A Modern Challenge

In The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis systematically takes apart a rising system of education which broke from traditional virtues. Part of the problem he puts forth is that this new system of values was not being taught as a system of values. It was snuck in around back, as it were. The student was learning in an environment founded on relativistic assumptions.

As I first began studying these three lectures a question arose in my mind: How do we distinguish propaganda from propagation? Those two themes play heavily throughout the work, and yet, I was unsure how I would explain the difference to some hardnosed opponent who would say, “Gaius and Titius were just propagating their own beliefs, telling the truth as they saw it.”

I might counter that their job was teaching English, not forwarding a bankrupt philosophy. But the position remains that they were teaching English in their own worldview. What’s the difference between that and teaching English within the traditional worldview?

The charge, and I have heard this in a real discussion, is that Christian parents teaching Christianity to their own children is horrible propaganda that the state should oppose. I felt that the word propaganda was here being abused, but couldn’t quite put my finger on the real divide.

Of course, C. S. Lewis stepped in and helped with his points about the Roman father telling his son that it was sweet and seemly to die for one’s country. The analogy he uses compares the traditional system to “old birds teaching young birds to fly,” whereas the new system of Gaius and Titius makes them something along the lines of Mr. and Mrs. Tweedy from Chicken Run.

But I doubt that answer would really sway the skeptic. They would contend still that teaching relativism as assumption and teaching children that God loves them and all of us are made in His image were really just the same thing. The problem is that Christianity can be propagandized, and has been in the past. This seems excuse for some to treat all Christianity as propaganda.

This confusion arises because relativism has taken such a firm hold in the modern mind. There is no distinction between truth and viewpoint, child and parasite, those working to free and those working to enslave. The modern mind does not know the difference between propaganda and propagation because, when taken to its extreme, relativism cannot see the distinction between good and evil, love and hate, kindness and bitterness.

The difference, then, is the difference between consummation and consumption, the difference between the love of a husband with his wife and the love of a john with his prostitute.

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