Would C. S. Lewis, one of the last dinosaurs to roam the earth, been drawn to Facebook? You’ll feel it’s unlikely after you read what Lewis felt was his best book.
Few Christians know Lewis felt his best book was Till We Have Faces. Fewer still are familiar with what Lewis is saying in this book. Fewer still have even read it. That’s our loss, as Till We Have Faces tells us something about our faces. And that tells us something about Facebook.
Till We Have Faces is Lewis’ retelling of the tale of Cupid and Psyche. The title of the book comes from a novel by George MacDonald, a Scottish poet, clergyman, and a pioneering figure in the field of modern fantasy literature. He was the mentor of fellow writer Lewis Carroll.
MacDonald also impacted C. S. Lewis. “I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him.” We see this in the title of Lewis’ Till We Have Faces. It’s taken from a MacDonald novel, Lilith.
In Lilith, MacDonald describes a great dance in a moonlit forest attended by people who are merrymaking yet murderous. They are without faces. As a spectator looks on this fearful sight he is forced to ask himself why they have no faces. The answer comes in a question.
“Had they used their faces, not for communication, not to utter thought and feeling, not to share existence with their neighbors, but to appear what they wished to appear, and conceal what they were, and having made their faces masks, were they therefore deprived of those masks, and condemned to go without faces until they repented?”
We have to read that question several times to begin to understand it.
MacDonald is saying when we use our faces not to reveal who we truly are, but to appear as we wish to appear and conceal who we truly we, we make our faces masks. We are thus without actual faces, condemned to go without faces until we repent of this charade.
In Lewis’ Till We Have Faces, Orual, the leading character is forced to ask herself how the gods can meet us face to face until we have faces? They can’t. God cannot meet us face to face until we repent of our false faces and no longer conceal but unmask our true face.
Which brings us to Facebook. First, a disclaimer. Years ago a friend created a Facebook page for me. I went once. I never went back. But I couldn’t explain why. Something visceral drew me away. All I’ve ever done is accept several friend invitations. Then I read in Till We Have Faces. You can discount what I’m about to say, but reading it made me doubt seriously that C. S. Lewis – and dinosaurs in general – would have ever been drawn to Facebook.
First, most of the posts I receive on Facebook are upbeat, positive. Lives are publicly presented as a merry parade of happyhappyhappyallthetime, as The Jars of Clay singer/songwriter Matt Odmark put it a few years ago. But I happen to know the private lives of many of these friends. They practice what Flannery O’Connor called a “prevailing heresy” in American religion. It’s a powerful penchant to keep things “positive.” They’re men and women without faces.
I also believe much of social media, including Facebook, is murderous. An entire generation of young people is being destroyed by social media. Those involved in social media are complicit in this catastrophe. Most however merely dance around it, like the faceless people in Lilith.
There are of course redemptive aspects of Facebook. But I doubt seriously that it is the appropriate place to show our face, for much of our private face is not for public viewing. It is best reserved for spiritual disciplines of confession that help us properly order our loves. They help us repent of our false faces and no longer conceal but unmask our true face.
Of course, we’d have to heed dinosaurs like Lewis and O’Connor to remember this. If you’ve never read Flannery O’Connor, start with A Good Man Is Hard To Find. She unmasks the true face of many people of faith, reminding us God cannot meet us face to face until we have faces.
 C. S. Lewis, Preface to George MacDonald: An Anthology 365 Readings (HarperCollins; 1st Edition, 2015)