Marching To The Beat Of A Different Reality

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Screwtape and the Matter of False Christianity



Recently, I wrote a post defending the practice of eschewing church. 

Though, as I try to do for each devotional post I write, I cited scripture throughout so as not to lean too heavily on my own opinion, yet it was, unsurprisingly ill-received. 

Since penning that post, I have come to the near end of C.S. Lewis', The Screwtape Letters.

If you read the book - and I highly recommend you do - and do not find yourself convicted by something written on nearly every page, I'm concerned you need more time for soul-searching.  His writing was dreadfully expedient at hitting the matter of false Christianity - and other issues such as attending church for reasons other than study of the Bible and becoming more educated about how to obediently follow our Father - dead in the head. 

In order to whet your appetite for reading this very short missive, I will give a few takeaways that stood out in stark relief in my mind. 

First, for those unfamiliar with the book, let me set the scene.  Screwtape is a minion of the devil, writing to an underling, Wormwood, in the process of tempting a soul (his "patient") from heaven.  We never hear from the underling but in the running commentary of his master, who advises Wormwood on the best way to win over the soul with whom he has been charged, from the Enemy (Jesus). 

Clive Staples Lewis died the year after I was born, in 1963.  He had been an atheist for many years and had lived through WWII in England.  It will be clear to anyone reading this work that Lewis was nothing short of a prophet.  Not only does he attack head on the problems of the time, but enumerates and describes with crystal clarity how these problems will continue to infect and grow inside human society like a cancer.  

He is wrong in none of his projections and the hindsight afforded today's readers - should they be thinking people at all - might go so far as to render them mortally wounded by his words.  

At one point, Screwtape says, "Talk to him about "moderation in all things".  If you can at once get him to the point of thinking that "religion is all very well up to a point", you can feel good about his soul.  A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all - and more amusing." 

In another, Screwtape tells Wormwood that it's relatively easy to turn virtues into vices. "You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character.  Some talents, I gather, he really has.  Fix in his mind the idea that Humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be. No doubt they are in fact less valuable than he believes, but that is not the point.  The great thing is to make him value an opinion for some quality other than truth, thus introducing an element of dishonestly and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue.  By this method thousands of humans have been brought to think that Humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools.  
And since what they are trying to believe, may in some cases, be manifest nonsense, they cannot succeed in believing it and we have every chance of keeping their minds endlessly revolving on themselves in an effort to achieve the impossible." 
About how many things today do we value opinion over truth?  How often do we tell ourselves a lie about our behavior because exposing it could mean we'd have to deal with it and that would be too painful or too hard and would require quiet introspection that might cut into our TV or computer time?  How often are we falling into the very pitfalls Wormwood is luring us because we are simply not thinking about what we are doing - not examining why we are going to church, or why we have to argue with another who compliments us on our actions, or even our appearance in a day? 

After reading this book, I was able to identify so many things to watch for in my own Christian walk - things I not only need to work on and improve - but things I needed to learn to recognize.  We're all here on Earth for such a very short time.  We Christians need to get our behaviors and attitudes in order while we have time so we may take a room in our Master's House. 

Please get The Screwtape Letters and read every word. If you're TRULY honest with yourself, it won't be the happiest of reads, but if you allow them, Lewis' words will make your life richer and more fulfilling without question.