The Church and ‘social morality’



According to C.S. Lewis, “Christianity hasn’t got, and doesn’t profess to have, a detailed political programme for applying, ‘Do as you would be done by’ to a particular society at a particular moment. It couldn’t have, of course. It is meant for all men at all times and the particular programme which suited one place or time wouldn’t suit another. And, anyhow, that is not how Christianity works. When it tells you to feed the hungry it doesn’t give you lessons on cookery. When it tells you to read the Scriptures it doesn’t give you lessons in Hebrew and Greek, or even in English grammar. It was never intended to replace or supersede the ordinary human arts and sciences: it is rather a director which will set them all to the right jobs, and a source of energy which will give them all new life, if only they will put themselves at its disposal.

People say, ‘The Church ought to give us a lead.’ That is true if they mean it in the right way, but false if they mean it in the wrong way. By the Church they ought to mean the whole body of practising Christians. And when they say that the Church should give us a lead, they ought to mean that some Christians- those who happen to have the right talents- should be economists and statesmen, and that all economists and statesmen should be Christians, and that their whole efforts in politics and economics should be directed to putting “Do as you would be done by” into action. If that happened, and if we others were really ready to take it, then we should find the Christian solution for our own social problems pretty quickly. But, of course, when they ask for a lead from the Church most people mean that they want the clergy to put out a political programme. That is silly. The clergy are those particular people within the whole Church who have been specially trained and set aside to look after what concerns us as creatures who are going to live for ever: and we are asking them to do a quite different job for which they have not been trained. The job is really on us, on the laymen. The application of Christian principles, say, to Trades Unionism or education, must come from Christian Trade Unionists and Christian schoolmasters: just as Christian literature comes from Christian novelists and dramatists- not from the bench of Bishops getting together and trying to write plays and novels in their spare time”…

I’d have to say, on the basis of what St. Paul says, that apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers are meant ‘to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ might be built up’, that I agree wholeheartedly. The clergy cannot put on as many hats as there are different professions represented in any one particular congregation- this would be impossible, and as C.S. says, ‘silly’. They aren’t meant to do all of the works of service, but to prepare the people to do them. Otherwise, what would be the use of the body of believers? So, what works of service are laying in store for you?

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