be changing. How do we change that? Should we even try, or should we even try, or should we remain Kingdom-focused, as you’ve so well articulated? 

Answer: That doesn’t sound like a yes/no question to me. That’s a terrific… it’s a huge question you’ve asked. It’s a multi-part question, isn’t it? The Abolition of Man, for those who… who haven’t read it, he is going after an outlook, a scientific materialist outlook in that work. His… His fictional version of the Abolition of Man, some of you will know, is the Space Trilogy. He’s making the same kind of argument, but a narrative form about the abuse of science, right? The abuse of science to serve the will to power. It’s an immense problem. Once science became disconnected from any kind of grounding in a belief in God, we’ve gotten into real trouble.  

But it’s important to remember just a quick little historical footnote here guys. Uh, the Scientific Revolution, uh, was of course launched by men, mostly men. There are a few women who would then join that circle a little bit later on. But, um, uh, individuals who believe deeply in an ordered universe ordered by a God, an orderly moral God. Newton, Copernicus, and all the rest of them, uh… the quest for truth and the belief that truth could be discovered because God was a God of truth. This animated the early scientific thinkers. That line from Newton I love, he says, uh, “Plato is my friend and Socrates is my friend but my greatest friend is truth.” So there was this absolute grounding, the idea that could be discovered because there’s a God of truth governing the universe… that launched a scientific revolution.  

Well, as we know, we’re not there anymore. Yeah, there’s a sort of a search for truths. I… they haven’t given up on the search for facts or truth and discover, but the idea that there’s an orderly God behind it is a real problem. “The abuse of science,” the line that Winston Churchill uses and one of his speeches the… “The lights of perverted science… the lights of perverted science…” that that… the second World War would be… become even more sinister and more devastating because of the lights of perverted science, and that’s the chronic temptation that we’re in… 

That’s part of what Lewis was warning against in his Space Trilogy and the Abolition of Man. Now that’s the bad news, right? But the goodness is, and with Loconte there’s always some good news. The good news is we have the tools to push back just as these men push back in their own day, not knowing what kind of impact they could possibly have as unknown writers, mostly unpublished writers in the 1930s. Okay, “Tollers they’re not writing the books we want to read, let’s write them ourselves.” They have no idea the impact they’re going… going to have. They are meeting together every week in Lewis’s rooms in Maudlin College, at the Eagle and Child pub, at the East Gate Hotel, and they’re talking and sharing their literature with one another because they’re writers and they have to write. They can’t not write. They take on the literary establishment, they have no idea where it’s going, where that’s going. And we’re still talking about them. We’re still making movies and TV series based on their works, the Rings of Power, right? 

So that’s the good news. The good news is we have the tools to push back against this ideology, and how we do that is to try to bring this… a long-winded answer to a… to an end, part of the way we do that is that, you know, each of us in this room… we’re going to figure out what our own calling and vocation is. Some of you, yes, will be in politics, public policy, some will be in music, in the arts, in movie-making, whatever it is, following our callings and resisting this materialist mindset and saying no. Men and women are not just masses of protoplasm. They are embodied spirits, souls of immense value and you can communicate that truth, I think, through every… any vocation. Any vocation, you can… you can communicate that basic truth that we are not pure material beings to be manipulated. That’s the good news. We have the tools, uh, and you people have the talent. So how does that… is that a partial answer. Does that help a little? Great question. Yes. Other questions? Yeah, back there. 

Question: Uh, Kyle Sajoyan, Liberty University. Uh, thank you so much for speaking to us. Given that the inner-war period kind of demonstrated the shortcomings of a perpetual peace, utopian type of society, what can kind of explain the persistence of that ideology into the 21st Century? 

Response: Let’s put that question again, I missed it.  

Question: What was this, uh, kind of, uh, given that the inner-war period kind of demonstrated the shortcomings and folly of a perpetual peace in a utopian society, how can you explain kind of that persistence in the 21st Century with regards to modern day liberalism? 

Answer: Great question. Excellent question. How do we explain… this is still this stubborn desire, which if you think about it friends, we want to be careful. I think, a little bit… a little bit careful about how we critique the desire for peace because, well, Jesus is called the Prince of Peace, right? So the desire for peace is a good, God-given desire. How we achieve it, how we go about trying to achieve peace in an earthly sense, that’s another matter. If you think about the trauma, and this is the thing for Americans, I think it’s a little bit more difficult to kind of understand the European mindset. Often, remember, um, it as my British friends like to remind me, we… we Yanks… we showed up late for the first World War, right? We showed up late. We suffered the least and we came out the strongest. I mean, Britain, France, Germany… they lost millions of men, millions of men into that carnage. We lost, I think, about 175,000 in the first World War. We came in late, suffered the least, and came out the strongest. 

So we didn’t have the same kind of psychological trauma of that conflict an then of course, the second World War wasn’t fought on American territory, right? Europe is devastated in the second World War. The physical devastation, the exiles, the absolute destruction of cities, entire destruction of cities, the bombing of cities, it’s not happening over here, right? So again, the… the European desire, the whole desire for a European Union, a United States of Europe. If you think about it, that’s a pretty understandable reaction to what has happened twice on that continent. Like, let’s figure out a political solution, a diplomatic solution to this problem so the European states will not go to war again.  

And that’s why Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is such a shock to the system. The… The Europeans had really come to believe we have solved the military problem, the problem of aggression, the will to power on our continent. Looking at the European Union, Soviet Union’s collapsed peace dividend, okay. Vladimir Putin talks a tough game, but he’s not doing too much, getting into too much mischief. And then bam, it’s the full-blown invasion of Ukraine. Other things have been going on before, of course, in Ukraine and elsewhere but the sh… the psychological shock to the European mind right now, and I think you can overstate it given what they’ve been trying to build and that’s understood.  

So this desire for peace is a human desire, I think in some ways it’s a God-given desire to want to live in peace, right? But the idea that you can achieve peace in the way that we believe it can be achieved… The National Peace Council yearbook proclamations that peace is inevitable, it’s just inevitable if we reason with people, people will be reasonable. That’s a fundamental. If we can use, you know, a twenty word… that’s anthropological problem, isn’t it? A view of the human person. What is human nature at the end of the day? Is it basically good shackled by various human institutions, just needs to be set free, or is it something else? Is it made in the image of God?  

And as Christians I think we don’t want to start with the Fall because the Bible doesn’t start with the Fall. I… I bristle when I sometimes hear my Christian friends just Fall. Fall. Okay. I know it all happens pretty fast in Genesis, but God doesn’t start with the fall. He starts with Creation. And that means we bear the image of God, so the… our noblest desires, our best desires… there’s something of God, of God’s image in us. That’s stirring up those desires, the longing for the far-off country, for that blessed realm that lies beyond the sea. That’s a, I think a God-given longing. How we achieve it though, even if we don’t have a good anthropology, yes, made in the image of God, but deeply fallen, deeply fallen. So it goes… I think it does go back to that fundamental understanding of human nature which allows this myth of peace and how we achieve it to persist. A long winded answer to a great question. Hope that helps. Thank you.