Thursday, September 28, 2006

Whose God?

Not that I'm surprised to have been struck by a quotable quote after only one night of reading C.S. Lewis, but this one caught my eye quickly. Towards the end of letter 21 of The Screwtape Letters we find Wormwood giving this advice:

We produce this sense of ownership not only by pride but by confusion. We teach them not to notice the different senses of the possessive pronoun - the finely graded differences that run from 'my boots' through 'my dog, 'my servant', 'my wife', 'my father', 'my master', and 'my country', to 'my God'. They can be taught to reduce all these senses to that of 'my boots', the 'my' of ownership. Even in the nursery a child can be taught to mean by 'my teddy bear' not the old imagined recipient of affection to whom it stands in a special relation (for that is what the Enemy will teach them to mean if we are not careful) but 'the bear I can pull to pieces if I like'. And at the other end of the scale, we have taught men to say 'my God' in a sense not really very different from 'my boots', meaning 'the God on whom I have a claim for my distinguished services and whom I exploit from the pulpit - the God I have done a corner in'.
Yeeps. That's a rather scathing indictment of how people allow their laxity in language to transform itself into a laxity in understanding. We all at times are guilty of trying to turn God into someone we can control - sometimes by bartering, sometimes by berating, sometimes by what we think is manipulating. At the same time, despite the gravity of these problems it seems even more grave for those who think God is what they want Him to be and that there is somehow something God owes them for being, in their own definition, good. For those times we have taken God for granted, and for those who are blinded by their own ambition towards God we humbly pray.