Hell As a Bureaucracy

“We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement,” advised C. S. Lewis, “where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment.”

Lewis wrote those words in his preface to the 1961 edition of The Screwtape Letters. Although Screwtape is, in one sense, a comical devil, Lewis never lets his readers forget what lies at the heart of hell: the self, with all its outcroppings of jealousy, bitterness, and backstabbing.

Yet his picture of hell is not what most would imagine. Instead, he compares it to modern bureaucracy. “I like bats much better than bureaucrats,” he mused. And you can bet he didn’t have any real fondness for bats.

Interestingly, I first ran across Lewis’s description of hell as a bureaucracy not in this preface (somehow its existence escaped me until recently), but in Ronald Reagan’s famous 1983 speech to the National Association of Evangelicals, the speech dubbed by some “The Evil Empire.”

Reagan quoted Lewis in the speech and referenced Screwtape in doing so. Yet I was puzzled at the time by the quote because I didn’t recall ever reading it in the actual letters. I was delighted, therefore, to come across it in this preface.

“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’” To Lewis, that was as close to hell as possible. He then expounded on that opening thought:

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result.

But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.

Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.

Hell, Lewis opined, is a “society held together entirely by fear and greed.” The “whole organisation” operated on the principle of “dog eat dog.”

Everyone wishes everyone else’s discrediting, demotion, and ruin; everyone is an expert in the confidential stab in the back. Over all this their good manners, their expressions of grave respect, their “tributes” to one another’s invaluable services form a thin crust.

Every now and then it gets punctured, and the scalding lava of their hatred spurts out.

Lewis, of course, is doing more than merely painting his portrait of how hell functions; he’s sending out a warning to us who live in a world that often resembles hell.

How do we function? Are we, behind our impeccable manners and outward show of civility, undermining our associates secretly? Do we operate on the principle of “dog eat dog”? Does our thin crust of respect for others occasionally reveal itself as a “scalding lava of hatred”?

As always, Lewis wants us to examine ourselves, to look into our own hearts and, if we see anything there that has even the remotest connection with hell, to expunge it immediately.

We must live in a continual state of self-examination (not obsessive, but realistic) and an eagerness to repent of anything we see amiss. We want the fragrance of Christ to show in our lives, not the sulfurous odor of hell.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Government Education: The Problem, Not the Remedy

I’ll be speaking tonight at the Winter Haven 9/12 Project meeting. The topic will be one of my favorites: government control of education. It’s not a favorite because I’m in favor of government controlling education, of course, but because I’ve seen the danger signs for years and want to be sure others understand them also.

Education in American began as a mostly private affair; the only thing even halfway resembling what we have today was when a New England town collected local taxes to cover the costs of a “common” school. Yet even during that time, private schooling prevailed, whether at home, with a paid tutor, or at a private academy.

The big change occurred in Massachusetts in the 1830s. That state became the first to set up a state-level board of education. One of the biggest concerns back then was having education in the hands of the churches. The Unitarians, who denied the divinity of Jesus, were the driving force behind this change. As the idea spread, orthodox Christians dominated early “public” schooling, but they also adopted the Prussian system that eventually led to the view that education was the proper sphere of the government.

As the nation’s foundational thinking shifted toward evolutionary humanism, so did educational philosophy, and eventually the Christian influence waned. The only saving grace was that the federal government hadn’t yet entered the field, attempting to force one philosophy on everyone. That changed also, with the Common Core experiment being only the latest scheme.

The loss of Christian foundations in education has led to abysmal results—in learning, in bureaucracy, and in student behavior. The best public school teachers know this is true. What’s the evidence?

Last One Is True

Twice As Many

The government-controlled education system is awash in political correctness and enamored with every new trend or innovation in educational theory. Rare is the school where real education can be found:

Dark Days

We’ve also bought into the belief that nearly everyone needs to get a college degree. Well, perhaps one reason for that, on the practical side, is that many of our college degrees give students what they used to receive in high school. I know, because I teach American history survey courses, which are basic information about what already should be common knowledge for anyone with a high school diploma. Yet few of my students have an understanding of those basics. But it’s not as though they are finally getting it in college either. Studies have shown that graduating college seniors have about as much knowledge of American history as they did when they entered college as freshmen. That’s only one example, from my field; I’m sure examples could be multiplied as we examine what is learned in disciplines other than history.

So college graduates leave their institutions after four years with a piece of paper saying they have achieved something, but how many have actually achieved what that paper signifies? There is one thing, though, that a large majority do leave college with:

College Debt

I would submit that the root of our problems is the acceptance of government’s role in education. Early Americans resisted government involvement for three reasons:

  • First, they feared any system that allowed the government to tell you what you should think. They already rejected the concept of a state-sponsored church because that would be the government saying what you should believe. Isn’t it rather ironic that a people who said no to a government church would later say yes to government education, which would set itself up as an imitation of a government church, telling everyone what they should believe and think?
  • Second, they believed education was the proper sphere of family, church, and locality. They never envisioned the bureaucratic juggernaut we deal with now.
  • Third, they knew it would become expensive, since bureaucracies always end up costing more than advertised. Whenever anyone tells you the public schools are offering free education, remind them that you pay taxes, and that, in most states, the majority of those taxes go into the education system. You’re not getting what you are paying for.

My approach is not to tinker with the current system and try to improve it. That’s somewhat like Gorbachev tinkering with the Soviet Union’s system and thinking he could make socialism work. Our education system is built on a faulty foundation of government control. Only when we realize that and allow for expansion of the private sector in education will we ever come close to the remedy for our current ills.

National Healthcare=National Trauma

Even as the more prominent scandals and investigations continue to unfold, there’s always Obamacare to capture our attention. What’s the latest on that? If you’ve been keeping up, you know that it seems to be on a collision course of sorts. Polls indicate it’s more unpopular than ever, and the reason is that people are now beginning to feel its effects. Bravado about its inevitability may be premature:


On the issue of cost, we’re seeing projections that premiums may rise astronomically in the next few years:

Rate Shock

Those “exchanges” that are supposed to be set up aren’t going too well either. The whole thing is turning into a bureaucratic morass—but then is that so unusual? Don’t the words “bureaucratic” and “morass” go together normally?

And remember that big promise the president made a few years ago? What of that?


In the shady tradition of all snake-oil salesmen, that was another whopper. Just today, I heard that Aetna is dropping all personal health insurance policies in California. That’s the first snowball in the coming avalanche. If the administration has its way, everyone will eventually be forced onto the government plan. Interestingly, some of Obama’s biggest supporters in his campaigns are now shrinking back from this healthcare nightmare as they see its tentacles begin to reach out and touch them:

Your Medicine

When Sarah Palin referred to the coming government review of each person’s medical needs, the mainstream media laughed at her “death panels” rhetoric. Yet we’ve now seen a glimpse of what is coming. That ten-year-old girl who needed a lung transplant was denied by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who said the rules cannot be changed. She also said she didn’t have the authority to change them, which was not true. In fact, she simply became the ultimate bureaucrat, dictating who can live and who will die:

Rules Are Rules

Fortunately, in the case of this little girl, a court overruled Sebelius and the transplant occurred without her approval. We can’t always rely on a court doing that, however. If Obamacare is ever fully implemented, it won’t be only healthcare that will be nationalized; we will also suffer a national trauma.