CCI Bookshop: War on the Saints

--by Jessie Penn Lewis

American comedian Flip Wilson was best known for his comic phrase "the devil made me do it"! It was a great hit with audiences and produced peals of laughter every time he said it.

While reading War on the Saints that phrase came back to me. I remembered laughing outright every time I heard him say it, but began to wonder what made it funny? What was that phrase speaking to in my own mind and circumstances? What cord was Flip Wilson touching that produced such a spontaneous response from me time after time?

Perhaps the laughter comes from the sense we sometimes have that it would be great to pin the blame for our less gracious actions on someone else. Perhaps the laughter is acknowledging that at times sitting right next to the action of goodness and kindness which we intended to do, there lurks an unkindness which surprises us with the strength of its attraction.

What does this dichotomy of motivation come from and is there anything that can be done about it? Are we meant to be helpless victims of whatever emotional whim is strongest at the moment no matter if it is to do good or to harm? Are our actions at the mercy or direction of some unknown force in the universe that we have no control over? "The devil made me do it" is a convenient way of saying 'the action was out of my hands, out of my control, I am not responsible'. But is that true?

Mrs. Penn-Lewis believes it is not true, that we are able to make the correct choices, but that we need to realize what is happening and why we find ourselves facing confusing thoughts about correct actions and attitudes. Her writing is intelligent and filled with a compassionate desire to enable us to see there is a clear way through the minefield of conflicting emotions and thoughts that can so often assail us.

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