I’m fond of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. Among other things, Perelandra has one of the most terrifying portrayals of evil I know, in the Un-man Weston, who has become possessed and is a sort of incarnation of Satan.
The scene where Lewis’ hero, Ransom, first encounters him still horrifiies me:
As he was looking down at this he suddenly noticed something else. At first he thought it was a creature of more fantastic shape than he had yet seen on Perelandra. Its shape was not only fantastic but hideous. Then he dropped on one knee to examine it. Finally he touched it, with reluctance. A moment later he drew back his hands like a man who had touched a snake.
It was a damaged animal. It was, or had been, one of the brightly coloured frogs. But some accident had happened to it. The whole back had been ripped open in a sort of V-shaped gash, the point of the V being a little behind the head. Something had torn a widening wound backward–as we do in opening an envelope–along the trunk and pulled it out so far behind the animal that the hoppers or hind legs had been almost torn off with it. They were so damaged that the frog could not leap. On earth it would have been merely a nasty sight, but up to this moment Ransom had as yet seen nothing dead or spoiled in Perelandra, and it was like a blow in the face. It was like the first spasm of well-remembered pain warning a man who had thought he was cured that his family have deceived him and he is dying after all. It was like the first lie from the mouth of a friend on whose truth one was willing to stake a thousand pounds. It was irrevocable. The milk-warm wind blowing over the golden sea, the blues and silvers and greens of the floating garden, the sky itself–all these had become, in one instant, merely the illuminated margin of a book whose text was the struggling little horror at his feet, and he himself, in that same instant, had passed into a state of emotion which he could neither control nor understand. He told himself that a creature of that kind probably had very little sensation. But it did not much mend matters. It was not merely pity for pain that had suddenly changed the rhythm of his heart-beats. The thing was an intolerable obscenity which afflicted him with shame. It would have been better, or so he thought at that moment, for the whole universe never to have existed than for this one thing to have happened. Then he decided, in spite of his theoretical belief that it was an organism too low for much pain, that it had better be killed. He had neither boots nor stone nor stick. The frog proved remarkably hard to kill. When it was far too late to desist he saw clearly that he had been a fool to make the attempt. Whatever its sufferings might be he had certainly increased and not diminished them. But he had to go through with it. The job seemed to take nearly an hour. And when at last the mangled result was quite still and he went down to the water’s edge to wash, he was sick and shaken. It seems odd to say this of a man who had been on the Somme; but the architects tell us that nothing is great or small save by position.
At last he got up and resumed his walk. Next moment he started and looked at the ground again. He quickened his pace, and then once more stopped and looked. He stood stock-still and covered his face. He called aloud upon heaven to break the nightmare or to let him understand what was happening. A trail of mutilated frogs lay along the edge of the island. Picking his footsteps with care, he followed it. He counted ten, fifteen, twenty: and the twenty-first brought him to a place where the wood came down to the water’s edge. He went into the wood and came out on the other side. There he stopped dead and stared. Weston, still clothed but without his pith helmet, was standing about thirty feet away: and as Ransom watched he was tearing a frog–quietly and almost surgically inserting his forefinger, with its long sharp nail, under the skin behind the creature’s head and ripping it open. Ransom had not noticed before that Weston had such remarkable nails. Then he finished the operation, threw the bleeding ruin away, and looked up. Their eyes met.
If Ransom said nothing, it was because he could not speak. He saw a man who was certainly not ill, to judge from his easy stance and the powerful use he had just been making of his fingers. He saw a man who was certainly Weston, to judge from his height and build and colouring and features. In that sense he was quite recognisable. But the terror was that he was also unrecognisable. He did not look like a sick man: but he looked very like a dead one. The face which he raised from torturing the frog had that terrible power which the face of a corpse sometimes has of simply rebuffing every conceivable human attitude one can adopt towards it. The expressionless mouth, the unwinking stare of the eyes, something heavy and inorganic in the very folds of the cheek, said clearly: “I have features as you have, but there is nothing in common between you and me.” It was this that kept Ransom speechless. What could you say–what appeal or threat could have any meaning–to that? And now, forcing its way up into consciousness, thrusting aside every mental habit and every longing not to believe, came the conviction that this, in fact, was not a man: that Weston’s body was kept, walking and undecaying, in Perelandra by some wholly different kind of life, and that Weston himself was gone.
It looked at Ransom in silence and at last began to smile. We have all often spoken–Ransom himself had often spoken–of a devilish smile. Now he realised that he had never taken the words seriously. The smile was not bitter, nor raging, nor, in an ordinary sense, sinister; it was not even mocking. It seemed to summon Ransom, with a horrible naïveté of welcome, into the world of its own pleasures, as if all men were at one in those pleasures, as if they were the most natural thing in the world and no dispute could ever have occurred about them. It was not furtive, nor ashamed, it had nothing of the conspirator in it. It did not defy goodness, it ignored it to the point of annihilation. Ransom perceived that he had never before seen anything but half-hearted and uneasy attempts at evil. This creature was whole-hearted. The extremity of its evil had passed beyond all struggle into some state which bore a horrible similarity to innocence. It was beyond vice as the Lady was beyond virtue.
The stillness and the smiling lasted for perhaps two whole minutes: certainly not less. Then Ransom made to take a step towards the thing, with no very clear notion of what he would do when he reached it. He stumbled and fell. He had a curious difficulty in getting to his feet again, and when he got to them he overbalanced and fell for the second time. Then there was a moment of darkness filled with a noise of roaring express trains. After that the golden sky and coloured waves returned and he knew he was alone and recovering from a faint. As he lay there, still unable and perhaps unwilling to rise, it came into his mind that in certain old philosophers and poets he had read that the mere sight of the devils was one of the greatest among the torments of Hell. It had seemed to him till now merely a quaint fancy. And yet (as he now saw) even the children know better: no child would have any difficulty in understanding that there might be a face the mere beholding of which was final calamity. The children, the poets, and the philosophers were right. As there is one Face above all worlds merely to see which is irrevocable joy, so at the bottom of all worlds that face is waiting whose sight alone is the misery from which none who beholds it can recover. And though there seemed to be, and indeed were, a thousand roads by which a man could walk through the world, there was not a single one which did not lead sooner or later either to the Beatific or the Miserific Vision. He himself had, of course, seen only a mask or faint adumbration of it; even so, he was not quite sure that he would live.
No small part of what is so horrible and striking about the un-man, to me, is precisely that, in contrast to the typical portrayals of evil as glorying in power and might a la Night on Bald Mountain or in the figure of, say, a Balrog, what Lewis sees is petty vindictiveness and spite. A little further on he writes:
There was nothing to do but to watch: to sit there, for ever if need be, guarding the Lady from the Un-man while their island climbed interminably over the Alps and Andes of burnished water. All three were very still. Beasts and birds came often and looked upon them. Hours later the Un-man began to speak. It did not even look in Ransom’s direction; slowly and cumbrously, as if by some machinery that needed oiling, it made its mouth and lips pronounce his name.
“Ransom,” it said.
“Well?” said Ransom.
“Nothing,” said the Un-man. He shot an inquisitive glance at it. Was the creature mad? But it looked, as before, dead rather than mad, sitting there with the head bowed and the mouth a little open, and some yellow dust from the moss settled in the creases of its cheeks, and the legs crossed tailor-wise, and the hands, with their long metallic-looking nails, pressed flat together on the ground before it. He dismissed the problem from his mind and returned to his own uncomfortable thoughts.
“Ransom,” it said again.
“What is it?” said Ransom sharply.
“Nothing,” it answered.
Again there was silence; and again, about a minute later, the horrible mouth said:
“Ransom!” This time he made no reply. Another minute and it uttered his name again; and then, like a minute gun, “Ransom . . . Ransom . . . Ransom,” perhaps a hundred times.
“What the Hell do you want?” he roared at last.
“Nothing,” said the voice. Next time he determined not to answer; but when it had called on him about a thousand times he found himself answering whether he would or no, and “Nothing,” came the reply. He taught himself to keep silent in the end: not that the torture of resisting his impulse to speak was less than the torture of response but because something within him rose up to combat the tormentor’s assurance that he must yield in the end. If the attack had been of some more violent kind it might have been easier to resist. What chilled and almost cowed him was the union of malice with something nearly childish. For temptation, for blasphemy, for a whole battery of horrors, he was in some sort prepared: but hardly for this petty, indefatigable nagging as of a nasty little boy at a preparatory school. Indeed no imagined horror could have surpassed the sense which grew within him as the slow hours passed, that this creature was, by all human standards, inside out–its heart on the surface and its shallowness at the heart. On the surface, great designs and an antagonism to Heaven which involved the fate of worlds: but deep within, when every veil had been pierced, was there, after all, nothing but a black puerility, an aimless empty spitefulness content to sate itself with the tiniest cruelties, as love does not disdain the smallest kindness?
I think of this scene as I watch the way in which the thing that used to be the Christian Right in the US has degraded in order to give itself body and soul to the lying dimestore antichrist who currently disgraces the White House with his presence.
The Faustian Bargain the “prolife” Qhristian agreed to on 11/8/16 was simply this. Lying to themselves that “Abortion is our core issue” they claimed that they would “Hold Trump’s feet to the fire” and conform him to their will.
In reality, what they immediately began to do was devote every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year to defending every single lie, corruption, crime, act of treason and idiocy Trump commits, not matter how great or (mark this) how vanishingly unimportant.
As with the Un-man, It does not matter how trivial and inconsequential the evil is. If Trump does it, the Cult leaps to devote all their time and energy to defending that, not the unborn, with a torrent of lies and evil of their own. Because the real non-negotiable is maintaining the defense of Trump’s every evil, not the defense of the unborn.
Case in point: Dinesh D’Souza, one of the most brazen liars in the fold (and a famous public Christian, adulterer and crook, natch). What’s impressive is precisely the triviality, not the magnitude, of his lies for Trump.
The occasion was this minor imbecility in the end of a choking cataract of imbecilities the moron in the White House ceaselessly commits:
In the grand scheme of things, this idiocy was hardly noticeable. Whereas with other, better men, it would have been newsworthy, in the mouth of this illiterate moron it was just another illustration that he is visible-from-space stupid and barely noticeable in comparision with the Himalaya Range of the rest of his crimes, treasons, and idiocies.
Consequently, Dinesh D’Souza could have just let it pass. Or he could have displayed the teensy weensiest integrity and chuckled that Trump blew it.
But for the Cult no smallest stupidity can go undefended without some painstakingly detailed lie in defense of it. That is the depth of the corruption of Christian witness that the MAGA cult has inflicted on the gospel. They are People of the Lie. And so, for the billionth time, the Cult dropped everything to defend, not the unborn, but this utter idiot with an utterly idiotic lie.
He was immediately challenged on this brazen lie and just as immediately doubled and tripled down:
And so this stupid stupid man and massive liar got his richly earned comeuppance:
The point is simply this. There was a time the MAGA Cult was something resembling Christian. There was a time when at least some of these people believed that the point of life was to do what Jesus said to do. There was a time when some of them sincerely believed that their #1 mission was to defend the sanctity of human life.
That time is long gone and anything resembling obedience to Christ is dead for the MAGA sect. What it exists to do every second of the day is leap to tell lies in defense of everything Trump says and does. No evil is too petty, no lie to trivial, no stupidity too small for the Cult.
Sin, as I say, makes you stupid and the willing sin of slavery to this dimestore antichrist has made the Christian Right in the US just about the dumbest, and pettiest, cult in history.