Lewis: The Danger of the “Great” Man

Reflections on the PsalmsThere are many good reasons to have commemorated the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis’s death. His writings will continue to live and breathe new life into others until the Lord’s return. The insights he offers often can be counter-intuitive. Here’s an example from his Reflections on the Psalms, as he bids us to reconsider which type of sinner may be the more dangerous:

It seems that there is a general rule in the moral universe which may be formulated “The higher, the more in danger.” The “average sensual man” who is sometimes unfaithful to his wife, sometimes tipsy, always a little selfish, now and then (within the law) a trifle sharp in his deals, is certainly, by ordinary standards, a “lower” type than the man whose soul is filled with some great Cause, to which he will subordinate his appetites, his fortune, and even his safety.

But it is out of the second man that something really fiendish can be made; an Inquisitor, a Member of the Committee of Public Safety. It is great men, potential saints, not little men, who become merciless fanatics. Those who are readiest to die for a cause may easily become those who are readiest to kill for it.

A sobering thought for today as we experience those in politics, especially, who have grand designs for our lives. It’s only a small step, really, from presumed good intentions to outright tyranny.