The Real Last Battle
Editor’s Note: Today marks the conclusion of our series Remember Your Fairy Tales. And perhaps ironically considering the theme of today’s journal entry, this will be our last series in 2016.
Publishing a new series every seven weeks takes significant planning and creative effort. More importantly, a work of true healing requires deep perspective and work from a point of rest. We will therefore be taking a break before running our next series which will enable us to stay true to our core values and maintain or improve the quality of what we write.
This break will also allow us to focus on raising the funds necessary to fulfill the vision of healing over the next ten years and beyond. Healing is, after all, what is most desperately needed in American political culture, and I’m confident taking a long-term view is the right step at this time.
During the break, we plan to continue sending a weekly journal email with perspective to help us reset and recharge every Wednesday. We won’t be publishing this content on the site, so be sure to subscribe by email if you want to keep in touch.
Finally, the series we are concluding today is our fourteenth since we started publishing on May 20th, 2015. Over the past 18 months, we’ve written more than 90 journal entries about bringing Truth and Beauty to American politics from eight writers working on the inside of American politics. If you missed any of them, you can still find them all on our site: I’m confident that they are just as relevant now as they were the day they were written.
-Caleb Paxton, Liberatus Founder
THE REAL LAST BATTLE
“Since you call me King, I may well believe you are not a follower of the Ape and his false Aslan. I am glad of your coming.”
“Sire,” said the Eagle, “when you have heard my news you will be sorrier at my coming than of the greatest woe that ever befell you.”
Tirian’s heart seemed to stop beating at these words, but he set his teeth and said “Tell on.”
“Two sights have I seen,” said Farsight. “One was Cair Paravel filled with dead Narnians and living Calormenes: the Tisrocs banner advanced upon your royal battlements: and your subjects flying from the city—this way and that, into the woods. Cair Paravel was taken from the sea. Twenty great ships of Calormen put in there in the dark of the night before last night.”
No one could speak.
“And the other sight, five leagues nearer than Cair Paravel, was Roonwit the Centaur lying dead with a Calormene arrow in his side. I was with him in his last hour and he gave me this message to your Majesty: to remember that all worlds draw to an end and that noble death is a treasure which no one is too poor to buy.”
“So,” said the King, after a long silence, “Narnia is no more.” (pp. 90-91).
This devolving circus that somehow passed for a presidential election finally came to an end last night. Slowly, campaign apparatuses will wind down and politicos will play “musical chairs” in Washington, vying for the next career-advancing spot. Whatever may come, today marks the start of something new.
Except…there’s one thing that really gets me. And I’ve started to notice it more the longer I’ve lived in Washington. It seems that every election is IT. The last chance to save America. The final hour to “take our country back.” The ultimate moment to redeem the Republic.
Even if the other candidate had won last night, this “last battle” narrative would still live on. Because if this election isn’t the most important election of our lifetimes, that doesn’t exactly help GOTV (get-out-the-vote, for all you folks outside the beltway).
I’m sorry if this sounds cynical. I’m finding that realism and cynicism can often be mistaken for each other. Let me assure you, dear reader, that I am doing my part to fight off the inevitable slouch toward jadedness.
In a word, I’m fighting for hope.
And if it’s hope we need, then maybe a good place to start is identifying what actually is the consequential fight of our time. What actually deserves to be called the Last Battle?
While reading C.S. Lewis’ final installment of the beloved Chronicles of Narnia, I found myself asking that simple question. Not in the detailed sense – taken literally, King Tirian was fighting with a ragtag band of two children, a fantastical unicorn, and a pitifully witless donkey to save Narnia. But in a deeper sense, what gave this fight finality?
Lewis tells the story of Shift, a selfish, bossy ape who took advantage of poor Puzzle the donkey. Shift manipulated Puzzle into meeting his every whim by imposing a false division of labor among the two of them: Shift thought, and Puzzle acted. Or rather, Shift commanded, and Puzzle served:
When they wanted anything from the towns further down the river it was Puzzle who went down with empty panniers on his back and came back with the panniers full and heavy…Puzzle never complained, because he knew that Shift was far cleverer than himself and he thought it was very kind of Shift to be friends with him at all. And if ever Puzzle did try to argue about anything, Shift would always say, “Now, Puzzle, I understand what needs to be done better than you. You know you’re not clever, Puzzle.” And Puzzle always said, “No, Shift. It’s quite true. I’m not clever.” Then he would sigh and do whatever Shift had said. (p. 2).
My heart breaks for the innocent, unsuspecting Americans who find themselves as political pawns of candidates and elected officials. They’re told that this is their chance to tell their story to the country, that this particular politician cares about them, that this is how we stick it to The Man. Just as Shift forced Puzzle to dawn the fake lion’s skin, politicos prey upon victimized constituents and make them the unwitting face of a policy campaign. It empowers the politician, but it reduces the individual. And once the moment passes, they’re discarded and discarded.
The Last Battle is the internal fight we all wage against dehumanizing our brother.
We see this in identity politics too. As well as reducing individuals to props, we amalgamate them into voting blocks and whip them into a mob-like frenzy. We feed them a narrative that their identity stems from an unmet need that “my opponent” maliciously refuses to meet. As long as we can feed this narrative with a semblance of credibility, we can expect a reliable X-percentage of votes, thank you very much.
Until one day, we discover, as did Lewis’s character Rashida Tarkin, that we have “called on gods [we] do not believe in” (p. 115). We reap what we sow, and eventually we find Tash staring us in the face saying, “Thou hast called me into Narnia, Rashida Tarkin. Here I am. What hast thou to say?” (p. 132),
The Last Battle is our war against the temptation to control our fellow men with lies and narratives. And if we delude ourselves into feeding the narrative, we eventually find it staring back with the power to kill us.
It may be the Last Battle of Narnia, but it’s a conflict we fight every day.
And isn’t it interesting that the climax of Lewis’ epic saga happened in front of…a stable?
What a quaint setting for the battle to end all battles. Narnia against its foes, the truth against lies…a stable?
The One who fought and won our spiritual battle entered our world in a stable. Truth struck the fatal blow against the father of lies in a manger. Maybe Lewis is onto something here. Defeating dehumanization starts with humility. The lowly estate of a stable…where God humanized himself to make peace with us.
Today we finally find ourselves at the other side of this draining election season, with the Advent season fast approaching. Can we allow the humility of that season to transform how we do politics? Because, y’all, when the real Last Battle comes – the final Advent – we’ll see how it was all worth the fight:
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. (Revelation 19:11-16)
This passage embodies my hope for politics. There is a King who perfectly judges, flawlessly wages war, and righteously deposes. He is everything we are not, and everything government is called to be on earth. He alone is the perfect embodiment of politics, because only he loves humans perfectly.
Jesus Christ is my hope in this life, politics included. And He is my hope in the life to come, where he will make all things new.
He looked round again and could hardly believe his eyes. There was the blue sky overhead, and grassy country spreading as far as he could see in every direction, and his new friends all round him, laughing.
“It seems, then,” said Tirian, smiling to himself, “that the Stable seen from within and the Stable seen from without are two different places.”
“Yes,” said the Lord Digory. “Its inside is bigger than its outside.”
“Yes,” said Queen Lucy. “In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”
It was the first time she had spoken, and from the thrill in her voice Tirian now knew why. She was drinking everything in more deeply than the others. She had been too happy to speak. (pp. 140-141).
WEEKLY ACTION ITEM:
How have you reduced and dehumanized your fellow Americans in your policy fights? How can you speak words of healing and restoration into the country’s soul instead?
Consider waiting to write another talking point, speech, or Facebook post until you’ve first spent an entire day thoughtfully journaling on this question. It’s one we all must evaluate honestly.
Liberatus is a weekly journal about bringing Truth and Beauty to American politics, written by people on the inside. You can join the adventure by applying to write, subscribing to the journal, or by contributing monthly.