A Letter in the Style of Screwtape, I
(This was originally posted on the Table of Contents Blog with a rather lengthy intro. If you'd like to read it, be my guest. I do believe that a blog post on C.S. Lewis' book, The Screwtape Letters, is in order. That is what this piece is fashioned after, and why I loosely call this a fan fiction.)
My dear Legionem,
I need not inform you of the simplicity of your situation. You, fortunate nephew, have been given of the most practiced tasks available for a devil of your status. The young female mortal with whom you are charged is not unlike a thousand others that have been successfully snatched from the possession of the Enemy and delivered, oozing with sins and self, unto our banquet table. She is, no doubt, ignorant of your presence or the very possibility of a tempter’s presence in her tiny mind. She believes herself to be completely without wrong. This is quite an ideal situation for you, and I hope to our Father Below that you do not let it slip from your grasp. (You are aware of the utter and inevitable failure of your brother, and I would prefer to see you succeed, for the sake your end and of my reputation.)
Now, your professor has informed me that your patient is a devoted church attendee. She calls herself a Christian, and even reads the Enemy’s detestable book and speaks to Him regularly. Do not be daunted by her habits. For that is all that they are- habits disguised as acts of worship. As you were well instructed in the College, this is the result of our own propaganda. Your predecessors have taught the humans to think of “worship” as an act alone. And, as most effective deceptions are, this concept is spun from shrapnel of hideous truth. Worship was created by the Enemy, as were the humans. He, with purpose still unknown to us, fashioned humanity to thrive when immersed in the mental and spiritual act of worship. They are sickeningly filled with superfluous, edifying joys when they worship the Enemy. This is a gateway into His presence, and with it our purposes are virtually lost.
It is quite easy, however, to avoid your patient’s entering to worship (you, I am sure, know that this term applies to the whole of their lives, and not merely to the noisy rituals that they perform before their religious services. They are blissfully unaware of this, and our causes are favored by the outcome of their ignorance). There are two methods: first, to move her object of worship to something more destructive, like her own self or the fickle little things of her cultural surroundings. Humans are naturally going to worship something. Their pitiful little spirits cannot go without living in adoration of something, whether it is the Enemy or themselves. If you are able to trap your patient in a hedge of idols, you will have success. Use this trait of hers to your own advantage, and you won’t need to exhort yourself with tedious deception. All that you have to do is divert her adoration. Most females her age can be diverted from the Enemy for the entirety of their lives by effective work at this most impressionable time.
She is young and stupid and believes that the vast “greatness” of the world will refine her into a greater person. These humorously mislead presumptions are already planted in her mind by her own flesh, and they leave you with the easiest work of your career. Show her the things of the world, and she will no doubt be infatuated with them. You will then, dear nephew, see her in the actual act of worship. She will think of the things of the world, speak of the things of the world, and invest (both her wealth and her own self) in the things of the world, until the thought of leaving it all behind for Eternity terrifies her.
You may call this idolatry “materialism,” as the church calls it to sweeten and hide what the true, ugly sin is. You will hardly hear such a harsh and absolute word as “idolatry” used in context in this age’s churches. Make no mistake: this worship of the world and the things of which it consists is indeed the definition the sin so loathed by the Enemy. It is quite to our advantage, for it requires very little temptation, yet is entirely effective in separating man from his beloved Lord. Not only does it separate, but it also absorbs a man’s affections and “love” for the Enemy, which causes Him much grief. If you can accomplish this simple task, there is no way for it to not end in your favor.
In summary, you are to insure that her priorities and affections are centered on one of two idols: her own self or the world. Either way, she will be thwarted from the Enemy’s “straight and narrow path” and will seldom be aware of what she is missing. It would also benefit you to convince her that there is nothing desirable about that way in the first place. She is like a moth, whose attention is easily set to whatever is the brightest light. In the style of our Father, you are to disguise the idols as twinkling lights that clutter her view of the Enemy’s penetrating brightness. She is too naive to know the difference.
I am hoping that you will be able to provide me with reason to be confident in your success. My optimism will be hard to obtain. However, this is such a remedial test of your ability that I find myself doubting that you can somehow manage to fail. As your first patient in the art of temptation, do try to begin well. Perhaps you will prove to be worth the schooling that you have so studiously consumed.
Your affectionate uncle,
I plan on writing more of these, continuing the story of Legionem's first patient, and the patient's rise to holiness or demise to the way of the lost. We'll just have to see where this goes.