That Hideous Strength

C. S. Lewis was a bit prophetic in his Space Trilogy. In That Hideous Strength, the third book, the character Merlin refers to the character "Jane" as the “falsest lady of any” for her use of contraception. I have quoted this before, explaining the "Balinus" connection, but reading the book again to my 11-year-old son I found more context I'd like to quote. First, is the bit when Merlin is questioning Ransom to see if he is who he says he is:

The Stranger mused for a few seconds; then, speaking in a slightly sing-song voice, as though he repeated an old lesson, he asked, in two Latin hexameters, the following question:

"Who is called Sulva? What road does she walk? Why is the womb barren on one side? Where are the cold marriages?"

Ransom replied, "Sulva is she whom mortals call the Moon. She walks in the lowest sphere. The rim of the world that was wasted goes through her. Half of her orb is turned toward us and shares our curse. Her other half looks to Deep Heaven; happy would be he who could cross that frontier and see the fields on her further side. On this side, the womb is barren and the marriages are cold. There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a young man takes a maiden in marriage, they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and to be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty (delicati) in their dreams of lust. Their real children they fabricate by vile arts in a secret place."

Shortly after this, when the others in the house meet Merlin, the following discourse occurs:

… the Stranger [Merlin] was speaking and pointing at her [Jane] as he spoke.

She did not understand the words; but Dimble did, and heard Merlin saying in what seemed to him a rather strange kind of Latin:

"Sir, you have in your house the falsest lady of any at this time alive."

And Dimble heard the Director answer him in the same language:

"Sir, you are mistaken. She is doubtless like all of us a sinner; but the woman is chaste."

"Sir," said Merlin, "know well that she has done in Logres [England] a thing of which no less sorrow shall come than came of the stroke that Balinus struck. For, Sir, it was the purpose of God that she and her lord should between them have begotten a child by whom the enemies should have been put out of Logres for a thousand years."

"She is but lately married," said Ransom. "The child may yet be born."

"Sir," said Merlin, "be assured that the child will never be born, for the hour of its begetting is passed. Of their own will they are barren: I did not know till now that the usages of Sulva were so common among you. For a hundred generations in two lines the begetting of this child was prepared; and unless God should rip up the work of time, such seed, and such an hour, in such a land, shall never be again."

"Enough said," answered Ransom. "The woman perceives that we are speaking of her."

"It would be great charity," said Merlin, "if you gave order that her head should be cut from her shoulders; for it is a weariness to look at her."

...[Dimble] thrust Jane behind him and called out,

"Ransom! What in Heaven's name is the meaning of this?"

"...And his appalling bloodthirstiness."

"I have been startled by it myself," said Ransom. "But after all we had no right to expect that his penal code would be that of the Nineteenth Century."

..."The Pendragon tells me," [Merlin] said in his unmoved voice, " that you accuse me for a fierce and cruel man. It is a charge I never heard before. A third part of my substance I gave to widows and poor men. I never sought the death of any but felons and heathen Saxons. As for the woman, she may live for me. I am not Master in this house. But would it be such a great matter if her head were struck off?"

Two chapters later, Merlin is asking if they can't enlist the Christian kings and knights of the day in their fight against "That Hideous Strength," and Ransom informs him, quite prophetically, of our present reality:

Ransom shook his head. "You do not understand," he said, "The poison was brewed in these West lands but it has spat itself everywhere by now. However far you went you would find the machines, the crowded cities, the empty thrones, the false writings, the barren beds; men maddened with false promises and soured with true miseries, worshipping the iron works of their own hands, cut off from the Earth their mother and from the Father in Heaven. You might go East so far that East become West and you returned to Britain across the great Ocean, but even so you would not have come out anywhere into the light. The shadow of one danrk wing is over all Tellus."

"Is it then the end?" asked Merlin.

Indeed, do we not in this year of our Lord, 2008, stand on the precipice of the end of the age?

[Quotes from the first Scribner paperback edition, 2003, C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength, 1945, pp 270-271, 275-278, and 290]


Anonymous said...

I thought this was interesting:


Anonymous said...

From a Pew Survey:


# of adults surveyed: 588 (LCMS) 869 (ELCA) 35,556 (Total Population)

Abortion should be legal in all cases:
16% (LCMS) 18% (ELCA) 18% (Total Population)

Abortion should be legal in most cases:
35% (LCMS) 42% (ELCA) 33% (Total Population)

Abortion should be illegal in most cases:
32% (LCMS) 26% (ELCA) 27% (Total Population)

Abortion should be illegal in all cases:
13% (LCMS) 6% (ELCA) 16% Total Population

Don’t know/Refused:
5% (LCMS) 7% (ELCA) 6% Total Population

So this means that 51% LCMS and 60% ELCA surveyed thought that abortion should be legal in most or all cases. That is really sad. We are failing to properly educate our people. Since 51% is also the figure for Total Population, this means that the LCMS congregation members surveyed are simply following along with the culture in general, while the ELCA congregation members are slightly worse off.

From pages 74-5 of my copy of the 1973 New Haven, MO classic acclaimed by church papers across denominational lines, "A Christian Handbook on Vital Issues", March 29, 1971, there is a book review by Professor Erich Kiehl on Dr. Lawrence Kersten's sociological study, "The Lutheran Ethic":

"A woman should have the right to get an abortion if she does not want to bring a child into the world."

Among members, the following disagreed:

67% LCA
71% ALC
75% LCMS
80% WELS

Among clergy, the following disagreed:

57% LCA
82% ALC
92% LCMS
100% WELS

886 Lutheran laymen were randomly interviewed and 241 Lutheran parish pastors completed questionnaires.

This data is not directly comparable to the Pew survey questions because the wording of the questions are different. However, I think it provides helpful historical context as well as an example about what happens when the question is worded differently.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Those are really disturbing statistics. However, I'm not certain this means LCMS pastors are not preaching and teaching properly on this. Most people believe what the culture tells them regardless of what they're taught by the church. Many people who identify themselves as Lutheran don't even avail themselves of the preaching and teaching. Roman Catholicism is quite hard-line in teaching on these issues, and yet their percentages are about the same.