A Narnian Expedition
On a recent road-trip with the family, we were listening to the radio theater version of Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew. One phrase stood out to me, and began working its way from there to here. The line was this:
“Laugh and fear not, creatures. Now that you are no longer dumb and witless, you need not always be grave. For jokes as well as justice come in with speech.”C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, pgs. 118-119
For those who’ve not read the Narniad (and really, shame on you), the context is that Aslan has just created the world of Narnia. He’s selected certain creatures to be endowed with the gift of speech. The instructions he gives them are met with vocal assurances from the creatures at their eagerness to obey; but as their response dies down, a Jackdaw accidentally responds “too late” and his squawk stands out awkwardly. The creatures are unsure what to do at this humorous accident, and try to hold back their laughter. Aslan delivers the above quote.
The creatures are welcomed to laugh at their friend’s accident, and the Jackdaw laughs along…seeing the humor of his mistake. Gravity and jollity aren’t enemies, in other words.
Justice is in high demand right now. But what many are clamoring for when it comes to justice is a frowning justice. A justice that can’t smile. A justice that can be wielded. Our society has picked up on the fact that we are living in the midst of great injustice, diagnosing a symptom. But the solution proposed is that justice is simply the by-product of holding power. In many respects this seems to be true. If you have enough money, prestige, and don’t have any embarrassing tweets from 2011 you can get off easy.
Once in power, the levers of justice are adjusted to try to remedy what that particular party perceives as injustices. Whether it be anti-war types protesting drone-bombings of Iranian weddings, or black people protesting police brutality, or libertarians demanding commuted sentences for Marijuana dealers we see that the party in power thinks it is their job to recalibrate the scales of justice to favor their cause, while penalizing those opposed to their cause. This is just an evidence that we have taken off Lady Justice’s blindfold. The modern personification of Lady Justice would need to be scowling on one side of her face, while winking on the other. “Rules for thee, but not for me” and all that.
This is just proof that we don’t have justice, we have a tangled web of misplaced loyalty, denial of objective truth, and at the heart of it all: envy.
The Left Can’t Meme
Nowhere is this borne out more clearly than in the adage, “The Left Can’t Meme.” As the madness descends, we can see that what would have been satire 2 years ago is now an actual headline. A man is allowed to flash his genitals in a girls locker room, and instead of being arrested he is given trophies for his athletic accomplishments, and if you do not applaud you are a bigot, and you should be banned for violating the Community Standards of Facebook.
Try cracking a joke at the DMV employee and you’ll taste how our government officials make it rather hard to believe that they aren’t dumb & witless creatures. You must take this pandemic seriously. Children must be masked at school to keep us all safe. But as Gov. Newsom showed, he takes this policy so seriously that he attended (along with 80,000 others) the NFC Championship game without a mask. He can’t be serious. Trudeau is currently hiding from truckers which he once stated should receive Canadians’ praise for their bravery. But the irony is lost on these men. Closer to home, we conservatives bemoan how we are losing our nation, but skip church to make sure we don’t miss a minute of the big game.
Perhaps we should amend the adage: “The Godless Can’t Meme.” For indeed, the fool says in his heart there is no God, and can’t see how stupid he is for using the gifts of speech and reason he’s received to string together such an inane word salad, without any croutons.
Jokes & Justice
And so, I return to that quote from Lewis. Jokes and Justice come in with speech. Adam’s first words were a poetic pun. Eve’s hearkening to the Serpent hinged on his clever play on words. Cain complained that he could not bear his punishment, using the same word that is used later in Scripture for “forgive”; in other words, Cain says, “My punishment is greater than I can forgive.” Of course it is greater than he could bear or forgive, that’s why the Lamb must be slain.
In our pursuit of justice, whether in our homes, churches, or civil government we must remember that we are made in the image of the King of Joy and Righteousness. We are to imitate God’s gravity and joy as we carry out the matters of justice placed in our jurisdiction. After all, as God’s justice was satisfied in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for sinful man, God was playing the greatest joke. You can’t kill God. The grave swallowed up Christ, but then He rose, swallowing death and the grave in victory.
This means when you are disciplining your children, you should never lose your cool. When solving a dispute between your children, you should not yourself be so grave as to be a gloomy cloud on the proceedings, leaving the situation more glum than it began. Instead, bring the joy that the truth of justice does not exist in a world without the truth of mercy.
We are people of the Word. We have been given speech. May we not miscarry justice nor be so light-hearted as to take nothing seriously. Otherwise, the Ox in heaven will rightly tease one another and say, “What are you, dumb as the damned?”