Thursday, 22 July 2010
CS Lewis on Contraception. Part One
1931. In a letter to Warren, his brother, CS Lewis gave the following observation, "we had tea at Wheatley, Barfield denouncing birth control. I could not help thinking, though I hardly cared to say, that a man married to an obviously barren woman was in this matter an arm chair critic." 1947. In a personal letter he wrote that he didn’t have "a general position about contraception. As a bachelor I think I should be imprudent in attacking it: on the other hand I should not like the job of defending it against almost unbroken Xtian disapproval. But it isn't my business." And in another letter, addressed to a Mrs. Johnson nine years later, he wrote simply, "Birth control I won't give a view on; I'm certainly not prepared to say that it is always wrong."
1933. The Pilgrim's Regress contains Lewis’ first public musings on contraception. John, the protagonist and ‘pilgrim’, has a meeting with Mr. Sensible and verily the atmosphere created by this passage is truly like Lucy’s visit with the faun in Narnia. But much darker, and with a deliberate sinister edge. Mr. Sensible smugly muses to the young man John, ‘to cut off pleasures from the consequences and conditions which they have by nature, detaching, as it were, the precious phrase from its irrelevant context, is what distinguishes the man from the brute and the citizen from the savage’. Sensible welcomes ‘even more beneficent contraceptive devices of our later times…. That man who can eat as taste, not nature, prompts him and yet fear no aching belly, or who can indulge in Venus and fear no impertinent bastard, is a civilized man. In him, I recognize Urbanity — the note of the centre."
After Mr. Sensible, John meets Mr. Broad, who stands for modernist religion, in particular perhaps, that era's tumultuous tensions during the 'modernising' of the Anglican community. Mr. Broad is Mr. Sensible "oldest friend" and his "quite near neighbour." The obvious symbolism in Mr. Broad’s name is that he represents the ‘wide’ ways and not the ‘narrow’ path of Christianity.
Lewis did have a naïve faith in contraception, but still sought arguments against it.
1955. He wrote in a personal letter that, ‘now that contraceptives have removed the most disastrous consequences for girls, and medicine has largely defeated the worst horrors of syphilis, what argument against promiscuity is there which will influence the young unless one brings in the whole supernatural and sacramental view of man?’
PS - You can just hear the screams of some in response to Mr. Sensible’s disgustingly offensive contemptuousness that contraception will prevent ‘impertinent bastards’. But if these screams come from the pro-abortion lobby, we must ask why they support a facility that enables the death of 600-700 unborn children every day in the UK. They may not use terms of abuse to describe ‘the products of contraception failure’, but they will subject them to the worst abuse.