Earlier this month, a judge in Dallas reversed a decision in the case of James Younger, an 8-year-old boy whose mother believes he is trans and should be feminized through social and hormonal intervention. James’s father, who disagrees, has now lost control over his son’s upbringing and medical care.
Also this month, Netflix began promoting Cuties, the story of an 11-year-old girl who “starts to explore her femininity, defying her family’s traditions” by joining a provocative dance group. The promotional shots feature prepubescent girls in revealing clothes, twerking and staring sultrily into the camera. Netflix has since apologized, though in a half-hearted sort of way and not even for the content of the movie itself.
These things can only be described as the perverted horrors of a sick society. You can swish the chardonnay in your glass and sputter about “nuance” all you like. But when a salivating media is parading sexualized children before the glazed-over eyes of a brainwashed public; when political operatives are handing boys over to be chemically castrated; something has gone horribly, satanically wrong. Why?
C.S. Lewis knew why. He focused intensely on, and worried obsessively about, the political implications of early childhood. This fact is the indispensable cornerstone of his greatest sociopolitical work, The Abolition of Man (1943).
It’s seldom noticed, but crucially important, that Lewis began Abolition with an epigraph from the medieval Christmas carol, “Unto Us a Son is Born” (Puer Nobis Nascitur). “So he sent the word to slay,” goes the carol, “and slew the little [children].”
The “he” here is Herod the Great, client-king of Israel under Rome during the birth of Christ. The event referred to is what Christians call “the massacre of the innocents”: Herod, paranoid and shaken by a murmured prophecy that some new King of the Jews had been born, sent his thugs to murder every newborn boy under two years old in and around Bethlehem.
Herod failed in his objective, of course, but Lewis wanted his readers to recall the episode and understand its significance: when tyrants want to snuff out the truth, they attempt to mutilate and destroy children.
This is because children, as Jesus would one day grow up to teach, have the kind of mind that can enter the Kingdom of Heaven: they are impressionable enough to learn new ways of thinking and seeing the world. Those who have a child’s mind can be shaped anew again and again in the image of God.
The ancient Greek philosophers, whom Lewis studied carefully at Oxford, wrote in detail about this. The Socrates of Plato’s Republic advises in Book 2 that the guardians of the ideal city should keep a careful eye on what songs are sung, and what tales are told, in the nursery.
Crucially, Plato is not thinking here of a distant bureaucracy which will dictate from on high that children should learn there is no such thing as gender (just, you know, for example). He is thinking about a self-contained community, something more analogous in America to a county or a state, deciding together what kind of early education is good for kids.
Plato’s student Aristotle agreed about this: it’s the young kids who will grow up to write the laws, and the laws that will shape the education of the next generation. Get this feedback loop right, and you have a healthy democracy. Get it wrong, and you are on a road to regime failure that is very hard to get off of.
And so education is much more than just learning facts by rote: it’s a shaping of the soul, a conditioning of the mind and heart to understand and welcome justice. Lewis, who knew this, believed that the health of a society and indeed the church could be made or broken in the earliest years of life.
It’s why he was such a successful children’s novelist in his own right. It’s why he told his goddaughter, in the dedication to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950): “some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” Serious thinkers about politics can’t succeed without some attention to K-12 education.
As Scripture says: “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” This is what Lewis, in his politics as much as his faith, never forgot. The truths instilled in early life are often the profoundest ones, the ones that stick deepest in the soul.
America’s radical Left understand this: they want to destroy the republic, so they have set about deforming the souls of its children. We should take a note from Lewis, and fight back.
More from Spencer Klavan: ‘Tyranny For Your Own Good’: C.S. Lewis On The Philosophy Behind COVID Lockdowns
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