Passive-Aggressive Theology

C. S. Lewis is applauded in some circles for exquisitely framing Christian teachings. I used to think the same thing, because I believed that all of it was real. However, Lewis is also a great example for how perception shifts after one takes off the god-shaped goggles. Instead of being this beautiful expression of a loving philosophy, it’s a thinly veiled attempt at passive-aggressively bullying people.

That sums up a lot of softer proselytizing efforts.
They’re pretty common. It’s a relationship and not a religion. Hell is a door locked from the inside. The Christian deity just wants to love people. This is all just a reminder that there’s an invisible entity that cares for people. Nothing bad can come from stuff like this, right?

Well, it tends to gloss over the fact that this isn’t a sign of caring by any stretch of the imagination. Lewis’s quote above paints the picture of a deity locking souls in a terrible place because that’s what they must have really wanted. There’s no direct and perfect presentation of all the facts in a way that makes people fully informed. No, they get a life of being yelled at by missionaries or street preachers that are better at building multi-million dollar parsonages than giving food to the hungry.

Even the thought of a relationship with such an entity isn’t what many Christians allege it is. I have yet to threaten any of my friends with torture if they don’t hang out with me. In fact, making unreasonable threats is at best a great way to end a relationship and not build one. Despite this, rational people are supposed to just ignore the bad stuff and hold onto the warm fuzzy feelings.

Kinder, gentler Christianity still relies on brute force.
While it might hide the whip with a smile and cookies, it’s still there, and it’s going to get used. In some ways, it’s worse than fire and brimstone preaching, because at least those preachers are being open about their views. Otherwise, it’s the same deal in different packaging.

Putting it a different way, as nice as one can say Jesus loves everyone, there will always be a hidden “or else” tacked onto it. Pretending it’s not there doesn’t make it go away. All it does is describe a deity like this:


It’s understandable why it’s upsetting to people that leave the faith.
These are just extra reminders that we came from a place that would resort to manipulation to keep us going on Sundays. Now that the goggles are off, it’s pretty easy to see how manipulative and even petty it all seems. Some of us were even subjected to extra threats if we didn’t show how much we agreed with such nonsense. Anyone wanting to recover from religion doesn’t need many reminders of how awful it was back when we believed.

For me, finding healing from all of this is an exercise in self-control. Yes, these passive-aggressive teachings hide the same doctrines that I can’t believe anymore. But remembering that should also remind me of the freedom I have now to avoid lying to myself. If someone has a problem with me not believing, it’s that person’s problem and not mine.

15 thoughts on “Passive-Aggressive Theology

      • You know something, Ark. I read the Narnia Chronicles to our kids when they were little – I never made the Aslan/god connection (duh!). I guess it’s because I was taking a Children’s Literature course at the time and he was considered a YA fantasy writer. That’s how I ‘knew’ him. . . 🙂

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      • Our kids preferred Tolkien and Le Guin . . . 🙂 I don’t know how many times I read The Hobbit. (and my least favourite genre is fantasy)


  1. I am perplexed by the deference given Lewis. He was certainly a second-rate theologian, much as he was a second-rate writer.
    He was life’s great tourist, a dilettante in all things, and not a person to be taken seriously.

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    • He’s given deference because of how artfully he was able to put positive spin on a very negative theology. A lot of his writings deal with doubt because he struggled with them. That he wasn’t able to break out is heralded as a triumph by Christians, but I find it more of a tragedy nowadays. Lewis is a great example of how people can get sucked into the faith, chewed up, and never be able to claw their way back out again.

      I would still say that reading his works are somewhat useful in that they describe the thought processes of someone who is desperately trying to tell himself that what he loves isn’t monstrous. Those thought processes are the exact same ones that manifest themselves in other Christians.

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      • You may be right. Though, I can’t dredge up much sympathy for the guy.
        Wait, sympathy is not the right word; I should say patience.
        It’s tediousness combined with the nastiness that’s insufferable.
        Not all adherents fight their own cognitive dissonance. Some are salesmen for something which suits their personality. I see more of the latter in Lewis’ work.
        But I may be too pessimistic.

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  2. I loved the Narnia series growing up. Did you know that each of the 7 books is also centered around one of the deadly sins? I thought that was kind of cool. Anyway, I guess I am at the point where no apologist has points I can’t counter, and C.S. Lewis isn’t very different. I do think that he was probably a good mine, one, as was said above, couldn’t break free from the theology even though he clearly had a lot of doubt. He was at least more thoughtful than many Christians and for that I give him credit. It doesn’t make him right of course. And none of his apologetics are any more clever than anybody else’s. He was just a better story teller. 🙂

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