I'm going to be traveling this weekend, so am scheduling this post ahead of time. I don't have time to write anything much so have invited Dorothy L. Sayers to provide a guest post. This is from her little book Creed or Chaos? It's a collection of essays on faith-related topics, mostly or maybe all written during World War II, some given as talks. It's very C.S.-Lewis-ish and is not diminished by the comparison. I've had it sitting around for years and read it in short bits over the past several weeks. This is from "Why Work?"
The popular catch-phrase of today is that it is everybody's duty to serve the community. It is a well-sounding phrase, but there is a catch in it. It is the old catch about the two great commandments. "Love God--and your neighbor; on those two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
The catch in it, which nowadays the world has largely forgotten, is that the second commandment depends upon the first, and that without the first, it is a delusion and a snare. Much of our present trouble and disillusionment have come from putting the second commandment before the first.
If we put our neighbor first, we are putting man above God, and that is what we have been doing ever since we began to worship humanity and make man the measure of all things. Whenever man is made the center of things, he becomes the storm center of trouble--and that is precisely the catch about serving the community. It ought perhaps to make us suspicious of the phrase when we consider that it is the slogan of every commercial scoundrel and swindler who wants to make sharp business practice pass muster as social improvement.
"Service" is the motto of the advertiser, of big business, and of fraudulent finance.
Not to mention politicians. "I have dedicated my life to public service." Desire for power, prestige, money, and the general extension of my ego into the world had nothing to do with it.
Sayers is talking about the world at large, not the Church, but she's describing the basic error of the attempt to reduce Christianity to humanitarianism, or to justify its existence primarily because of its good works.