Series: The Screwtape Letters (5 of 6)


In honor of The Screwtape Letters, with apologies to C.S. Lewis:


If you want to strike at the heart of our Rival’s camp, attack his #1 admonition of “Love Thy Neighbor.” In other words, treat other humans the way you would want to be treated. This is disgusting – and fortunately for us, easily assaulted on several fronts.

While it sounds simplistic, you’ll find it quite a hard standard for them to achieve. First, the amount of damage that can be done en masse – in previous centuries humans were limited to face-to-face encounters with their neighbors, meaning, in certain rural areas, it may be possible to work an entire day on the farm without encountering another person. Urban areas soon made this isolationism scarce. Technology has now made it impossible. You can now inflict as much damage from your living room as you can from an errand to the store. The internet is a source of constant sarcasm, criticism and complaining, allowing humans the anonymous luxury of bashing those they’ve never met and breeding jealousy towards those with whom they are acquainted.

Second, because of this constant universe of citizens from which they cannot escape, it is easy to deplete their inhibitions. In that way the relentless stimuli is better than alcohol – things they never would have said to a co-worker had they not been cut off in traffic or already ridiculed in a friend’s post comes flying out of their mouth with little encouragement. Like water dripping on a rock, these fortifications soon give way to fatigue. And fatigue can be powerful in its own right. It can turn a mother on her children, sibling on sibling, husband to wife. Loving one’s neighbor certainly won’t happen on the streets if it doesn’t happen at home. You can rest assured the victory is well in hand.

Third, because of the ever-increasing flow of information, it is easy to increase self-righteousness – an affected, smug way of thinking that increases judgment and defensiveness while decreasing patience and empathy all at the same time. The self-righteous being has low tolerance for others and a waning interest in a Supreme Being altogether, which makes this particular trait very useful.

Our Rival has told them “in loving others you love me as well” – we must try and cultivate the reverse. By despising or marginalizing one’s neighbor, they must never suspect they are loathing their creator. Indeed, hate and apathy in many circumstances are equal.

It’s always thrilling when the ruination of one creed leads to another. Like a bowling ball thrown for a strike when you were hoping at best for a split.