The evil organization which is attempting to destroy the world is called “NICE”, short for the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments. What a great way to brand evil! Who doesn’t like NICE people? If you were to say, “NICE is bad,” that sounds like a contradiction of terms. Clearly Lewis understood a very normal
A couple of months ago, when 2020 was still a simple equation: impeachment + COVID + riots—that is, before it included full campaigning + RBG death + Trump has COVID—a friend of mine recommended that I reread That Hideous Strength again. As he put it, “it’s what’s going on right now.” I read it eagerly and was struck by the parallels between our moment and the one that C.S. Lewis imagined in his English apocalyptic WWII-era thriller.
For one thing, the evil organization which is attempting to destroy the world is called “NICE”, short for the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments. What a great way to brand evil! Who doesn’t like NICE people? If you were to, “NICE is bad,” that sounds like a contradiction of terms. Clearly Lewis understood a very normal phenomenon. Today’s NICE is called Black Lives Matter. Who can disagree with the basic fact that Black Lives Matter? Only the most heinous of white supremacist would even dare to object to it. And yet, just like NICE, the BLM organization roughly intends to destroy our civilization and remake humanity in a new image.
But what was more interesting to me was what the heroes in That Hideous Strength are doing. While NICE works incessantly, and uses every effort to destroy everything good, the heroes do very little on the face of it. As one of them put it, he couldn’t figure out what they were doing “apart from feeding the pigs and raising some very decent vegetables” (368). It would be hard to blame him since their entire army consists of “four men, some women, and a bear” (289). Of course, the heroes are not truly alone. They are led by the “Oyarsu,” the godlike beings who rule each planet in Lewis’s Space Trilogy. Through most of the book, the heroes’ job is to wait for the Oyarsu to tell them what to do next.
The whole novel turns on the character of Merlin, the ancient magician who NICE attempts to bring back to life in order to help them conquer the world. Yet when Merlin finally awakes from his thousand-year resting place, he immediately sides with the heroes and their battle plan comes together. Merlin’s specific character is very important: he is basically half Magician, half penitent Christian. He comes from a brutal age, and has dabbled in evil things which he can never escape. And yet he fights for the One True God.
The trouble is that the heroes are too pure to truly respond to the NICE by unleashing the full wrath of God upon them. In other words, these 20th century Christians really don’t know how to fight, so God sends Merlin. Ransom, the chief hero, describes Merlin as “a tool… good enough to be so used and not too good” (288). In the end, Merlin makes his way to NICE headquarters undercover. The NICE holds a massive banquet at which Merlin invokes the curse of Babel, and all the officials in NICE as well as their socialite fan club die in an orgiastic bloodbath. It’s a fantastic scene.
The parallels between Merlin and Trump could hardly be more striking. For one thing, Trump is basically half-Christian. He is much like Constantine, who was raised as a blood-thirsty pagan, and who, even after his conversion in 312, continued to slash his enemies rather than bow to anyone in humility. Yet God chose Constantine to deal harshly with the enemies of the Church. Likewise, Trump embraces Christians and many of our most important causes, but his own convictions are notoriously tenuous. Certainly, Trump’s fighting style is more akin to Daniel’s evil talking horn than it is to Jesus or Paul.
For decades, though, Republicans have put forward a series of candidates who are as clean as possible from bloodshed and other maladies. However, the job today is so dirty that it would be nearly impossible for someone with clean hands to get it done. Consider Mitt Romney, about as squeaky clean a human being as you can imagine. When he ran against Barack Obama in 2012 the press painted him as a racist chauvinist. Really? Romney? That was when I realized that it was impossible for a Republican to win on Republican terms.
Make no mistake about it: Republicans stand for Good, in the end of abortion; Democrats stand for evil, in the continued genocide of our children and the Marxist agenda of BLM. People can go on and on about Republicans as “one-issue voters,” but the whole trope is based on historical ignorance because the Republican party was founded precisely as a one-issue party. The issue? The end of slavery, the one issue in American history which on the same moral level as the end of abortion.
The great game of the press is to destroy the character of conservative candidates, because they know that conservative voters want good character, whereas progressive voters do not care. Even this game, of course, is nothing new. In That Hideous Strength, when Merlin suggests that they alert the common man about the evils of NICE and prepare for all-out war, Ransom replies, “It could not be done now. They have an engine called the Press whereby the people are deceived. We should die without even being heard of” (289).
Progressives demonstrate their indifference toward character with most of the Democratic stars today (e.g,. Nancy Pelosi, AOC). Consider the recent debacle with Andrew Gillum, husband, father of three, and former darling of the Florida Democrats. In March, Miami Police responding to a 9-1-1 call found Gillum naked and vomiting in a hotel room littered with drug paraphernalia, with a male prostitute who had overdosed on methamphetamines. More recently though, he has begun the process of restoration by a national announcement of his bisexuality, at which his wife lamented that people are so “judgmental” about sexuality. Notice this: Progressives restore their stars not by repentance, but by scolding others for judging their evil behavior.
Because conservatives care about character, the press has discovered that if they can destroy a Republican’s character, they can throw conservative voters into confusion. Thus, I was primed for Trump’s ascendancy, and welcomed him cautiously in 2016. Trump is a unique mix of bluster, disagreeableness, and loyalty, which is difficult to pin down. It struck me at the time that at best he could do some good with judicial appointments, and at worst he would at least be no worse than Hillary, who cannot help but do evil in everything she touches. Naturally, I was unprepared for a President who actually does or attempts to do the things he promised in the campaigns.
Unlike modern politicians, Trump cannot be bought. Like Merlin (and Constantine), he is half-crazy, sort-of-Christian, and all action. So I believe there is at least a reasonable chance that Lewis prophetically saw that a man like Trump would be necessary at a time like ours.
Mike Littell is a Minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is Pastor of South Dayton PCA in Centerville, Ohio.