The Inner Ring

Several years ago I read a speech by C.S. Lewis entitled, “The Inner Ring.” It is an excellent article about the dangers of trying to gain entrance into whatever group you wish to be a part of and how it is actually a trap. The article can be read here. The truth of that article came home to me recently as I was praying. As many know right now, my family and I are going through a transition. The Lord has blessed us thus far and we trust He will continue to, but as with any change, He has uncovered areas that I didn’t know existed and that need to be submitted to Him.

There is an innate drive in a man to gain access to a group that he thinks is unapproachable. These groups aren’t necessarily sinful; some of them are quite good. But our enemy says that if we can only get inside that group, we will have arrived. It’s about pride. This is where Lewis makes so much sense.

“I must now make a distinction. I am not going to say that the existence of Inner Rings is an Evil. It is certainly unavoidable. There must be confidential discussions: and it is not only a bad thing, it is (in itself) a good thing, that personal friendship should grow up between those who work together. And it is perhaps impossible that the official hierarchy of any organisation should coincide with its actual workings. If the wisest and most energetic people held the highest spots, it might coincide; since they often do not, there must be people in high positions who are really deadweights and people in lower positions who are more important than their rank and seniority would lead you to suppose. It is necessary: and perhaps it is not a necessary evil. But the desire which draws us into Inner Rings is another matter.”

His point is that our desire to pierce those rings leads to bondage. I’ve found myself at times clamoring for reassurance from a group when the fact is, the Lord doesn’t intend for me to be a part of it. The pressure, once inside, is almost double what it was to get in. Lewis went on to say,

“And you will be drawn in, if you are drawn in, not by desire for gain or ease, but simply because at that moment, when the cup was so near your lips, you cannot bear to be thrust back again into the cold outer world. It would be so terrible to see the other man’s face—that genial, confidential, delightfully sophisticated face—turn suddenly cold and contemptuous, to know that you had been tried for the Inner Ring and rejected. And then, if you are drawn in, next week it will be something a little further from the rules, and next year something further still, but all in the jolliest, friendliest spirit. It may end in a crash, a scandal, and penal servitude; it may end in millions, a peerage and giving the prizes at your old school. But you will be a scoundrel.

That is my first reason. Of all the passions, the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.”

And in a final quote, “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it.” The Lord has given us all we need. It is important not to make a particular circle of people into an idol. It can cause more damage that we can imagine.




A Critic of the State

One of my favorite authors is C.S. Lewis.  His faithful witness to the joy of Christ, his defense of Christianity, and his excellent display of truth in fiction  (The Chronicles of Narnia, The Space Trilogy, and Pilgrim’s Regress) have shaped my thinking is more ways than I can count.

When I first encountered him several years ago, I appreciated his apparent lack of trust in the state, but it was inconsequential at the time.  Recently, though, I encountered this essay (thanks to The American Conservative) in which David J. Theroux accumulates Lewis’ thoughts on the state.  You should read it for yourself, but in the meantime, let’s just say that Lewis is not a typical British liberal.