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The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
Letters from a Senior Devil to a Junior Devil
C.S. Lewis was brilliant. (BTW, the C.S. stands for Clive Staples. He went by "Jack,") He wrote wonderful fiction allegories, theological and philosophical treatises - and then, there is "The Screwtape Letters."
"Screwtape" is the name of a Senior Devil in Hell. And, each chapter is a letter that he writes "affectionately" to a Junior Devil, his nephew, "Wormwood." Screwtape has an upper management desk job in Hell, while Wormwood is on Earth and is assigned to win over the soul of a nameless human male.
But, the letters from Screwtape to Wormwood are not only entertaining, but brilliant. In them, we see our own faults - as Screwtape explains how The Dark Side has created belief systems that are totally false but nonetheless completely absorbed into people's everyday value system - almost unconsciously.
If you've already read "The Screwtape Letters," then I hope that you enjoy this lens as a further discussion of an already fun, and perhaps introspective adventure.
If you haven't yet read "The Screwtape Letters," then maybe a perusal of this lens will acquaint you enough with this marvelous short book so sufficiently that you'll read it (or listen to it) yourself.
I have (not) read "The Screwtape Letters"
Have You Read the Screwtape Letters?
Jargon has replaced Argument.
from Chapter 1 of "The Screwtape Letters"
1The art of argument is the art of proving something as either true or untrue. Of course, the art of life is then to align your actions with the truth, and avoid the untruth.
However, as Screwtape points out, the ability to make and to evaluate argument, was lost centuries ago. Now, we humans are not even conscious of the fact that we continually have multiple conflicting theories in our head all the time. And, our concern is no longer whether these theories are true or false, but rather, whether an emotionally charged label can be attributed to them, as in "old fashioned," "useful," "progressive" or "open-minded."
Thus, back in 1941, CS Lewis knew that moral relativism was sweeping the World - and would be its downfall - even now, 70 years later.
from Chapter 2 of "The Screwtape Letters"
2Here, the subject has become a Christian. Screwtape tells his nephew that the subject is not lost and that many new converts to Christianity have been reclaimed after only a brief time in the "Enemy's camp."
Why? Because the man's HABITS are still in the Devil's camp, even if his intellect has decided to join Christianity. But, this new Christian is doomed if his HABITS of comparing himself to others continues - or rather, his distinguishing himself from the "greasy" grocery and out-of-tune overweight woman in the pew next to him. His pride prevents him from seeing his true self as just as faulty at its core as theirs, or even more so, because he judges their surface. His pride prevents him from seeing the true Christian heart of his neighbors. And, his intellect falsely defines Christianity by the humans who practice it, rather than truly seeing God's (or, as Screwtape refers to it, "the Enemy's") Glorious "Church ... spread out through all time and space and rooted through all eternity."
How many times have I fallen into the Tempter's traps here? Have I sat at church saying "am I really like these people?" Or, "I'm glad I'm confessing, but I'm not as bad as so-and-so." It takes HARD WORK to push those judgmental and prideful thoughts aside.
Oh, but wait a minute! I didn't sign up for HARD WORK! I signed up for a beautiful, warm, wonderful feeling of love and acceptance by Christ. I didn't know WORK was involved! Oh, yes, I'll volunteer to bake a coffee cake, but change my prideful demeanor, I don't think so. And so, as Screwtape shows us, a new (or old) Christian is won over to Screwtape's camp.
Screwtape scratches his head at God's wisdom in letting us struggle through the disappointment of the reality of the HARD WORK involved at making a dream into a reality. God let's us struggle - even at the risk of failure - even the possibility of failing at following God. Screwtape can not fathom that level of God's commitment to allowing us free will, despite His all-powerful nature. And, Screwtape reminds us, in such clear pictures, that our faith is not the only time that we struggle with "disappointment [that] occurs on the threshold of every human endeavour."
"It occurs when the boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by "Stories from the Odyssey" buckles down to really learning Greek. It occurs when lovers have got married and begin th real task of learning to live together."
Next time you feel yourself being judgmental or prideful, or disappointed that you're not getting the "feeling" out of something you desired, consider whether you are at that "possible disappointment" stage that makes you vulnerable to the likes of Screwtape. Are you a Christian in intellect only, or attitude and acts?
Relationships are Key
from Chapter 3 of "The Screwtape Letters"
3Want to win over a subject to Screwtape's camp? Get the subject to treat people poorly. According to Screwtape, you don't have to get the subject anywhere close to stealing, cheating or lying. Just get him/her into a habit of mutual annoyance (in this case, the subject's relationship with his mother). And, Screwtape provides his Junior Devil nephew with some great tips. So, if you're here trying to "take away" some lessons for yourself, keep a sharp lookout for these things happening in your life:
1. Keep the subject focused on his inner life (where he mistakenly thinks his spirituality lies) instead of his obvious wrongful or hurtful actions towards others.
2. Render his prayers for his mother useless by having him focus on praying for her soul because of HER sins (and thus reminding the subject of how he was wronged during the day by HER bad behavior), rather than praying for something tangible like comfort from her ailments.
3. Get the subject to become hypersensitive to all the little physical quirks and habits that he dislikes about his mother (or housemate) - how she raises her eyebrow with suspicion, etc.
4. Keep the subject entrenched in a double-standard - for example, a double-standard that permits the subject to justify saying things with a sarcastic tone because his actual words were not offensive, but causes him to immediately blow a fuse anytime his mother uses the same tone.
The Screwtape Letters - on Audio - Audio CDs of The Screwtape Letters
The Screwtape Letters - Documentary by FPA - trailer
C.S. Lewis - interview
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