The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis’s 1942 classic) pulled back the curtains that shield us from Second Heaven and revealed conversations that occurred between an uncle and his nephew. Both of them were demons and as such both of them were in the business of tempting human beings toward wrong turns and wrong lives. Uncle Screwtape coached and counseled his nephew, Wormwood, as the younger tempter struggled to influence the life of the human to which he was assigned. It should come as no surprise that one day Wormwood himself would become the coach and pass on his knowledge to a younger relative, in this case his grandson, Maggot, a fledging tempter trying to learn the ropes.
My dear Maggot,
How touched I am that our communication is deepening and that you are so willing to lay open your thoughts and your struggles regarding your tempting strategies and the apparent lack of success that you are thus far experiencing. Honesty is not a trait that we demons display with any consistency, so I commend you for your candor. This openness will assist me as I counsel you toward more effective approaches. Keep in mind, too, that you are planting seeds of discouragement and resentment that will grow in due time. Be patient with your patient. Remember that you are in the business of making others discouraged, not in getting discouraged yourself.
In your recent letters you have shared so many details – your patient’s tendency to seek the Enemy, to want to be close to him, to want to get involved with helping others – which are all serious problems that need to be dealt with. However, it seems to me that in rushing from a tree here to a tree there, you are missing the bigger forest. Frustration over individual details are keeping you from seeing the bigger picture. Not that these details are unimportant. It’s just that seeing the bigger picture first will serve as a foundation from which to launch a more effective attack.
Since you have asked, I will begin to share with you some of the bigger, more essential elements that, I am confident, will re-focus and re-charge your efforts. Although I hate to quote the Enemy’s manual, it is instructive here to refer to a letter that traitor Paul (how he went to the other side is still beyond me) wrote to people in Corinth (a lovely city with so many wonderful problems). Anyway, he wrote that –
For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. Which do you choose? 1 Cor. 4:20, 21
First, and I think you already know this, it is absolutely vital that you cloud and confuse the choice-power of your patient. This theme – the ability of humans to make effective choices – is rampant throughout the Enemy’s manual, yet so few humans really pick up on this. The minute they stray from this awareness we have them. For if they aren’t in the process of choosing, the alternative is that they are victims of circumstances, tossed to and fro by their tumultuous feelings. I smile just thinking about it. You and I both know that these disgusting little humans have been created in the image of the Enemy, with amazing internal guidance systems, but this must be hidden from them. At all costs.
You may at first question what I am about to write, but write it I must – religion is not our enemy. In fact, humans can be messed up by a lot of things, but nothing can mess them up as much as religion can. Paul (the turncoat) realized this when he wrote about the Enemy’s domain being about a lot of talk versus being about real power. Let his words be a lesson to you. Shower your patient with religion, let him marinate in its rules and habits and schedules. Just be sure to keep him in the realm of talking, and studying, and behaving. There are so many benefits from this focus! Where do I begin?
+ Being disconnected from the real power of the Enemy, they will try to surmise truth and reality from their own miserable, limited, little perspectives. The Enemy tried to warn them about this during his pathetic sermon on the mountainside (it is important to study what the Enemy says and does), when he pointed out that it is possible for them to think they are right(eous), when in fact they are right where we want them.1
+ One of the supreme benefits from the “lot of talk about religion focus” is its effect on their young. I savor this result as much as any of our victories. You would think they would have figured this out by now, but no, they continue to emphasize habits and lifestyles and right living. Let them talk, encourage your patient to talk. The fact is, and we must say this quietly, their young wouldn’t walk away from real power (who would?); their young walk away from talk. I’m almost laughing as I write this. Here they are desperate for power and they refuse to simply plug into the Enemy’s vast resources. It’s too easy, really.
+ Lastly (at least for this letter), without being connected to the power, religious humans lose sight of, and even move in the opposite direction of – I hate even to write the word – love. Based on what the Enemy has done for the wretched things you would think that christian would be a wonderful word to them, a cherished concept. Yet look at what the word christian evokes in people now, especially in that place they refer to as the United States. (united? lol as they would say) When humans hear that word now they often think about pictures of self-righteousness, political posturing, and meanness. This is a victory that must be placed near the pinnacle of our successes! One of the Enemy’s writers, that awful little Ellen White, explained this process perfectly, yet fortunately she may as well have been writing to a wall.
When men indulge this accusing spirit, they are not satisfied with pointing out what they suppose to be a defect in their brother. If milder means fail of making him do what they think ought to be done, they will resort to compulsion. Just as far as lies in their power they will force men to comply with their ideas of what is right. This is what the Jews did in the days of Christ and what the church has done whenever she has lost the grace of Christ. Finding herself destitute of the power of love, she has reached out for the strong arm of the state to enforce her dogmas and execute her decrees. Here is the secret of all religious laws that have ever been enacted, and the secret of all persecution from the days of Abel to our own time.2
I was worried, even scared, when I first saw what she had written, thinking that the earthlians would “get it” and head back onto the Enemy’s path, but I was soon reminded my fears were unfounded. They are more into being right, and making others be their view of right, than they are in being connected and (forgive me) loving. Keep your patient focused on the value of rightness. Prompt him to be willing to sacrifice others for the good of the right. And by all means, present to him the importance of religion and the value of knowing, dissecting, and being right.
I apologize for my droning, yet I remember with such affection the counsel I received from my Uncle Screwtape when I, like you now, needed it most. You are my cherished grandson and I yearn for your success. I look forward to more of our discussions.
P.S. – I know that you wanted me to specifically help you with a concept your patient is studying called choice theory. You are correct to be concerned about this. Hopefully, you can see how my letter begins to address these concerns. The concepts of choice theory are part of the Enemy’s way and I am glad you discerned this on your own. More on this later.
1. Matthew 6:22, 23
2. White, E. (1896). Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, (p. 126-127). Takoma Park, MD: Review & Herald Publishing Association.
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