Fall is finally in the air! In honor of October, I’m posting a six-part series on the blog in honor of one of my favorite books by C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, which I highly recommend.
Published in 1942, the book is written as a series of letters from a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew “Wormwood” on tempting and misleading human charges.
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them,” Lewis writes.
Written as a casual tête-à-tête between the two demons, the letters draw attention to an often overlooked angle of Christian living – seeing things from the perspective of the enemy. After all, we analyze our opponent in almost everything else – war, sports, business, politics, etc., to make us stronger and more prepared for their advances. And there is much we can learn from Lewis’s approach.
“The sort of script which is used in this book can be very easily obtained by anyone who has once learned the knack,” Lewis admits, dedicating the book to his friend, J.R.R. Tolkien.
And so, with apologies to C.S. Lewis (and just for fun) I give you a modern twist on The Screwtape Letters:
Welcome to the elite squad of human destruction. Although you’re just a beginner, your resume shows great promise.
So you want to be involved in events going on “up there” do you? You will find there is never a dull moment. A few ground rules I feel obligated to impart:
Rule #1 – You must hate the Holy One. Not a mere dislike – you must loathe, despise and abhor everything that belongs to our Rival and his creatures – especially his creatures. Fuel this hate – let the evil inside you boil. Practice it daily if you must, until there is nothing left but a beasteous desire to detroy, mutilate and annihilate anything he created or that has spent time in his presence.
Rule #2 – Never take prisoners. Our job is to confuse, dishearten and agitate, but only as a means to total and complete devastation. Never cripple when you can sever the legs and pull out the heart. Don’t just go for the wife when you can take down the husband, the child, and with any luck a neighbor or co-worker.
Rule #3 – Our opponent is relentless in his pursuit of new converts and so must we be. It may take 10 years to win a man’s soul, but that will only make the victory all the more sweeter.
Rule #4 – You must go largely unnoticed and undetected. Like a boat, the humans must only see your wake. There is a ministry of manifestation and possession, but unless asked to enter a man, you must wreak as much havoc as possible on his mind, his habits, behaviors and surroundings. Don’t worry – if you’re good at your job, you won’t need to actually enter him to succeed with your mission.
Some geographical areas practice an openness of Spiritism, tribalism and witchery where we can be open and overt – the humans will actually beg us to enter them and influence their world. This is not the role to which you have been called, however. On the contrary, we’re sending you after pastors, teachers, doctors, businessmen and otherwise unsuspecting members.
The Americans, you will notice, pride themselves on being “in control,” of their lives – they have no idea how out of control they really are, or how one well-placed move on our part can send it spinning like a top. Your friend Phaelmon once brought down an entire family with a bout of cancer and the greater part of a youth group with one well-placed scandal. The cunning things about Christians is that they think they are immune – and some very nearly are – but not nearly so many as they would like.
There has never been a better time to prowl around, unlike the puritanical era, which would pull up and run at the first sign of pridefulness, slothfulness or greed. Indeed, an image of a naked woman would have lasted for weeks – and consequently gotten you booted out of town.
Fortunately it’s never been easier to distract, destroy and demolish whatever weakling claim to faith your charge may have (we won’t start you out on a clergyman – although even those are not immune). But more on that in my next lesson.
For this afternoon, keep practicing your verses. Though they come from our Rival’s book, you will find a cursory knowledge of them helpful in thwarting those who claim to follow him. When the time is right, you will know how to twist them into something less holy that suits our purposes.
*Quotes taken from The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis. HarperOne, 2015.