C.S. Lewis on Benevolent Dictators

Peter Enns publishes today on his Patheos blog a quotation from C.S. Lewis (taken from God in the Dock) which appeared in the Wall Street Journal on 1 November 2013.

It applies very well not only to the political realm, but also to the ecclesial one. Here it is:

My contention is that good men (not bad men) consistently acting upon that position [imposing “the good”] would act as cruelly and unjustly as the greatest tyrants. They might in some respects act even worse. Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under of robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber barons cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some points be satiated; but those who torment us for their own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to heaven yet at the same time likely to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on the level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.

This is, I contend, one of the most powerful (because of its subtlety) mechanisms of evil. I have seen it countless times around me and I have declared eternal war to it from the first instance.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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