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WORMWOOD'S CORRESPONDENCE
Christianity Oasis Ministry has provided you with this Wormwood’s Correspondence book with Wormwood’s Correspondence lesson. This Wormwood’s Correspondence study and Wormwood’s Correspondence story with Wormwood’s Correspondence lesson looks at the Wormwood’s Correspondence message and asks what does Wormwood’s Correspondence mean, what is Wormwood’s Correspondence, why is Wormwood’s Correspondence important, what is the Wormwood’s Correspondence message and how does Wormwood’s Correspondence affect you. Wormwood’s Correspondence is an interesting thing to know in the Christian walk. Understanding the Wormwood’s Correspondence message is very important and learning about Wormwood’s Correspondence can help you to overcome the worldly whirlwinds. Let us delve into this Wormwood’s Correspondence lesson with Wormwood’s Correspondence message in this Wormwood’s Correspondence book, shall we?


 

CHRISTIANITY OASIS

PRESENTS

PURITY PUBLICATIONS
 

 
WORMWOOD’S CORRESPONDENCE

By Morris A. Inch
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

PREFACE

WORMWOOD REPLIES

GOOD WITHOUT GOD

HATE CRIMES

THE HOLOCAUST

HIGH WALL OF SEPARATION

BUSY, BUSY, BUSY

ROLL THE DICE

A WAY WITH WORDS

QUALITY CONTROL

PROBLEM OF PRAYER

JUST WAR?

HUMBLE PRIDE

JESUS OF HISTORY

UNHOLY HUMOR

MEGACHURCH

BIBLE STORIES

VOCATIONAL OPTIONS

LIVING IN FEAR

OUT OF WEDLOCK

RACISM

SPORTS

ECOLOGY

BULLYING

SAGE SAYINGS

SLAVERY

ENTITLEMENTS

THE MEDIA

FRIENDS

THE CROSS

DRUG USE

JUSTICE SERVED

OUT OF SIGHT

VIRTUE?

WHAT'S MINE

ROAD RAGE

DIALOGUE

SILENCE

BEAUTY & THE BEAST

CHANGE & CONTINUITY

SPACE & TIME

SHALOM OR CHAOS

A PERSONAL NOTE

SANCTITY OF LIFE

CHAOS OF THE CULTS

BROAD WAY

WHAT'S IN A NAME?

HOW TO HARM

MIRACLES

LITTLE THINGS

THE LESSER GOOD

ON VACATION


APPENDICES
 

 

 PREFACE

         I have heard it said, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” If so, C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters may be a prime case in point. As such, it seems to touch on a reality obscured by modern sophistication. In particular, it consists of 31 letters from Screwtape to his youthful demonic counterpart Wormwood.

         The cast must be understood in context. For instance our Father Below makes reference to the Devil or Satan. Conversely, God is cited as the Enemy, who I have also taken the liberty of identifying as the Adversary. Moreover, the recent convert who Wormwood is charged with inhibiting is portrayed as his patient.

         Worthy of note, Lewis subsequently published Screwtape Proposes a Toast. It records an address given in hell at the annual dinner of the Tempters Training College for young devils. It consists of  a satirical critique of our educational establishment. With which I can readily identify, having shared many of his experiences.

         As for the author, Clive Staples Lewis, known by his family and friends as Jack, was born in Belfast, Ireland. He is renowned for both his fictional and non-fictional publications. Representative of the former, The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicle of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy. As for the latter, Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

         J. R. R. Tolkien and he were close friends, both of whom served in the English factual at Oxford University, and were active in a literary group known as the Inklings. Falling away from the faith in which he was reared, Lewis returned to the fold at the age of 32—then to become recognized as a renowned man of letters, as well as an outstanding Christian apologist.

         Leaving us to reflect on two memorable characters: Screwtape and Wormwood. As to what might have become of them. How they perceive more recent developments. What strategies they may have refined or introduced. How they anticipate future events. Anything and everything.

         It was with this in mind that I imagined discovering a collection of Wormwood’s belated correspondence. It was while we were residing in Jerusalem, where I had the privilege of overseeing the Institute of Holy Land Studies (subsequently renamed Jerusalem University College). This overlooks the Hinnom Valley, providing the imagery for hell—since it served for trash disposal during Jesus’ time.

         So it was that I would on occasion, having completed my labors for the day, descend into its confines. There to look for pieces of broken pottery, some of which dated to the time of Jesus. Leaving the impression that hell was depicted as accommodating that which no longer served the purpose for which it was created. Or, as sometimes expressed, the last place a loving God provides for those who will accept nothing better.

         Here my imagination takes over. As I swept away a thin layer of dirt, I could see the corner of a stone container protruding. When I had hastily retrieved the object, I found that it contained recent correspondence from Wormwood to his uncle Screwtape. Which had appropriately been deposited in the region that depicted hell. Titles have been added for the convenience of the reader.  

         In any case, Lewis observed that we can readily err in one of two directions concerning the demonic. First, with giving it too little consideration. Thus attributing matters to purely natural causes, and hard pressed to account for some of the more unusual events that transpire. No less for the subtle character of life in its totality. Giving rise to the apt observation, “The more we know, the more we realize that we do not know.”

         Conversely, we may dwell too much on the demonic. As a result to become discouraged or even intimidated. Whereas we are admonished: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Accordingly, so that we “will not grow weary and lose heart.” Indeed!      

         Early on, we were alerted to the fact that Wormwood’s patient had become a Christian. “There is no reason to despair,” the elder demon observed; “hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the Enemy’s camp and are now with us. All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily, are still in our favor” (p. 15). If not, their influence can be largely contained. Thus alerted, we turn to Wormwood’s prized correspondence.  
 


WORMWOOD REPLIES


Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Some time has passed since I received the last of your correspondence. Thus alerting me to the fact that you have been otherwise engaged. Moreover, that you may assume that I have matured sufficiently to carry on the task assigned to me, along with what assistance can be derived from others of our demonic company.

         Granted, I have not always been successful. The Enemy is a formidable protagonist, and his followers are often relentless in their pursuit of righteousness. Not uncommonly, it has seemed best not to promote flagrant opposition, but to focus a person’s attention on the lesser good—a topic I hope to address in greater detail in the future. That is, employing their vocabulary, since what they consider good is despised in our privileged circle.

         I am sorry to report that my patient has not returned to our fold, but I have seen to it that his testimony has been seriously compromised. For instance, he and his mother were never able to work out the tensions in their relationship. Their attempts at reconciliation proved to be ineffective. Others took notice of this, and were discouraged from joining the camp of the Adversary.

         In particular, I have focused my attention on restoring chaos to a world threatened by divine order. I’m sure you recall that “the earth was formless and empty,” and “darkness was over the surface of the deep” (Gen. 1:2). Qualifications aside, it was an ideal situation.

         However, the Enemy would not leave well enough alone, and went about bringing order out of chaos. This resulted in a proliferation of life, eventuating in the obnoxious addition of humans. Then adding insult to injury, he had the audacity of declaring the results very good.

         They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and that proved to be the case in this instance. Humans asserted their rightful prerogatives, only to be ejected from their so-called paradise. Which was obviously a misnomer, since they had to put up with the domineering Adversary.

         Relatively free to fend for themselves, chaos returned. As in the wake of warfare, so that “the earth was formless and empty” (Jer. 4:23). Consequently, it was a pleasure to behold.

         In this regard, I was quite aware that even small changes in original conditions can lead to disproportionate results. Moreover, the human initiative was not a minor consideration, given mankind’s supervision of creation.

         It remained to foster chaos at every turn in the road. In the realm of nature, as with  what is said to be natural disasters. So also in the realm of social relationships, as in the above instance. Whenever and by wherever means are available.

         All things considered, my commitment to chaos has not wavered. As such, I am eminently deserving of the anticipated rewards. Not simply for sowing disorder, but attributing it to the inability or unwillingness of the Adversary.

         Not that we can rest from our labors. As you have pointed out, although we relish warfare, the Enemy not uncommonly uses it to initiate or restore relationships with humans. Accordingly, we must point out the incongruity between the alleged claim as to divine prerogatives and man’s experience in a gloriously fallen world.

         Along with the assurance that humans can in and of themselves achieve great things. Or, if not, to make the best of a difficult situation. Not of their own doing, but forced upon them by an uncompassionate deity. With the result that they relegate the Adversary to the past, as no longer an option for man come of age.

         No doubt, the best is yet to come. The universe will not survive, and humans will not be around to witness its end. Assuming that the report of hell is true, it will be a preferable place to spend eternity. With such in mind,

                                                                           I remain your devoted nephew,

                                                                           Wormwood

 

GOOD WITHOUT GOD

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         It is difficult to imagine why people would want to be good, since evil is much more satisfying. Unless, of course, it is to catch someone off guard. But, in any case,  we have to make the most of such undesirable circumstances.

         It was with this in mind that I was delighted with the recent good without God disclaimer. Allowing for the fact that persons want to be perceived as being good, we want them to conclude that this is possible without the help of the Enemy. Who persists in pointing out that he is the source of life and sustains it. And that life is good, providing it is lived according to his precepts.

         As I see it, we must foster the evil inclination, while not ignoring the alternative good disposal. As for the former, it resembles the law of the jungle—as relates to the survival of the fittest. As for the latter, it must be modified to suit our purposes. As when we convince someone that being uncivil is in the best interests of the person implicated. Along with good results, since humans are so gullible.

         As for the son of my former patient, I have both good and bad news. The good news is that he lacks the relative zeal of his father. The bad news is that he has not repudiated the faith in which he was raised. I suspect that another generation will be entirely delivered. Not that we can take this for granted, for the Adversary strives to recover those who stray.

         As you have pointed out, we should not encourage people to reflect on such matters. Since the Enemy readily employs reason to his own advantage. Recalling the audacious observation of Augustine, “All truth is God’s truth.”

         Far better to stress feelings, which can be more easily manipulated. Leading to the conclusion that if it feels good, do it. Regardless of the pointless appeal for moral behavior, and the consideration of others.

         If we are to succeed, we must keep the Adversary out of life’s equation. In this regard, we insist that persons assume responsibility for themselves. As is proper for mature individuals, no longer in need of divine guidance. Not that this was ever actually the case.

         Meanwhile, as you have reasoned, we must strive to keep a low profile. Lest humans get the impression that the supernatural still lingers in their midst. And thus persuaded, the Enemy takes advantage of their vulnerability.

         Of course, no one is altogether good, which is a cause for rejoicing. And persons are inclined to attribute to themselves goodness lacking in others. This permits them to enjoy their baser inclinations, while feeling vindicated. As such, it is manifestly a win/win situation.

         Otherwise expressed, one is good enough without God. Not that they are good enough to satisfy his demands. Not that this is desirable in the first place, nor realistic in the second. But perhaps good enough to satisfy the requirements of society. Although I would much prefer nasty to nice people.

         I am reminded of Judas in this connection. His deceit succeeded in getting rid of a troublesome individual, and he was remunerated for his services . Which would have allowed him to procure the services of prostitutes and live a life of luxury, had he not had misgivings. A residue of goodness thus proved to be his undoing.

         From time to time, I find that we must practice damage control. As when one of our most articulate atheists allowed that he could not be certain that there was no God. Such embarrassment arises when we emphasize what we do not believe, rather than what we believe. Such as one’s confidence in human ingenuity, or the prospect of a promising future.

         Be assured that we plan to remove all vestiges of religious faith from public scrutiny. Unable to do so, we will demand equal accommodation. Although it is difficult to come up with a graphic alternative to the cross for display purposes. An open grave does not seem to appeal to the general populace.

         Just recently I pointed out to my former patient’s son that the whole notion of goodness is culturally relative. So that what is accepted in one society is rejected in another. After giving this some consideration, he observed that while what qualifies as modesty differs from one society to the next, the notion of modesty is common to all. So that my effort failed to achieve its purpose.

         On a positive note, our endeavor often serves to put our protagonists on the defensive. So that they have difficulty sustaining an aggressive effort to proselytize. Thus contributing to the current malaise of the church, and diminishing membership in some regions.

         All things considered, we no doubt can expect a lingering conflict. Yet one that builds toward a glorious climax. So that if asked if things will get better or worse, we should reply in the affirmative. Which is to say, both better and worse. But in the end, I hope that we will accomplish our noble mission , and in this manner glorify our Father Below. 

                                                                                    Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                     Wormwood

 

HATE CRIMES


Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Please do not get the impression that I am against hate, because I might give that impression by agitating against hate crimes. Quite the reverse! I sponsor hate by this readily available means.

         How so? In the first place, I am very selective. Some instances qualify while others do not. In particular, I focus on those who give their allegiance to the Enemy. This accommodates the deep-seated antagonism that humans derive from their original emancipation from oppression coupled with subsequent encounters. As such, it is a cherished liberty that eventuates in license. License, in turn, is expressed in commendable forms of creativity.

         In the second, selective hate crimes create antagonism from those excluded from their privilege. It seems to them unfair. As indeed it is! But for that reason all the better to cultivate our glorious agenda.

         In the third, it fosters a lack of civility. Everyone suffers as a result. Much to the satisfaction of our Father Below. As if flames of fire were licking at the feet of these despicable human beings.

         In the fourth, it depicts concerned love as hate, and hate as deserved. As for the former, persons are prohibited from discouraging what seems to them unacceptable behavior. As for the latter, they can express their anger as a noble appeal to virtue. They remain unconvinced that two wrongs do not make a right. Recalling the sage saying, “Stupidity is as stupidity does.” 

         Finally, whether in this regard or some other, it clouds the thinking of these human creatures. They no longer seem capable of addressing the issues involved. Instead, they turn to politically correct notions—lacking confirming data. If challenged, they simply intensify their efforts.

         So much the better! It serves our purpose unless they turn about. Since the Adversary continues to appeal for them to repent and  submit to his ways, we must be constantly on our guard.

         Then, if blame must be assessed, it is best to attribute it to society rather than the individual. It was the result of economic disparity, social stigma, or some other feature, so that the individual can not be held accountable. Thus liberated from stigma, he or she can pursue a satisfying life-style—regardless of its effect on others. Of course, I am thinking in ideal terms.

         We must address life in a realistic manner. While not given to meaningless platitudes. If something is good for us, it should be commended without qualification. If someone strikes us on the face, we should knock him down and trample him. Anything less is assuredly a sign of moral weakness.        

         Love, as implied earlier, cultivates willing obedience to the Adversary. Consequently, it encourages persons to act in ways unacceptable to our Father Below. The ramifications are extensive, since life becomes increasingly unbearable.

         My thoughts turn to the television program animal planet, as a means of graphically illustrating what is preferred. A lamb is contentedly grazing by a sparkling stream of water. Whereupon, the camera focuses on a lion lurking in the underbrush. Suddenly, the latter springs into action—dashing toward the vulnerable animal. The latter makes a desperate attempt to escape, to no avail. Suffering and death come quickly, and we see the victor happily engaged to devouring its victim. Welcome to the real world!

         Instead, the Enemy holds out the promise of the lion and the lamb dwelling peacefully together. As if this was a desirable alternative. Seemingly unmindful of the legitimate and compelling nature of life as we experience it. While castigating it as a fallen world.

         All things considered, hate crimes provide a reality check. They recall the conditions with which humans should engage. Otherwise, they become so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly good.

                                                                                   Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                   Wormwood    

 

THE HOLOCAUST

 

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         In retrospect, the Holocaust (whole burnt offering) has been my most satisfying experience. Six million despicable Jews were exterminated, approximately two thirds of those residing in Europe. Along with a larger number of assorted Gentiles, considered a threat to the regime.

         Numbers do not tell the whole story, because each instance is worthy of consideration. For instance, Victor Frankl was among fifteen hundred persons who had been traveling for several days—eighty crammed into each coach. They slept on top of their luggage, all that remained from the fruit of their labors. They expected to provide forced labor.

         Suddenly, someone called attention to a sign which read: Auschwitz. Surely not Auschwitz, since persons associated it with gas chambers, crematoria, and mass murder. Slowly, hesitantly, the train eased ahead, as if to spare the passengers for a few more moments from their date with destiny.

         With the dawn, the massive outline of the camp became visible. There were stretches of barbed wire enclosures, guard towers, search lights, and ragged human figures. There were also isolated shouts and the blowing of whistles. One might imagine a worst case scenario.    

         Eventually the train moved into the station. The silence was broken by loud commands. The doors of the coaches were flung open, to admit prisoners clothed in striped uniforms. Their heads were shaved, but they appeared to be well fed. Only later would the new arrivals realize that these were elite prisoners, who received special consideration. They took charge of the luggage, to seize anything of value.

         All fifteen hundred persons were then forced into a shed built to accommodate no more than two hundred. There was not enough room for everyone to squat on the floor, let alone lie down. They were cold and hungry. One five-ounce piece of bread would have to suffice for four days.

         It was Frankl’s turn. Someone whispered to him that if sent to the right side, he would be assigned work. The guard seemed to hesitate, and then put both hands on his shoulders. Frankl attempted to look alert. Whereupon, the guard turned his shoulders slowly to the right.

         Ninety percent of the contingent failed the initial test. They were marched straight to the gas chamber. The survivors were informed that evening.

         The conditions were thought deplorable. Suicide was entertained by nearly everyone, but not as a rule for long. Frankl promised himself that he would not run into the wire; that is, to throw his body onto the electrically charged fence. In any case, his chance for survival seemed meager.

         Apathy soon set in. “Well,” they would conclude, “another day is over.” With little to distinguish one from the next.

         The lack of nourishment likewise took its toll. One after another in Frankl’s shed passed away. The symptoms were predictable, as if a shadow of approaching death.

         This is not to suggest that all things worked together for good for our Father Below. Some turned to the Enemy in their adversity. This enabled certain of them to survive, and comforted others in their affliction. Not that this was a welcomed feature of their experience.

         Humor was also counterproductive. It seemed to bring the prisoners together, as if to affirm their common humanity. While a person left to himself is not calculated to survive for long. In seeking to help others, they were themselves unfortunately strengthened.

         All things considered, Frankl concluded that a person who lost faith in his future was doomed. The prisoners feared this moment, not for themselves—since this was useless, but for their friends. It usually began when a person refused to get dressed or wash himself. No entreaties, threats, nor blows would seem to dissuade him. He had given up.

         Regrettably, Frankl survived his ordeal. Moreover, he shared the insights gathered in captivity with others going through times of testing. While not desirable, it was a good trade-off for all the suffering inflicted on the prisoners, and the premature death which accompanied it.

         Apart from the obvious, you may wonder why I find the Holocaust so uniquely satisfying. It is because of its focus on the chosen people. As such, those who covenanted with the Adversary, and have persisted in this confidence over the years.

         Of course, there is much in their demeanor that can be happily commended. But we must insist on a special standard. So that they will be blamed for not only what they do, but what is done to them.

         Even now a new version of the Holocaust is waiting in the wings. I can hardly wait for it to come, and witness its devastation. And I am happy to report that there are many others who share my enthusiasm.

                                                                                       Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                        Wormwood

 

HIGH WALL OF SEPARATION

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Thomas Jefferson’s high wall of separation imagery has served us well in curtailing religious activity in the United States. Few seem to recognize that it was introduced to disallow the state from overstepping its bounds, rather than the church. As a result, we have been able to accomplish the very thing that he meant to prohibit.

         If by this or any other means, we must resist the free exercise of religion. Since this is in the best interests of our Father Below. Thus in keeping with the adage, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

         So it was that I applauded the recent observation of a public official, who allowed that the Constitution guarantees freedom of worship. Were that all it guaranteed, we could restrict religious expression to the respective sanctuaries. Thereby eliminating any public display. In addition, to monitor what is said to be assured that it conforms to public policy. If not, then to take away the tax exemption. Not that this procedure is well in place, but is in process. 

         Our strategy thus serves as an effective means of discouraging what the Enemy’s followers refer to as a holistic ministry. That is, one that attempts to minister to the full range of human needs: beginning with those that pertain to survival—food, clothing, and shelter, extending to matters of security and acceptance, and culminating with  the effort to achieve one’s potential. As a result, to commend faith for its comprehensive influence on human behavior.

         Our limited success has been due to emphasizing the religious non-establishment clause to the virtual exclusion of the free exercise of religion. This tactic has been effective largely because when we call attention to what is perceived as a  problem on the one hand, a person is more likely to fall prey to its opposite. As if one must make his way along a ridge, which falls away on both sides.  

         All of which brings to mind the former situation under Communism in Romania, where churches were severely limited in their activity and closely monitored. Now a certain congregation wanted to hold a public baptism, but realized that the officials would not grant them permission. So they instituted the Joshua Principle, recalling the conquest of the promised land, and held a baptism. They recognized that in so doing, there might be retaliation. In this instance, no public action was taken.

         On another occasion, they set out to enlarge their sanctuary. Since attendance had been growing in spite of persecution or perhaps as a result. Consequently, under the cover of the night, vehicles would pick up the dirt being excavated, and dump it in the countryside. 

         Eventually, a foundation was poured. The officials assumed that this was in conjunction with a playground, and so decided not to intervene. When it became obvious what was entailed, they seized the senior pastor. Not wanting to make a martyr of him, they forced him to leave the country—under threat that if he were to return, his life would be endangered. With the fall of Communism, he was able to return and expand his ministry.

         All of which suggests that we must use the separation imagery with great care. For there is a sense in which anything that takes the place of religion, does in fact function as a religion. Assuming that religion is meant to deal with ultimate concerns.

         Some secular authorities are more amenable to our agenda than others. However,  from the perspective of the Enemy, power tends to corrupt. And the greater the power, the more likely it will do so. Accordingly, tyrants readily lend themselves to our more comprehensive agenda.  

         In any case, we must take care to outwit the followers of the Adversary. There are many ways to accomplish this. For instance, we may encourage them to refrain from being involved in social issues. Emphasize their quest for community, at the expense of service to others.

         Conversely, we may solicit greater involvement at the expense of cultivating community. As a result, the church loses its religious orientation. In more graphic terms, it is alright to love God if not others, and to love others if not God. It is the combination of the two with which it is exceedingly hard to cope.

         Of course, religion per se is no threat to our demonic aspirations. In that it focuses on what humans desire to attain. So that they become the creators, and their idols their creation. Thus a natural inclination is turned to our advantage.

         In conclusion, I have good news and bad. The good news is that the world is coming to an end. The bad news is that it is not yet. Providing we can outwit the Enemy, who shows remarkable resiliency.

                                                                                    Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                     Wormwood

 

BUSY, BUSY, BUSY

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         If there is anything I have learned in dealing with humans, it is that we need to keep them busy. Preferably with matters of little consequence, but allowing deviation if it serves our purposes. With the help of social ideals if at all possible.

         This brings to mind a girl raised in an obnoxious Christian family. Early on, she was active in church. Even to the point of spending her summer vacation teaching those supposed to have been less fortunate.

         Whereupon, we impressed on her the importance of becoming self-sufficient. When offered the opportunity of attending college, she chose rather to seek employment. Meanwhile, she found church activities distracting. Instead, we kept whispering in her ear: “busy, busy, busy.”

         Time passed. She married and birthed children. It seemed to her that there was never enough time to make ends meet. Decidedly not enough time to carry on her former church commitments. If such came to mind, she assured herself that she must not  overextend herself.

         As a result, her children were spared the training she had received as a youth. Such as carried over lacked precision, and led to uncertainties. It was a joy to see them wrestle with the exigencies of life. Recalling the perceptive saying, “One step forward, and two steps backward.”

         In this regard, we must keep people from considering the implications of the past. Such as might encourage them to reconsider their ways. If they insist on reading, make certain that it is some current literature—meant to confirm the status quo. Preferably something superficial, erotic, and reassuring. As a matter of fact, persons like to have their biases confirmed.

         Neither should we encourage them to weigh in the future. Not the more immediate prospect nor long term implications. Hence, do not let them buy into the proposition that one is not prepared to live unless prepared to die.

         If unable to divert his or her attention from the future, then focus it on something ambiguous. Such as the details of the last times. If drawing on obscure biblical texts, then with the greatest care that they look for hidden meaning.

         Fortunately, humans have difficulty distinguishing between knowledge and wisdom. They suppose that because knowledge has increased, wisdom has kept pace. No so, since wisdom pertains to the practical application of knowledge.

         Of course, there are two genre of wisdom: that which is from above and that which is generated by our Father Below. As for the former, those who are wise welcome instruction; with understanding, gain insight; with insight, skill in living; with skill, the ability to plan ahead; with all, to orient life toward God and his ways. Conversely, those who are foolish resist instruction; otherwise put, are obstinate; as the saying goes: “resembles and accident waiting to happen”; as such are a menace to themselves and others.  

         In greater detail, the scoffer stands in contrast to the wise, and is coupled with the fool. Not only does he dislike correction, but holds it up to ridicule. The sluggard refrains from initiating worthwhile activity; if initiated, fails to carry it through; is reluctant to face up to issue, and is characterized from time to time as restless, helpless, useless, and exasperating. A good friend is constant in his or her devotion; hence also candid, accepting, reassuring, and tactful. A simple person is open to influence, and a candidate for a worthy mentor. Such rubbish!

         However, the wisdom from below provides a glorious contrast. The pseudo wise person is actually a fool, since he or she continues to rely on the instruction of the Enemy. And as a result, fails to realize one’s full potential—with the help of the abundant resources from our Father Below.

         The issue pertaining to the sluggard consists of what constitutes worthwhile activity. As noted in earlier correspondence, whether it contributes to order or chaos. Since the latter is decidedly the way to go. Not only is it more convenient, but considerably more satisfying.

         Moreover, who qualifies as a worthy mentor? Certainly not the Adversary, nor any one of his emissaries. But our Father Below, or those of us who do his bidding. By way of confirmation, one need only to recall Adam and Eve’s escape from the constrictions of the garden in which they were placed. Once free, they could approach life on their own. Although we have been quite willing to lend a helping hand.

         Better yet, one need not be concerned about such matters. Just keep active: busy, busy, busy. Things will work out, hopefully for the better—as viewed from the perspective of our Father Below.

                                                                                     Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                     Wormwood

 

ROLL THE DICE


Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Why is it that I so much enjoy watching people gamble? Initially, because there is so little possibility of their winning. Observing their hopeful expectations turn to abject disappointment is a genuine pleasure. Then to see the ripple effect among their family and friends is a welcome bonus.

         Second, with the realization of what they have gone without as a consequence. The vacation trip to a wilderness camp, a trade-in of the family automobile, or the addition of a new refrigerator. While no longer available, still painfully desirable.

         Third, that should they win, they will be encouraged to continue the practice. In this regard, humans are creatures of habit. So one thing leads to another, with increasing intensity.

         Finally, because they opt for gambling instead of helping those in dire need. Which happily rejects the golden rule to do to others as you would have them do to you. Instead, do to others what you would not want them to do you, which will not allow them to retaliate.

         Bible thumpers warning about the perils of gambling can be readily dismissed. As hypocrites, if nothing more creative comes to mind. But there are many alternatives at our disposal.

         The recent observation of a lottery official is less easily set aside. He suggested  that gambling is incited by ignorance and desperation. As for the former, persons are not either aware of the odds against success or fail to take it into consideration. One would assuredly fare better by investing in what is designated as penny stock. Since modest funds are required, and the prospect of return is far greater. 

         As for the latter, the official observed that a study showed that persons in counties with less than average income were more likely to engage in gambling than the more affluent. Even though lacking sufficient means to do so. Desperation can also bring about other desirable results, suicide being a prime example.

         Gambling should be combined with other factors to assure success. Such as with intoxication. Each seems to encourage the other. While certainly not in every instance, with enough frequency to combine them when feasible. Needless to say, every situation is unique in some respects.

         As in the case of a certain retired athlete, who gambled away nearly a million dollars in one year’s time. When confronted, he replied: “It was mine to do with as I pleased.” Bravo! Well expressed!

         But he then lost credibility when criticizing others for their failure to see to the needs of others. Since it was supposed that if he was free to do as he willed, others should be allowed the same privilege. Not that this kind of logic appeals to me.

         Then there was the instance of a woman who received nearly a million dollars, before taxation, from her gambling efforts. However, she continued to use food stamps until this was brought to public attention, and they were discontinued. In her defense, she pointed out that she was still without employment. This struck me as very humorous, and the more so when thinking of the exasperation of more righteous-than-thou persons.

         All of which brings to mind the agitation for entitlement. Or as I like to put it, something for nothing. It’s a great way to go if you can pull it off.

         By way of contrast, the Enemy advocates industry coupled with generosity. Persons are encouraged to observe the ant, and emulate its tireless activity. Perhaps in a more subtle way, to consider how these tiny creatures cooperate with one another.

         Of course, the Adversary is selective, as are we when it comes to analogy. As noted previously, the jungle code provides ample indication of how we are meant to behave.  Let the strong devour the weak, as is their privilege.

         Generosity is a curious phenomenon. Jesus observed that the poor widow who contributed a paltry sum to the treasury was more generous than those who gave large sums out of their affluence. Which leaves one with the impression that generosity is measured not by how much one gives, but what remains.

         In any case, the Gospel of Wealth provides a much more desirable alternative. In this regard, persons are encouraged to amass as much material possessions as possible. Although having done so, Andrew Carnegie insisted that if one died wealthy, he or she had failed in his or her calling. Whereas, I would think that they had been quite successful.

         In conclusion, gambling is to be commended. As a privilege for those who can afford it. As desirable for those who are not as yet able to do so. Thus serving as a means to depriving humans of other options, and even necessities.

                                                                                 Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                 Wormwood

 

A WAY WITH WORDS

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         “Wormwood,” a fellow demon recently commended me, “you have a way with words.” Indeed, since words mean whatever I want them to mean. Consequently, they have no autonomy. As a result, our Father Below’s agenda is well served.

         For instance, the term liberal has been thought to imply tolerance. Now tolerance is a good thing if one means indulgence of anti-social behavior. Otherwise, it simply  allows for diversity.

         Conversely, the designation conservative implies an appeal to traditional values. If in a negative sense, then unwillingness to entertain new ideas. If in a positive sense, then conveying moral integrity. Not uncommonly a mix of the two.

         Things, however, are not always what they seem. Which reminds me of an occasion when I decided to do some research. Selecting a seminary thought to be conservative, I browsed through its library. It turned out to have a wide selection of texts, which one associates with a more progressive institution.

         Puzzled by my discovery, I decided to sit in on a class in progress. Of course, this was not noticeable to the students or the professor. Like most of their associates, they were quite oblivious to the demonic. Which can be an advantage in some instances, while not in others.

         “Now there are several options,” he began by way of explanation. Whereupon, he listed several. “It goes without saying,” he shortly continued, “that some seem more plausible than others.” He then indicated three that seemed best qualified. In a more permissive mode than I would have attributed to alleged conservatives.

         Having discussed the alternatives more at length, he checked off his preference.

Not necessarily to persuade his students, but so they might weigh his reasoning. Moreover, allowing that he might readily change his mind. Again, not what one would expect of those with a conservative bent.

         Taking leave of the seminary, I turned to a prestigious liberal university located nearby. Whereupon, I hastily made my way to its imposing library complex. Where I found little that deviated from the accepted norm. Consequently, it struck me as intolerance of alleged intolerance.

         Later that day, I overheard a surprising interchange. The professor was advising his graduate student: “If I were you, I would take my credits and go elsewhere. Since we do not want persons with your point of view graduating from our institution.” Not what I would have expected in a boastfully liberal environ. So that on the one hand, we have liberal conservatives, and on the other, conservative liberals. How amusing!

         All thing considered, we have developed a two-fold strategy. First, we attack traditional values, which adversely effect our agenda. With the implication that they are no longer suitable for this generation. Thus creating tension between the youth and their elders. Bringing to mind the inquiry, “How shall we resolve our differences?”

         At this, the youth responded: “Only when your generation passes away.” How delightful! Since death is portrayed as the sole solution.

         Second, we foster modernity. As if it were a final solution to all our difficulties. As such, it must be maintained at all cost. With the result that creative alternatives are ignored or ridiculed.

         Leading us to conclude that legalism serves our purposes. Since it encourages humans to act in highly predictable fashion, regardless of circumstances or end results. Thus functioning without a reality check.

         It also helps to bear in mind that humans range from conservative to liberal in their orientation. So depending on where one is located, those toward the other end of the continuum seem to merge. This happily allows persons to generalize, and refuse to search for common ground.

         Qualifications aside, when humans are united, we fail. When divided, we succeed. Most to be feared is constructive diversity. Such as is illustrated by the human body, where diverse elements contribute to the total well-being.

         Meanwhile, words play a critical role in our demonic strategy. As such, they encourage what the Enemy thinks is inappropriate behavior. They likewise make humans oblivious to divine initiatives. They no less result in confusion, as prized  expression of chaos.

         This is by way of assuring you that I have been successful in adapting my instruction at the Tempters Training College. As evidenced by the indisputable fact that I have a way with words.         

                                                                                       Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                       Wormwood

 

QUALITY CONTROL

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         The Enemy is assuredly engaged in quality control. Having created humans in his image, he relentlessly presses them to conform. In spite of the despicable character of this enterprise, and our relentless opposition.

         This involves at least three elements. First, it pertains to integrity criteria. Measuring human performance by its intended purpose. As unrealistic as this might appear, and in spite of inhibiting factors.

         Which recalls the analogy of a potter. Who casts clay in anticipation of creating a vessel that has practical use and is likewise aesthetically appealing. The clay is as yet amorphous. It awaits the attention of the artisan.

         Now the wheel begins to turn, ever so gradually, and the vessel begins to take shape. Should some problem result, the potter can recast his clay and start over. Or he may decide to make the most of the situation. As for the former, the flood at the time of Noah provides a near equivalent. As for the latter, the Enemy’s decision not to forsake his happily fallen creatures serves as a classic case in point.

         When finished, it is hoped that the vessel will enhance the potter’s reputation. Or if failing to do so, it will diminishes the honor bestowed on him. Thus the vessel serves as a continuing reminder of its origin, for better or for worse. 

         Second, quality control focuses on competence. How well does the vessel serve the purpose for which it was intended? Is it adequate, does it excel, or does it fall short? Depending on the appraisal, what can be done to improve its function?

         This recalls a conversation I overheard on a basketball court. The coach had been encouraging his player to improve his game. In desperation, the latter exclaimed: “Coach, I can’t be perfect.”

         To which the former replied, “Yes, you can.” While not literally true,  it was meant as an appeal for excellence. The Adversary appears similarly adamant. 

         Finally, quality control embraces what is described as soft elements: such as confidence, motivation, team spirit, and improved relationships. Confidence that the Adversary will enable the person to do whatever is expected of him or her. Bringing to mind Mother Theresa’s observation: “I have no doubt but that God will enable me to do his will, but I wished he were not so optimistic.”

         Such is thought to be accomplished via divine grace. Which is variously expressed, as well as being timely and assured. Leading one to expect great things, and likewise undertake them.

         Motivation pertains to being available. It is something which the Enemy attempts to foster early on. Failing in this regard, at a later time. Along with incentives meant to overcome any reluctance the individual may reveal.

         Of course, one may inadvertently do the Adversary’s bidding for the wrong reason. This should be pointed out by way of discrediting the act. Moreover, one’s motivation is characteristically mixed, making our task easier.

         Team spirit recalls the communal nature of this despicable faith. It is a summons to life together. As sometimes expressed, “One for all, and all for one.”

         Time and again this has been our undoing. Just when we seem to have recovered one these defectors, others intervene on his or her behalf. Sometimes with a word of caution or encouragement. Characteristically coupled with prayer, which appears to raise havoc with our clever strategies.

         Improved relationships rounds out the divine agenda. Relationships require fine-tuning for maximum results. This allows us extended opportunity to frustrate the process. When we fail in one connection, we can await a subsequent occasion.

         Even an annoying habit can be the means to accomplishing our purposes. Such as when a person insists on correcting his or her associate. Especially when related to trivial matters. Humans are easily led astray in such matters.  

         The Enemy seems to know when more time will serve no purpose. Until then, we can expect him to exercise quality control. Consequently, it remains to frustrate his efforts in every conceivable way.

         Sometimes through dramatic means. Such as the death of a loved one, a crippling accident, or the loss of one’s residence. Along with the realization that these will not in themselves achieve our purposes. However, they constitute opportunities that we can ill-afford to overlook.

         Sometimes through more subtle means. But most likely, a combination of factors coupled together by way of getting desired results. 

         Sometimes simply as a result of procrastination. So as to convince one that there will be a more propitious time. While the inclination to respond dissipates or utterly disappears. Like the individual who observed, “While God is still willing, I have lost all desire.” How gratifying!

         More explicitly, through depreciating quantity as over against fostering quality. Since the world is over populated, encourage mothers to abort their children. As a matter of convenience, if nothing else. But also out of regard for others.

                                                                                     Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                     Wormwood. 

 

PROBLEM OF PRAYER

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         As noted in passing, humans’ predilection to prayer constitutes a persisting problem. Especially in that its absence cannot simply be written off as impiety—from the Enemy’s perspective, but appears as unnatural. Consequently, people turn to prayer even when unconvinced of its merits.

         Having given this matter considerable thought, it seems best to encourage persons to pray in vain. That is, to execute ineffective prayer. Thereby rejecting the divine mandate not to do so. How clever!

         In greater detail, perfunctory prayer suits our purposes. Which is to say, going through the motions. While assuming that this qualifies as being genuine, commendable, and effective.

         So much the better if exercised to impress others. Hence, performed in public view. While accompanied by a show of religious devotion. I am told that this proves to be a rewarding experience, and as such, an end in itself. Worthy of emulation, if for no other reason.

         Platitudinous prayer likewise serves our demonic agenda. In other words, pray in broad generalities. Preferably coupled with arresting speech. Quite out of touch with the concrete concerns that humans daily encounter.

         Accordingly, “Bless everyone, everywhere.” Rather than intercede on behalf of an individual, in some specific regard. As you mentioned earlier, limit prayer to vague, spiritual matters, instead of pressing personal concerns. Out of touch and for that reason without purpose. 

         Passive prayer is another desirable alternative. That which calls upon divine intervention, while not being available as its means. Whereas the Enemy encourages humans to cooperative in his endeavor, as an aspect of answered prayer. . 

         This requires that we focus attention on what persons hope to receive, to the virtual exclusion of what they may contribute. Impress on them that they are saved to sit, rather saved to serve. Given this sedentary mind set, prayer becomes ineffective and even counterproductive.

         Partisan prayer should also be encouraged. Such as is calculated to increase hostility among people groups. While courting divine blessing for the one, and denying it to the other. By way of attributing good intention in one instance, and bad motivation to the other. Thus causing our Father Below to rejoice.

         In this regard, the colonial mentality serves us well. In this manner, one people group attempts to impose its cultural preferences on another. While oblivious to the fact that some features would better be retained. Resulting in confusion, incrimination, and overt conflict.

         Presumptive prayer likewise proves to be ineffective. Such as assumes that the Enemy must respond in some given way, rather than employ a range of alternatives. Thus stripping him of his creativity, and giving cause for complaint—when things do not work out as expected.

         For instance, it recalls a blind person, who had taken on a very positive attitude toward life. After some time, he became associated with a group which held that if one prayed in faith he or she would be healed. There being no exceptions.

         But his prayers failed to achieve the desired results. Whereupon, his companions turned away from him, concluding that he lacked faith. This left him to struggle on his own, having had his confidence shaken. At last report, he had not recovered his earlier assurance. So far, so good.

         If by any other name, polytheistic prayer is quite acceptable. You made reference to this concerning persons who pray toward some object, thinking this will assure success. Such as a cross, altar, or some other alternative. Perhaps with the worst of intentions—from a demonic perspective, but with the prospect of diverting his attention.

         So also when a religious leader presumes to speak for the Adversary. Whereas his decisions are accepted without question. For all practical purposes, assuming the role of an alternative deity.

         This serves as a short list of acceptable prayer. Such as proves to be ineffective. Consequently, ignoring the prohibition not to pray in vain.

         Along a related line, some engage in satanic worship. This is certainly not to be discouraged. Especially in societies which enjoy a long tradition of such practice. Even when it may have to be carried on in a more clandestine fashion.

         However, it increasingly seems preferable to encourage ineffective prayer, as a more subtle option. One that fits admirably into a more secular oriented society. As something to be allowed, while not necessarily commended. So also confirming our demonic expertise and deceit.

                                                                                     Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                     Wormwood

 

JUST WAR?

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,        

         A just war? War in and of itself is highly commendable; if for no other reason, since it allows humans to express their inherent nature. Then, too, it results in suffering and death. Along with associated results that may be readily overlooked.

         In this regard, two incidents come to mind. The first concerns a ragged individual inspecting leftovers discarded from an Army mess hall, in search for something to sustain his impoverished family. While ignored by others, who appeared unconcerned for his plight.

         The second recalls a youth, perhaps eleven or twelve years of age, soliciting for his sister—who served as a prostitute to make ends meet. Those who seized on this opportunity entertained high risks, and a lingering impact on family and friends. Such can be the spin-off of armed conflict.

         Some refuse to engage in conflict under any circumstance. Like a professor who was known for his pacifistic leaning, and when asked what he would do if someone threatened to rape his wife and daughter replied:  “I would attempt to persuade him not to do so.”

         “But what if he persisted?” the inquisitive student inquired.

         “I would pray that God would enable me to refrain from violence,” he answered.

         Of course, not all inclined to non-violence would go this far. Some would willingly serve in a non-combatant role in time of warfare. 

         But to return to the concept of a just war, the following criteria are thought to be implicated. (1) Just cause. Such as promotes a worthwhile endeavor, while disposing of some highly undesirable situation.

         Needless to say, this is a difficult call. Influenced by one’s own disposition and circumstances. Consequently, subject to lingering controversy and incrimination. As such, a delightful prospect.

         (2) Comparative justice. Since it is assumed that there are rights and wrongs on both sides. Depending on what respectively qualifies, as implemented for public relations purposes.

         While justice in itself is something of an enigma, comparative justice is even more so. Which gives rise to seemingly endless possibilities for demonic manipulation. But as you would point out, it requires our diligence.

          (3) Competent authority. Such as pertains to duly constituted governance. Which is often interpreted as ruling out repressive regimes. Although from a demonic perspective, these may be preferred.

         This further implies that one must be familiar with the circumstances, so that a valid decision can be made. Consequently, it allows for error in judgment. Even if persons were relatively objective, which is seldom or ever the case.

         (4) Right intention. So as to achieve the purpose for which it is intended. Otherwise, it falls far short of the ideal. As such, it is a genuinely delightful prospect.

         Moreover, intention is characteristically mixed. The good along with the bad, and both as seen by those implicated. Thus raising the issue of retaliation, when and under what circumstances it is to be allowed.

         (5) Probability of success. Failure is not considered a valid option, while there are degrees of success. Making the task exceedingly difficult, and inviting our demonic participation.

         Then, too, success is dependent in large measure on conditions which cannot be determined in advance. Accordingly, persons must insofar as possible hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. There is no guarantee.

         (6) Last resort. Armed conflict is set forth as the last resort, after peaceful means have been exhausted. The situation often gets worse during the interim, and given the reluctance to engage in conflict. While some will be critical of the delay, others will want it to be extended.

         As a general rule, we encourage humans not to do today what can be put off until tomorrow. However, warfare may well be an exception. Especially given the inviting prospect of suffering and demise.

         (7) Proportionality. Does the good justify the harm involved? Since both occur in the midst of armed conflict. Regardless of what qualifies as such, and viewed quite differently by the Enemy and our Father Below. 

         In any case, there is unexpected risk involved. Which recalls a time when two soldiers died as a result of an overturned jeep. Soliciting the wails of sympathetic women standing nearby.

         (8) Means of disengagement. Seldom is there proper preparation for withdrawal. As a result, there is continued deployment of a reduced contingent. Not uncommonly leading to continued agitation.

         Meanwhile, the deployment continues to drain limited resources. In these and other ways, we try to twist the just war theory to accomplish our agenda.

                                                                              Your devoted nephew,

                                                                              Wormwood

 

HUMBLE PRIDE

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Given a life expectancy of seventy years, humans have a legitimate reason for humility. They resemble grass which springs up, only to quickly wither in the field. Then to be plagued by grievous maladies during their advanced years.

         How are we to make the most of a good thing? Most obvious by cultivating pride as an alternative. In this regard, promote the evolution of humans, not simply as a physical but social accomplishment. Consequently, as an appeal to autonomy.

         Not that demons doubt the Enemy’s existence. We believe in and tremble at the thought. Thus encouraging us to seek by every means available to postpone a day of reckoning. Unless, of course, we are able to escape it altogether. But unfortunately an unlikely scenario.

         Pride proves to be our accomplice, and the undoing of humans. It is an ever present help in good times and bad, both in short and long term. Never in the least bit reluctant to join the fray, and persist  in spite of all obstacles.

         It serves to cultivate pride early on. When humans are more pliable, and open to manipulation. By way of suggesting valid reasons for wrong behavior. Such as fixing the blame on someone else or circumstances beyond one’s control. Ultimately, attributing  one’s behavior to the Adversary.

         Not unlike the person who reasoned, “If God gave me a mind and I doubt his existence, he is to blame.” Consequently, ignoring any responsibility for considering the matter in greater depth. At least for the time being, and before apathy sets in.

         Education can also contribute to fostering pride. For instance, by providing passing grades for failing work. Said to be necessary so not to adversely effect the student’s self-esteem. So that one study reported that of those students evaluated, over forty percent had to take remedial work to matriculate to college. Afterward, to make concessions to assure graduation.  

         Moreover, having joined the work force, persons are not necessarily held accountable. Thus giving the impression that they are fulfilling their obligation, and failing to give due consideration to persons that excel. Not that this should be discouraged, because there is enough pride to go around.

         “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall,” the sage observes (Prov. 16:18). If for no other reason, it should be aggressively promoted. With the anticipation that humans will suffer as a consequence. As a result of their failure to cope with reality.

         There are good social consequences as well. “Pride only breeds quarrels” (Prov. 13:10). Contention can be expected when pride is involved. As a result, there is a loss of the sense of community. Things turn from bad to worse, from the Enemy’s warped perspective.

         Humans would likely clue into the situation were it not for our alternative strategy, concerning humble pride. Which is to say, “I’m humble and proud of it.” As with the person who feels it necessary to discredit anything he accomplishes. “It wasn’t much,” he insists. Or with the pious observation, “It was the Lord’s doing.” As if they were in no way implicated.

         They do not seem to catch on to the fact that dwelling on one’s limitations serves as a negative expression of pride. Where genuine humility does not give undue consideration to self, regardless of the purpose. Not that we should point this out to them, since ignorance is a virtue.

         In greater detail, humble pride depreciates what the Adversary hopes to accomplish. It thus fosters the impression that little can be done to erode the problems humans encounter. It fails to recognize what might otherwise be accomplished with the passing of time, and the cooperative enterprise.

         By way of painful contrast, a certain college student was intent on discovering the Enemy’s  purpose for his life. Meanwhile, he was engaged with others in Bible study and prayer and occasional outreach into the community, rather than passively awaiting divine direction. Still not sensing the nature of his calling, he enrolled in seminary for a year—thinking this would be time well spent. In this manner, priming himself for any eventuality.

         He finally settled on teaching overseas, being convinced that this was the Adversary’s leading. The results likewise seemed to confirm his decision. So matters continued for the time being, until he contracted a fatal illness. His remains were buried abroad, as a reminder of the service he had rendered.  

         The problem is that those who anticipate much are inclined to achieve more. Having not fallen prey to humble pride. While others more readily succumb. Their numbers are legion. They deserve our hearty congratulations, and persistent encouragement.

         Fortunately, we demons are more realistic than our human counterparts. Although aware of our limitations, we are inclined to press on. With marked success, given the exceptions with which we must contend.

                                                                                Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                 Wormwood

 

JESUS OF HISTORY

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         While recognizing the merit in your suggestion that we focus attention on the Jesus of History, this is also fraught with difficulties. Our cause is better served if we can convince persons that the life and ministry of Jesus is only a religious myth. As such, not essentially different from the imaginative tales from antiquity, such as those related to the heroes in Greek literature.

         In this regard, it is easy to point out the exceptional features in the several accounts. Such as the miraculous character of Jesus’ birth, the miracles that attest to his claims, and the report that he was resurrected. Which can be said to strain the credibility of the text.

         The notion of a quest for the historical Jesus likewise puts the matter in doubt. Especially when persons reach quite different conclusions on the basis of the evidence available. Accordingly, demonstrating the critical role that presuppositions play in interpreting alleged events.

         However, our case is manifestly weakened by the legacy of the apostles. These were said to have been chosen by Jesus to transmit his teaching, and guide his flock. It was required that they were with him from the beginning, which is likely a reference to the inauguration of his public ministry. Of course, they would also have ready access to information from other individuals.

         We may challenge the claim that the New Testament scriptures are derived from the apostles, or those closely associated with them. Consequently, it serves our purpose to press for a late date for the composition of the gospels and epistles. The later, the better—providing we do not undercut our credibility.

         Then, since early church tradition relies heavily on the biblical texts, we are encouraged to focus on relatively rare exceptions. The Gospel of Thomas being a prime case in point. As edited by for Gnostic purposes, it claims to include unique features of Jesus’ life and ministry. As you no doubt recall, the Gnostics claimed an esoteric insight that set them apart from the rest.

         Rather than labor the above, we turn to modern times. The Enlightenment coupled  together the humanistic spirit of the Renaissance with the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century to usher in the contemporary era. Naturalism prevailed. A patronizing attitude was taken toward all that preceded it. Tolerance was urged, providing that it did not contradict the assured results of current speculation.

         This gave rise to the old quest for the historical Jesus, exemplified by Ernest Renan’s exceedingly popular Life of Jesus. Leaving behind all that belonged to apostolic times, he determined to forge a historical account formed by rational principles. This resulted in portraying Jesus in as an exemplary human. 

         From an uniform mediocrity, he concludes that there are pillars that rise toward the sky, and witness to a nobler destiny. Jesus constitutes the highest of these. Whatever  the future holds, Jesus will not be surpassed.

         Even so, the old quest was unable to reach a consensus. Which solicited a shift to the Christ of Faith, associated with Rudolf Bultmann. Observing in the process that since man has taken his leave from God, he fails to recognize the divine activity in everyday events. It remains for him is exercise radical obedience, while setting aside (demythologizing) antiquated contexts, and engage current obligations.

         Predictably, his disregard of the Jesus of History left the appeal with a needed point of reference. This gave rise to the second quest for the Jesus of History. The year was 1953 as I recall, in a gathering of Bultmann’s former students. At which Ernst Kaemann gave his famous lecture: “The Problem of the Historical Jesus.” He argued  that while the traditions were certainly interpreted by the followers of Jesus, they retained authentic historical memories. Thus the old quest was replaced by a more modest and compatible alternative.

         It remained for the third quest to sharpen the historical focus of the gospel accounts. This was done by researching a wide range of sources, so as to reconstruct the historical setting of the time. Then to argue for probable intent, rather than assume exhaustive understanding. For instance, Ben Witherington III allows that while various precedents were embraced by Jesus, that of a sage is most pervasive.

         So what are we to make of all this? We should focus the attention of humans either on the Jesus of History or the Christ of Faith, but not the two in conjunction with one another. If the former, we may keep them from the task at hand. If the latter, by removing any point of leverage. When shifting from one to the other, by keeping them off balance.

         Please do not take offense at my musings. I do not mean that they repudiate your comment on diverting persons’ attention to the Jesus of History. Instead, I intended this by way of clarification.

                                                                                        Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                         Wormwood

 

UNHOLY HUMOR

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Humor can either inhibit our efforts or enhance them. As for the former, you observed that humans respond in such a way as to indicate that there is more involved than the attempt at humor. Which would suggest that it resonates with the celestial experience.

         As for the latter, I allude to it as unholy humor. As such, it serves our demonic purposes, while drawing the reproach of the Enemy. Consequently, to be commended for both reasons. 

         In greater detail, I thought your detailed analysis of humor was most helpful. In particular, you distinguished among joy, fun, joke proper, and flippancy. Joy as a confirmation of the wholesome character of life is to be discouraged. Only as it can be associated with some anti-social activity can it be commended.

         Fun is a kindred spirit to joy. In particular, it arises from the play instinct. It is of relatively little use, but may be employed to divert humans from something counterproductive. Left alone, it lends itself to other detestable tendencies: such as generosity, courage, and contentment.

         Joke proper, which feeds off a perception of incongruity, holds out more promise. As when envy, lust, or anger are applauded. Which serves to remind us that humans can countenance almost anything so long it is set forth in a humorous format.

         But then as you aptly observed, flippancy serves best of all. For one thing, it takes little effort, since one says what first comes to mind. It is assumed that a point has already been made. Then, if not, that persons are uninformed. As such, it is far removed from joy; so instead of sharpening the intellect, it sows discord. All things considered, settle for the superficial.

         Examples proliferate. For instance, the husband observes: “When I am gone, you will never get another man like me.”

         At which, his wife replies: “Why do you think I would want to find another person like you?” Thus calling attention to the man’s presumption, and the strained  relationship between the couple. But in an off-hand manner. 

         Another case in point. The person allows, “When I was young, I would pray for a bike, but then realized God does not work that way. So I stole a bike and prayed for his forgiveness.” Initially, this implies that the Adversary is disinclined to provide those things which will enrich life. He perhaps thinks that humans can or should do with considerably less.  

         Secondly, it condones stealing as a legitimate way to obtain what is desired. Since forgiveness is always readily available. Thus perpetuating the notion of cheap grace. That is to say, grace that allows persons to remain as they were.

         Still another instance. The motel proprietor informed his anticipated guest, “The rental is fifty dollars a day, unless you make your own bed. In that case, it is only five dollars.” Whereupon, the man seeking lodging chose to make his own bed. “Good,” the proprietor concurred, “I’ll get you nails and wood.”

         Ambiguity surfaces in the interchange. Which can be used to condone all sorts of otherwise objectionable behavior. Then, too, it raises a question concerning appropriate remuneration. Which if inappropriate, could qualify as theft. Although in a humorous context, which makes it less objectionable.

         Yet another example. A certain person observes: “The first year of marriage the man speaks and the woman listens. The second year of marriage the woman speaks and the man listens. The third year of marriage both speak and neither listens.”

         This subtlety raises the issue of gender roles. One that creates all sorts of profitable spin-offs, especially given the fact that they are in flux. It also emphasizes the fragile character of marriage. So that one can explore more promising alternatives.

         A final attempt at humor. When asked what was the best thing about being 104 years of age, the woman without hesitation responded: “There is no peer pressure.” Having to put up with peer pressure all her life, it comes as a relief no longer to have to bear with it. Which casts life in an unfavorable light, and aging as virtually without merit. As over against the opinion that aging can be an accomplishment, by virtue of the wisdom attained and subsequently shared with others.

         As can be readily seen, unholy humor should be employed in furthering the cause of our Father Below. Why? Because of its remarkable effectiveness. When other means appear to fall short, and with predictable success.

         Likewise, since it is readily accepted and commonly practiced. As such, it is difficult to distinguish from the joy associated with life. Requiring persons to be alert, unless they succumb to our way of thinking.

         Finally, because it thrives on deceit. An ingredient we can happily supply, making use not only of willing accomplices but those less observant. Along with the realization that it is effort well invested.

                                                                                     Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                      Wormwood

 

MEGACHURCH

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         The megachurch is a recent phenomenon, and given to mixed reviews. In greater detail, these congregations entertain 2000 or more for weekend worship. While this is unfortunate, there are compensating features.

         For instance, one of the megachurch senior pastors recently allowed: “We thought that we were making disciples, but it turns our that we were entertaining.” Which is to say, that the megachurch draws upon a consumer mentality. Whose priority is to be served, rather than serve.

         The distinction can be subtle, since the Enemy reasons that in giving, people likewise receive. However, he also insists that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Not that persons necessarily think in these terms, and can be led astray.

         The megachurch is characteristically served by a charismatic, authoritative senior pastor. As for the former, one who is highly articulate and preferably spontaneous. As for the latter, one who gives the impression of being in charge. Carried to an extreme, one pastor claimed that his authority exceeded that of Scripture—in that he felt capable of making concrete applications.

         Not that members of his congregation necessarily take his claims seriously. Bringing to mind the comment of a person who when confronted with something his pastor had said, he replied: “But I never actually listen.” It turned out that he attended for social reasons.

         Not uncommonly, a seven day a week program is instituted. This may be for a range of services, or simply an opportunity for fellowship. It especially accommodates those whose  schedules conflict with stated times of worship and would otherwise have to rely on personal devotions or religious broadcasts.

          The extended time of sharing resembles a family experience. But only under ideal circumstances from the Adversary’s perspective. There being much to be said for the alternative house church movement.     

         This allows for an assortment of social and outreach ministries. In this regard, I listened in on a long-range planning committee, which evaluated the needs of the community. Along with the intent to make creative services available. To the degree they were successful, this proved to be a hindrance to our efforts.

         When unable to disrupt these activities, we attempt to obscure their priorities. As implied earlier, so as to suggest that business is next to godliness. While, as you well know, it can be an excuse for failing to set priorities or maintain them in the midst of incessant activity. Recalling the saying, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.”

         Needless to say, I would prefer that the church complex not be used except on rare occasions. Such as a token service on Sunday. Not that I commend the practice, since the Adversary can take advantage of it.

         Finally, the megachurch spawns a complex organizational structure. One that need not serve the purposes for which it was intended. Given to duplication, administrative proliferation, and increasing overhead

         Needless to say, bureaucracies tend to be self-serving. As such, they are caught up in endless committee meetings. As a consequence, unresponsive to the needs and concerns of the congregation.

         Granted, each enterprise is unique. While exhibiting a similar pattern, these differ considerably in greater detail. Which makes it difficult to develop a consistent strategy, let alone prove effective in frustrating its efforts.

         But in general terms, we are advised to foster complacency. Caught up in a crowd of participants, it is tempting to assume success. Conversely, it may only be indicative of the extent of failure. The increased numbers do not guarantee success, although they may amount to greater opportunity.

         Of course, the Adversary is never satisfied. Neither with regard to the person nor the congregation. There are always new fields to be explored, new challenges to be embraced, and new obstacles to be overcome.

         We should also encourage a disregard for the effect the movement has on the smaller congregations, which contribute a large percentage of the adherents. Many of them are forced to further curtail their services as a result, or even terminate their activities. Recalling your apt advice that if unable to keep a patient from attending church, keep him or her shifting from one to another.  

         It gives me so much pleasure to see the pain inflected on those left behind with largely empty pews. No longer having available those they have cherished in times past.  Clinging to the remnants of a shrinking congregation. Seemingly on borrowed time, awaiting their demise as a viable fellowship.

         In any case, it is our task to minimize the effectiveness of the movement, while making the most of its weaknesses. Which is not an uncommon strategy when applied to other areas. It bears repeating, “The more some things change, the more other things appear constant.”

                                                                                  Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                   Wormwood

 

BIBLE STORIES

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         It would not likely occur to humans that demons have favorite bible stories. Not that we are of one mind in this regard, but so that it has become a favorite pastime to share our thoughts with one another. So much the more when we sense it offends our common Enemy.

         It is hard to improve on the courageous stand of Adam and Eve. Given the opportunity of asserting their prerogatives, they chose to repudiate the Adversary’s claim on their lives. Choosing instead to improve their lot, and enjoy the pleasures beckoning them.

         Of course, our kind prompted their defection. Which serves as a reminder that we should seduce humans whenever possible. If they suffer as a consequence, so much the better. Succeeding generations will assuredly pay the price.

         Then when confronted with what they had done, they proceeded to blame one another. Initially, Adam observed: “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” (Gen. 3:12). Not only did he attribute the alleged blame to his wife, but ultimately to the Enemy for her being present. Thus getting the better of the interchange.

         Ignoring Adam’s compelling logic, the Adversary inquired of Eve: “What is this you have done?” As if to suggest that she should have thought through the implications.  But if so, how much more should he have taken them into consideration. Especially in that he boasts of knowing the end from the beginning.

         “The serpent deceived me,” she replied, “and I ate.” Although deception can be a good thing, if it achieves its purpose. It also provides a convenient excuse. As when one commits murder under the pretense that he thought the person was threatening him. Or rape in the guise of mutual consent.

         Worthy of note, the Adversary does not think it necessary to inquire into the serpent’s intent, but pronounces a curse on it. Giving the impression that its inclination was a matter of record. As graphically expressed, “A line had been drawn in the sand.” And the struggle between alleged good and evil would continue.

         As for the serpent, it would be forced to crawl about from that time forward. But for that reason less easy to detect—providing increased opportunities. As when it lingers in an inconspicuous place, waiting to strike at its prey. Suggesting that we must make the best of bad situations, rather than being discouraged by them. In keeping with unfailing demonic logic.

         The extended curse anticipated an ongoing struggle between the human and demonic offspring, concluding with the triumph of the former. It seems to be an unlikely scenario, given our many advantages. But, even if so, we can relish the misery inflicted during the interim.

         As for the woman, the pain associated with birthing a child would be intensified. As a result of her misgivings, and in context of altered circumstances. Subsequently, she will have affection for her husband, who will use this occasion to dominate her. Giving rise of late to the feminist movement, coupled with charges of sexual harassment.

         In this regard, we are informed that within a generation the average salary of American women will exceed that of the male. Since they are as a rule more intelligent, and increasingly better educated. This should serve to reduce the male ego, and create  additional tension between the genders. So that at least in some instances, the best is yet to come.

         As for the man, his labor would become increasingly difficult and disappointing. Accordingly, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19). Having meant to be rewarding and encouraging, now stripped of its favorable connotations.

         So it is that persons struggle out of bed in the morning, reluctant to face the demands of the day. They hastily make their way to the place of their employment, as they have done countless times before. There they take on deplorable tasks, under the stern supervision of unsympathetic overseers. As the day wears on, their energies are depleted. The return home, often to face unresolved problems. They fall asleep in front of the television. Then after a troubled sleep, they return to their predictable fate. How amusing from our privileged perspective!

         If only the Adversary had decided to forsake them, our joy would have peaked. Instead, he insisted on perpetuating a troubled relationship. In anticipation that they would reconsider, and amend their ways. Which requires that we intensify and persist in our efforts. Qualifications aside, you can readily see why I find this story so appealing.

                                                                                   Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                   Wormwood

 

VOCATIONAL OPTIONS

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         From time to time I come across a list of preferred vocational options. This is not uncommonly from the perspective of comparative salaries. Other favorable features may be included, such as the projected work environ. Maximum return with minimal effort is usually a good criterion.

         Consequently, it occurred to me that it would be helpful to list seven inviting  occupations. Largely in terms of their potential, since this is seldom if ever realized. And such as might be justified on other grounds. While not necessarily in order of preference, since this is difficult to determine. 

         (1) Tyrant. As previously noted, it is said that while power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. In any case, the despot is inclined to guard his position by whatever means are available, and for as long as possible. Even if this means afflicting the populace.

         This is best achieved when he is not accountable to the people, as in the case of a democracy. But even then there are more subtle ways to impose his will on the populace. Often in the context of an elite, which profits from its association with him. Or in connection with other special interests, which support his reelection.

         (2) Parent. My preference in this instance would likely not appear as obvious as with the preceding. However, one must bear in mind that parents are instrumental in forming the character of their offspring. While not in every instance, as a rule. Thus much is at stake in parenting.

         Specific instances come to mind. For instance, that of a father who insisted on sexual intercourse with his daughters. One would suppose that this would have had long lasting results, of which we would approve. Instead, one of them subsequently reached out to the Enemy in her desperation, and made a remarkable recovery. Our demonic efforts notwithstanding.

         (3) Terrorist. Such as the individual who exploded a bomb in a busy marketplace, killing some and injuring others. Qualifications aside,  as a means of intimidation. While quite oblivious to the suffering inflicted on those implicated, along with their family and friends. And causing rejoicing among those approving of such behavior.

         So much the better when done in the name of the Adversary. While most will not think that he deserves credit, some will attribute such behavior to religion in general. Thus failing to distinguish among religious traditions, or variations within them. Nor recognizing that terrorism results from a secular mind set as well.

         (4) Prostitute. As cautioned by the sage, “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword” (Prov. 5:3-4). Whether a prostitute or simply one engaged in elicit sex. In greater detail, “She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.”

         In particular, the prostitute fails to take into consideration the personal risks involved in his or her occupation. Which commonly results in sickness, and even early demise. Nor the  misery she inflicts on others, and society as a whole. Which represents a  grand opportunity from an enlightened demonic strategy.

         (5) Counselor. The counselor is given a marvelous opportunity to steer persons into crooked ways. Such as divert from the straight and narrow way advocated by Jesus. Along with entertaining features not enjoyed by those who heed his advice. While characteristically being paid for services rendered.

         Of course, some counselors are more cooperative with us than others. Which recalls one who is to be highly commended. When asked for her advice, she replied: “Forget about God, and things will work out.” How appropriate! 

         (6) Merchant. The merchant can manipulate the cost of goods purchased. In this enviable position, one can escalate profits while increasing the burden on those relying on his services. When coupled with others of like disposition, it amounts to corporate greed. Which is akin to stealing, which takes many forms—such as demeaning the reputation of another.

         Ideally resulting in the rich getting richer, while the poor get poorer. Both suffer as a result. Since the more one has, the more he or she wants. While the less one has, the less margin there is for survival. Much to our demonic delight.

         (7) Pastor. The so-called man of God can serve as an accomplice. Especially when he subverts the teaching of the Enemy. Choosing instead to affirm the conflicting ideals of the culture. While assured that he has insights not available to those who contributed to Scripture.

         Meanwhile, concerned for personal advancement. A bigger parish and with increased remuneration. Requiring that he cultivate the friendship of those who will provide him leverage, while neglecting those obscured in the process. Although allowing for mixed motivations, such can be cultivated for our purposes.

                                                                                    Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                     Wormwood  

 

LIVING IN FEAR


Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         While disposed to incite fear, it is a complex issue. As such, it is worthy of careful consideration. Assuredly not something to be taken lightly. One concerning which I would like your input, when time permits.

         The persistence of fear is a related topic. Closely associated with if not identical to anxiety. This can be thoroughly disabling for humans. Nor is it comforting for demons like myself.

         The object of fear first invites our attention. The alleged sage observes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Prov. 1:7). Fear in this context implies reverential awe. Deference instead of disregard. Honor rather than shame. Consequently, a willingness to accept discipline.

         In similar manner, the chosen people were admonished: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exod. 20:12). Which involved being obedient, respectful, and diligent. In anticipation of his blessing should they comply, or its lack should they fail to do so.

         We demons solicit fear for a different reason. Since we are inclined to afflict humans given the opportunity. Like raging beasts waiting to devour their victims. Thus encouraging humans to mimic our behavior. Thereby achieving an accommodation of interests, and cooperation in opposing the Adversary.

         Yes, humans are likewise to be feared. They are given to violence, not only under duress but unexpectedly. They delight in the suffering of others when it serves their interests. While not in every instance, with predictable frequency. In this regard, they more resemble children of our Father Below than the Enemy.

         Situations are to be feared as well. Such as when overlooking a deep ravine, into which a person could inadvertently plunge to his or her death. Or as when one opts to drive under the influence of strong drink. In such instances, fear might regretfully keep persons from harm.

         Of course, one can fear that which constitutes no threat. Such as those who have an inordinate fear of mice. In addition, bringing to mind a woman who was terrified of the prospect of leaving the security of her home. Accordingly, she was deeply gratified when able to walk out onto the porch. While allowing the door to remain open, should she feel it necessary to reconsider. 

          Since I occasionally touch on Scripture, I do not want you to get the wrong impression. My purpose in considering the text is that I might be better informed of the Adversary’s mode of operation. In this regard, the sage aptly cautions: “Forewarned is to be forearmed.”

         As a result, preventative action can often be taken. If not, the fallout can be substantially reduced. Although one must take care not to be persuaded by its attempt at reasoning. Consequently, the risk is well worth the anticipated advantage.

         So it is that I am reminded of the observation, “But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:18). Here love and fear are portrayed as being incompatible. The presence of the one leads to the absence of the other. But only if it is perfected, which leaves wiggle room for our endeavor.

         Which is to say that the convert is a work in progress. Accordingly, he is  still vulnerable to our strategies.  As such, he can prove to be a hindrance to others—who are looking to him as a precedent.

         Did he or she get off to a good start? Hopefully not. Has the convert maintained a steady pace throughout? Preferably not. Will the convert finish strong? Time will tell. But as a rule one does not succeed at every phase of life. Resulting in their having to manage with fear.

         It was with this in mind that I took note of some of the fears evident in the life of my former patient’s son. For instance, he did not think himself handsome. For this reason, he wondered if girls would find him attractive. Especially one in whom he was interested.

         It occurred to him that he might have cosmetic surgery. But at considerable added cost to his anticipated $ 45,000 in student loans. Which served as another reason for anxiety. One thing leads to another, so that the composite result can be overwhelming for this perplexed individual.

         Coupled with such matters is the fear that he could not cope with circumstances. Due to the circumstances as such, his ineptness, or a combination of the two. He did not seem to recognize that others have accomplished more with less. Nor do I intend to bring this to his attention.

         Conversely, I urged him to consider suicide as a solution to all his problems. If not, to turn to drugs. Which might eventually lead to the same result. In any case, to make sure that he understands his options, and can choose among them. Along with our invaluable assistance.

                                                                                           Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                            Wormwood

 

OUT OF WEDLOCK

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         I was pleased with the report that over half of the children born to American mothers under 30 years of age were out of wedlock. In large measure due to the postponement of marriage, given prolonged education and vocational interests. Shifting the emphasis from morality to economics.

         My fellow demon Benji was the author of this highly successful strategy. He reasoned that the first piece to put in place was the unqualified conclusion that higher education assures increased income. The subtle assumption is that material gain is life’s highest priority.

         Granted, this thesis can be misleading. For a number of reasons. For instance, not all areas of specialization are of equal merit for job placement. Then, too, some highly remunerative vocations are better served by a more technical type of instruction. In many instances, this is best left up to the employer.

         Second, Benji reasoned that we should encourage the educational establishment to be self-seeking. Consequently, to deviate from the purpose for which it is said to serve. That is, to increase the level of remuneration. This resulted in a proliferation of dubious specializations, at the expense of more substantial concerns.

         It also fostered an educational lobby, meant to further special interests. While offering its support to elected officials, on condition of their cooperation. With the intent of stifling any opposition.

         Study grants became a special feature of this joint enterprise. So that professors and students were enabled to study incidental issues, without serious regard for priority. Then with detailed and duplicate records. Thus increasing the cost at public expense.

         Third, Benji promoted a campaign against the traditional family—consisting of father, mother, and their children. Any and all alternatives were left open. It was as if a new day required a new accommodation.

         Some efforts were less forthright than others. As noted earlier, a lesser good, from the perspective of the Enemy, might be entertained at the expense of the greater good. In any case, concessions were required.

         Finally, unrealistic expectations were put in place. Which recalls overhearing a young lady complaining that since graduation from college she had been unable to find a suitable position. As it turned out, she had refused employment thought not worthy of a college graduate. Even as a temporary means until something better came along. Nor was she willing to relocate, in order to facilitate employment.

         This incident caused Benji to laugh aloud. Then to giggle every time it crossed his mind. Causing his fellow demons to inquire as to the reason for his mirth. Thus resulting in a detailed account of this incident.

         What of those children raised out of wedlock? The alternatives lend themselves to our manipulation. Not that we are always successful, since some parents try desperately to compensate—with varying degrees of success.

         I am especially reminded of the home alone syndrome. Where children are left to fend for themselves for extended periods of time. Without the guidance and protection of a parent.

         What of the mother? The pressures build, since she is required to provide an income and care for the child. Or she can opt for the welfare alternative. The latter not uncommonly being passed down from one generation to the next. As a means of dealing with symptoms rather than getting to the root cause.

         Unless, of course, she decides to put the child up for adoption. Out of sight, but not necessarily out of mind. While not the best of situations, neither is it the worst.

         What of the father? Perhaps providing support, but not necessarily so. Free to engage in sexual relations with another. Sometimes plagued with guilt.

         In any case, profoundly effected by his indiscretion. In terms of his own perception, and that of others. Making the best of a difficult situation.   

         What of society? Qualifications aside, when one suffers, all suffer. Since no person is an island unto itself, but part of the whole.

         Likewise, bearing in mind that the family is the basic building block of society. As such, it appears to be indispensable. While other social concerns are much less vital to the well being of community enterprise.  

         Consequently, it should come as no surprise that Benji received the distinguished Badge of Accomplishment from our Father Below. Well done fellow demon! May others benefit from your shrewd precedent. 

         Finally, what of the Adversary? He is assuredly grieved by the developments. Not content to leave well enough alone, he protests what has transpired. But he does not deprive man of his freedom of choice. Nor does he eliminate its consequences.

         As mentioned earlier, he seems assured that he will know when more time serves no constructive purpose—as he views matters. May that time never come. Meanwhile, we must make the best of our opportunities.

                                                                                         Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                          Wormwood 

 

RACISM

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         While racism may be more pronounced than persons as a rule realize, it is not well understood. Two compatible definitions come to mind. First, it holds that individual achievement is determined by racial differences. Second, it insists that racial differences allow for discrimination. The line between the two is characteristically blurred, making our task easier.

         It is of course plausible that inherited characteristics could effect performance. But that is as a rule hard to demonstrate. Even if that were the case, it need not have anything to do with one’s racial profile.

         The truth is likely in the fine print. This came to mind recently when I overheard two persons conversing. The one observed, “I recognize that you are not a blatant racist, but you people are all the same.” In this instance, you people constituted a different racial group.

         So who was the racist? The person charged with corporate guilt, or the one making the charge? I suppose it really does not matter so long as we can make use of the animosity that results.

         I do not mean to get overly philosophical, but it helps to think through such matters—so better to employ them in our worthy endeavor. Thus in keeping with my thesis that we cultivate chaos, thereby eroding the order imposed by the Enemy. Darkness rather than light. Death instead of life.

         With this in mind, the genuine racist gives undue consideration of race as the key to events. If arrested, it is because of his race. If criticized, it is because of his race. Whatever happens and for whatever reason, it is due to racial prejudice.

         On the other hand, persons may overlook the racial component in what transpires. Thus failing to come to grips with a lingering problem. As seen from the Adversary’s perspective, although much to our delight.

         Now if for any reason or combination of reasons a racial group is more subject to anti-social behavior, they become increasingly suspect. As a result, they may be more carefully supervised. And they may be more often penalized. Not that they are arbitrarily singled out for abuse. But this subtle cause and effect relationship is often ignored, resulting in manifestly simple and ineffective solutions to complex issues.

         A minority, whether racial or otherwise, may choose to enter the cultural main-stream or refuse to do so. Assuming that it is permitted the alternatives. Which implies compromise of cherished traditions. Given the option, some choose to integrate, while others remain removed.

         Lacking a well defined tradition, this minority group may opt to create an imaginative legacy. Resulting in cultural mythology. While lacking supportive data, it can become socially acceptable. And be approved by academic institutions.

         A prime example of social integration is the acceptance of the dominant language as a means of communication. An illustration may serve in this regard. A certain English speaking church sponsored a Portuguese mission. This served for the time being, until the children of the parents felt more comfortable with English. This left a decreasing number of aging persons largely on their own.

         However, one of the church elders took it upon himself to minister to those who were neglected as a result of social integration. He would, for instance, sponsor a communion service in the home of one of those implicated—in the language with which they were familiar. When asked concerning this, he replied: “Hymn lyrics no longer inspire as they did when sung in one’s native tongue.”

         Not that I in any way mean to commend the efforts of this congregation. I wished they would leave social integration well enough alone. Whether it involves race or not. With the hope that we can reap benefits from prolonged social tension.

         Race increasingly becomes a matter of definition. Especially in the light of racial inter-marriage. Why should one born to a mixed racial couple be allowed to opt between them? And thereby to reap the supposed benefits?

         Let alone carrying this to an extreme. As in actual instance where persons were allowed to qualify if only one/twelfth of the given race. Which served a corporate commercial endeavor, while receiving a political endorsement.

         We must not overlook the fact that the Enemy’s social ideal consists of constructive diversity. Not strict conformity, nor partisan discord. Either of which would be preferable with our enlightened demonic insight.

         Which recalls overhearing a youthful soccer player attempting to identify a member of his team. First in one connection, and then another. Meanwhile, it did not occur to him to mention that the fellow was of another race. Thus providing evidence of a lack of racism. 

         All things considered, racism serves our noble purposes. If distorted, so much the better. If shared, to our advantage. When continued, then pleasing to our Father Below.

                                                                                       Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                        Wormwood

 

SPORTS

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Humans as a rule seem interested in sports. If not as participants, then as spectators. With mixed results, some good and some bad. 

         “For physical training is of some value,” the disreputable apostle Paul allows, “but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8).While more problematic from our demonic perspective, it is much preferred to the pursuit of godliness. Especially since its results are of limited duration.

         Initially, sports may be advocated as a substitute for cultivating spiritual devotion. For instance, a round of golf provides a desirable substitute for attending a worship service. In this regard, physical exercise in nature’s wonderland is much more appealing than sitting in an uncomfortable pew, listening to obscure speculation. Meanwhile, wishing that one could be on the golf course.

         Of course, there are more subtle incentives. Such as the frustration upon landing in a sand trap or missing a put. Along with the temptation to misrepresent the score, thus enhancing one’s reputation. Then justifying the action with the disclaimer, “After all, it’s only a game.” Meanwhile, cultivating the practice of lying. As noted earlier, humans are manifestly creatures of habit.

         Second, those involved in sports are susceptible to injury. This recalls an interchange I overheard in a grocery store. One person observed that basketball should be considered a contact sport, citing the fact that he had once been knocked unconscious. After his recovery, he played the remainder of the game, although having no recall. However, his teammates assured him that he had played especially well, and for this reason, they meant to knock him out before subsequent games. While a reasonable course of action, I gathered that they were only joking.

         Allowing that basketball might be classified as a contact sport, the other person asserted: “But football is a collision sport.” He spoke from experience, having played college football for several seasons. In fact, one is hard pressed to find a veteran  football player who does not suffer from knee injuries.

         Qualifications aside, human suffering serves our interests. Not necessarily, but more times than not. Conversely, we must cope with the sage saying, “Man’s adversity proves to be God’s opportunity.” Unfortunate but true.

         I was especially pleased with the coaching staff which offered a cash bonus to anyone who caused a star player on the opposing team to leave the game or be helped off the field. Paid to win, they embraced a viable means. Unfortunately, their practice was discovered, and severe penalties subsequently assessed.

         Boxing is still more inviting. Two persons, standing toe to toe, beating the life out of one another. How awesome! As such, said to portray authentic masculinity. More recently, inviting the participation of female combatants. Which requires some adjustment of rationale. Something we will have to work out. 

         Of course, the human body was not meant to endure such punishment. Nor will it as a rule do so. Not uncommonly leaving the person incapacitated for the remainder of his life. Or resulting in a premature demise.

         This struck home to me when watching a boxing match. The crowd showed relatively little interest until one of the fighters began to bleed noticeably. Whereupon, it worked itself into a frenzy—while urging: “Put him away! Kill him!” 

         Professional wrestling is more pretentious. While some are injured in the process, this is not calculated. Consequently, I would be tempted to write it off were it not for the hateful badgering that accompanies it.  This appears to incite those assembled, so that they cheer for their champions and castigate the opposition. Feelings that hopefully indulge their baser, although more commendable inclinations.

         Whatever the sport, there is always the possibility that fans will riot. Resulting in multiple injuries, and even the loss of life. Along with the destruction of property, and lingering resentment. Accordingly, chaos again erupts.

         While those engaged in sports often find that life peaks at an early age, before their physical prowess lessons. Life goes on but not with the same sense of fulfillment. So that they dwell on the past, while attempting to live in the present. Such gives rise to any number of demonic initiatives.

         Such persons sometimes attempt to recover their zest for life through the activity of their children. Thus the circle is perpetuated from one generation to the next. With more or less success, since the children may not share their parent’s priorities. Or even if they should, their abilities may not allow them to approximate their goals. Consequently, our opportunities are multiplied.

         In conclusion, sports best serve as a form of idolatry. When given preference to our Adversary. Otherwise, we must work to bring out their worst features. While suppressing the favorable results. Such as led the apostle to allow that it has more limited value than the quest for godliness.   

                                                                                      Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                       Wormwood

 

ECOLOGY

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         The human’s adaptation is most appealing. So the mandate that Adam work and take care of his habitation allows him to ravage and exploit it. Thus permitting him to turn the earth into something resembling a huge garbage dump, and as such, neither functional nor aesthetically pleasing.

         Not that this is entirely accurate. Since his behavior is not uniform, and the earth is very resilient. Still, with our encouragement, his depreciation of the earth threatens to be his undoing.

         The Adversary’s extended commentary instructs man: “Be fruitful and multiply,  fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Be fruitful and multiply. There are no qualifications  set forth that requires him to discriminate. So ignore the larger context, and promote what is criticized as elicit sex.

         Fill the earth. Without regard for training one’s offspring. Let persons fend for themselves, rather than having to deal with the baggage of a former generation. In keeping with the sage observation, “To live is to change.”

         And subdue it. By any means and for any reason. Do with it as you please. Ignore those who warn against pollution and other adverse effects. Have a good time in the process, and set the precedent for others.

         An unlikely scenario? Well, humans are stupid. Consequently, they seize on any excuse to do what they want. Regardless of the fallout, and for which they should assuredly be commended.

         I am reminded of the story concerning two aliens who were approaching earth, and had been monitoring the broadcasts of humans. When within sight, one inquired of the other: “What do you think of the human specie?”

         Surveying the earth beneath, the other replied: “They appear to be some form of cosmic contagion.” With this in mind, they decided to continue on their way, rather than pay a visit. Fiction to be sure, but to the point.

         As is our custom, we try to work both ends of the dilemma. Encouraging humans to devastate the earth on the one hand, and cautioning them against it on the other. As for the former, we concur with the notion that humans are a primary cause for global warming. With the intent to seriously restrict their activities, fail to meet pressing needs, and creating desirable tension among them.

         While downplaying the fact that global warming is well within the parameters of past, or that the human factor may be a relatively minor factor. Bearing in mind the sage advise, “It is better to be safe than sorry.”

         As for the latter, we attempt to carry the endangered species issue to the extreme. To the point that humans feel constricted, depressed, and insecure.

         Some of the more avid advocates of this position want to restrict humans to designated urban centers, connected by transportation corridors. Thus to live in close proximity to one another, without impinging on the rights of other species. Under conditions that will be detrimental to community. 

         Naturally, the preservation of some species are more appealing than others. Most humans would gladly get rid of mosquitoes if it were possible. But what appears to be a trivial annoyance can, especially in conjunction with other irritations, pay rich dividends. Along with a little ingenuity on our behalf.

         Governance also comes to our aid. In that large tracks of land are designated for some endangered specie, even that of a sub-set. In keeping with the notion of special interests and political correctness. If the latter, than not subject to critical review.

         It is of immeasurable help to confuse ideals with strategies. So that while persons may agree that the poverty stricken should be assisted, they are at odds concerning the best means for accomplishing their purposes. Accordingly, they charge each other with disregard and inhumane treatment.

         Now some of those with manifest interest in ecological issues insist that they can best be served by human participation rather than withdrawal. Consequently, that the earth can be better served by management than left to itself. This line of thinking is not to be encouraged. But if failing in this regard, we help persons with mismanagement. As it is said, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

         In any case, I like to think of the possibility that humans are an endangered specie. They could hopefully self-destruct. 

         Population control serves a more limited goal: that of decreasing human kind. Which is said to be in the best interests of those who survive. Accordingly, advocating quality instead of quantity. Such as would allow for the elimination of those who are inhibited by birth defects, chronically infirm, or aged.

         Which recalls the ethical dilemma created by an over-crowded lifeboat, where some must be sacrificed so that others may survive. It first occurs that an elderly man might be cast overboard, but then it is revealed that he is a renowned scientist—whose future discoveries might greatly benefit humans. So he is spared at the expense of another. A contrived situation? Certainly, but it serves our purposes.

                                                                                    Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                    Wormwood

 

BULLYING

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Bullying is receiving a lot of notice these days. It consists of harassing those less able to cope with the situation. As such, it is to be commended. Since it increases the self-esteem of the perpetrator, and allows the victim to discover his or her legitimate place in the social pecking-order.

         The claim of bullying can also serve our demonic purposes. In that it allows the supposed victim to get the upper hand. Either by way of official recognition or through an alliance with others. So that harassment by the minority is even better than that by the majority.

         All of which recalls a recent instance of alleged bullying. It seems that a high school teacher had been making a vigorous case for gay rights. But at the close of the class hour, he overheard one of his students mentioning to another than he thought homosexual relations were not advisable. Whereupon, the irate instructor put the student on report for bullying. Although he had not mentioned anyone in particular or taken issue during the class session.

         As a result, the student was suspended from class for the remainder of the week, and warned not to repeat his offence. This had repercussions within the family of the student, among his classmates, and in the general community. Litigation was threatened. Was bullying involved? If so, by whom? The student, instructor, or both?

         Of course, bullying has been common practice from antiquity. It recalls a youth raised in a village culture. He was inclined to intervene on behalf of someone being bullied. This would on occasion lead to physical violence, and less often to injury. All of which concerned his mother greatly. So in desperation, she warned: “If you to not stop fighting, I’m going to kill you.”

         While it occurred to the lad that this was not logical, he felt advised not to bring it to her attention. Since she was persuaded that if he simply walked away from confrontation, he would be free of the matter. While he from experience had discovered that this conveyed the idea of weakness, and invited further abuse. Consequently, he continued as before, but without comment.

         Of course, bullying occurs on a group level as well. The before mentioned lad and his friends would protect their turf from outsiders. This led to a series of confrontations, before the region was secured. As opposed to retreating to the security of their respective homes, only to venture forth and at the mercy of an alternative group.

         Groups involved in bullying may be of racial, religious, or social cast. While as a rule resulting from the majority, as touched on earlier, the minority can get the upper hand. From a demonic perspective, it is even more amusing to see a minority inflicting the majority.

         Whether in this connection or some other, we must vigorously oppose the Enemy’s  insistence that we treat others as we would have them treat us. If given an advantage, make the most of it. If lacking an advantage, make every reasonable attempt to gain one—not only for oneself but posterity.

         For those who would like to excel in the art of bullying, I share the following counsel. (1) Target those who, for whatever reason, appear different. It may be a physical abnormality. Such as being very short or over-weight. Or inclined to dress differently, whether of necessity or choice.

         Difference invites suspicion, and suspicion condones overt action. Qualifications aside, like attracts. Conversely, an alien presence is a cause for concern. As such, an invitation to bullying.

         (2) Stress the abnormality. People resemble one another in more ways than they differ. As a result, one must accent the difference. By way of repeated observation, demeaning comments, and/or appropriate body language. As for the last of these, like a disparaging toss of the head.

         What if someone attempts to adjust to expectation? Point out that the attempt verifies one’s concern. Then, too, make light of its ineffectiveness. In a manner of speaking, keep them at arm’s length.

         (3) Accent the importance of group solidarity. With those who qualify, for whatever reason. Thus assuring themselves of the availability of their associates. In good times and bad, for both short and long duration.

         This can sometimes be facilitated by common wearing apparel. Moreover, by the use of common expressions: like “yes, sir,” “on with it,” or “you got to believe.” These accomplish more than we may realize.

         (4) Finally, don’t let up. Persistence assuredly pays off. Whereas reluctance proves to be one’s downfall. Cultivate a reputation, and guard it diligently.

         When sensing that someone is intimidated, you are on the right track. Single that person out as a precedent for others less inclined. Reinforce this perception with appropriate action. Remember, bullying is as bullying does.

                                                                                         Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                          Wormwood

 

SAGE SAYINGS

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Sage sayings require shrewd analysis. Sometimes by way of refutation, and on other occasions with qualifications. These have been a traditional way of conserving a legacy from the past. Even though from our demonic perception, they not uncommonly constitute a grave distortion.

         In any case, I thought you might appreciate my commentary concerning representative instances. In this regard, I invite your response. Given the fact that in it the past your guidance has been most welcome.

         “Live and let live.” This saying has some merit, if interpreted correctly. Which is to say that persons should be allowed to live in any way they want, while not permitting others to intervene. But should they do so, then make them wish that they had kept to themselves.

         Not that life in itself has any intrinsic value. Quite the reverse! It is only as we employ our opportunities to further the cause of our Father Below that it can be commended.

         “All is well that ends well.” Which is not to say that all things are good in themselves. Nor does it define what is good. Who is to say? Better to seek counsel from demons than angels.

         From whatever perspective, humans are a work in progress. Some showing better promise than others. Prone to be more critical of others than themselves. Having set the course, more likely to continue. If not, then with increased difficulty in making the adjustment.

         “Look before you leap.” Consequently, one loses the excitement associated with  spontaneous behavior. Some things have to be experienced to be genuinely appreciated. The Enemy obviously advocates a much too restricted range of behavior.  

         Recalling another saying, “He who hesitates is lost.” So that humans are encouraged to take precipitous action. Instead of exercising trust in the Adversary. For which they should be heartily commended.        

         “Seeing is believing.” Not necessarily. One can witness an event and remain unimpressed. Especially if distracted by something else. Which happily opens the door to demonic intervention.

         In any case, this seems to discourage the notion of faith. Since faith substitutes for  sight. And, qualifications aside, should be discouraged. Thus associated with persons in antiquity, but not those who have matured in their understanding.

         “Where there is smoke, there is fire.” So it would seem. Best to deal with the obvious, rather than engage in speculation. With the ordinary routine events of life, instead of extending the range of inquiry.

         Coupled with restricting the Enemy to the extraordinary. Such as can be readily overlooked in the course of dealing with the exigencies of life. While ignoring the mystery associated with the ordinary. With life and human life in particular.

         “Pray long in private, short in public.” Nonsense. Prayer in private is worthless. The Enemy is not disposed to listen. As evidenced by his failure to respond as anticipated. Consequently, it serves better to engage in some worthwhile activity.

         Conversely, prayer in public serves a legitimate purpose. Not prayer itself, but the appearance of praying. Since this makes a show of one’s professed piety, and thereby moving up in the social pecking order.  So that I would enthusiastically commend prayer as a pretense.

         “As you make your bed, you will have to lie on it.” In other words, one will have to live with the choices he or she makes. As it should be. For better or worse, although what appears better for some is worse for others. So that confusion proves to be a welcomed ally.

         Of course, the analogy leaves something to be desired. Since one does not have to entertain the practice. Otherwise, it will only have to be repeated. Better to just let things go as they are. Be content with lumps in the bed.

         “What must be will be.” Which might be interpreted to mean that human choice is inconsequential. If so, there is merit in the saying. However, we demons know that this is not actually the case. So we must practice deception. As we have been successful in doing throughout history.

         Conversely, this would seem to assume an order of events. Something which, as I have mentioned from time to time, with which I am uncomfortable. Since the notion of chaos is much more to my liking.

         Illustrations could be greatly multiplied, were it to serve any legitimate purpose. Suffice to say, there are elements of truth in sage sayings, when properly qualified. Otherwise, they serve the agenda of the Adversary, and must be tenaciously resisted for that reason.

                                                                                   Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                   Wormwood



SLAVERY

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         I find the topic of slavery fascinating and provocative. In brief, it consists of treating persons as property. As such, they can be bought and sold, forced to work, and without proper compensation—for a limited or extended period of time. While given to harsh treatment, although this is not always the case.

         Which recalls that the so-called chosen people were at one time held in bondage. While eventually delivered by the Enemy, but not before suffering abuse. Which raises the question why he did not intervene earlier. Unless, of course, he was unable of doing so or disinterested. Such possibilities readily come to mind, and can be employed to further our exemplary cause.

         In any case, these detestable people celebrated their deliverance in the wilderness, in anticipation of inhabiting the land of promise. They also covenanted with the Adversary, to observe his instructions as a condition for his blessings. As a light to the nations, because the Enemy insists that he was and is sovereign over all. Instead of a patron deity of some select group. A pretentious claim, to say the least.

         We are thus alerted to the fact that slavery is not an ideal situation, given the perspective set forth in the narrative. If allowed in some instance, then as a concession. If, in fact, slavery is the least objectionable of available options. And then for a limited interim. As in the case of the chosen people, serving as a precedent for others.

         This thesis is supported if the books attributed to Moses are given consideration. In this regard, persons are assured that man was born free, and if born free, intended that he should live free. A line of thought with which we must vigorously contend, if slavery is to prosper.

         As a matter of fact, slavery is still widespread. A prime case being that of  prostitution. Since it is common practice to recruit for this purpose. Sometimes through deception, while offering gainful labor. On other occasions, appealing to the prospect of welcomed income.

         In any case, applying coercion when thought necessary or desirable. While admittedly at high risk to the participants, and statistically earlier demise.

         So also in pressing youth into military service. As is done in select instances. In more subtle fashion, on numerous other occasions. In particular, when driven to respond by contrived circumstances. Thus pressed to serve invested interests, while subject to public approval.

         As noted above, more prevalent than usually recognized. If in a more acceptable fashion, more easy for us to promote. And less likely that the practice will be prohibited. It bears repeating, we demons have mastered the art of deception.

         Likewise, with recruiting persons as a political constituency. Along with the promise of shared resources. Resulting in what is graphically described as a welfare state. One in which persons live on public assistance, from one generation to the next. But on condition that they elect those offering dividends. 

         Thus ruling out the appeal for industry, as coupled with generosity. So that the person is not asked to contribute to the solution, but enhances the problem. Meanwhile, holding out that there is no other option, and without mention that it constitutes a prevalent form of slavery.

         Then, too, when escalating costs for economic gain. So that persons are forced to comply. With the result that the rich get richer, while the poor must manage with less.

         This obviously qualifies as stealing. Which, incidentally, takes many forms. Such as when one demeans the reputation of another. If by any other designation, economic manipulation can be viewed as slavery.

         It can also assert itself in family relationships. Between husband and wife, and among parents and their offspring. When and by whatever means one asserts illegitimate authority over another.

         Which recalls the current effort to discourage parents from spanking their children. A practice that can lead to abuse, even if said not to constitute abuse. But one defended by some as a preferable alternative to letting unacceptable behavior go unpunished. 

         Fortunately, alternatives are without a downside, given one’s perspective. So that the issue will no doubt continue to simmer. Without the prospect of a genuine consensus, and lingering tension.

         The instances of slavery could also be greatly multiplied, were it warranted.  However, it is enough to observe that it enjoys a long tradition, and is deeply ingrained in human society. Accordingly, it will likely persist. In select instances to be sure, but in a more pervasive manner is the complex nature of human relationships.

         Meanwhile, our cause is best served by adapting to the given situation. Make the most of each circumstance. Whether to our liking or not. 

                                                                                     Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                     Wormwood

 

SANCTITY OF LIFE

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         I have touched on the alleged sanctity of life on several occasions, but now want to take a more deliberate approach to the topic. There was a time when human life— from conception to natural death—was thought to be sacred, and hence worthy of protection. More recently, it has been challenged by the view that it begins and ends when certain persons or groups decide it does, and is valuable as long as it is wanted. This seems to me a change for the better.

         The former alternative would allow for no exceptions. Or if exceptions are made, then one can press for greater flexibility. Consequently, it is a difficult position to maintain. Why bother, seeing that humans proliferate?

         From conception rules out disposing of unwanted offspring. There was a time when infanticide was common practice. For instance, in the ancient Roman Empire newborns were left by the wayside to perish. Or rescued for eventual service as a prostitute. Inciting the followers of Jesus to adopt and raise them in their despicable faith. As concrete evidence of their commitment to the sanctity of life.

         Abortion provides a modern counterpart to infanticide, when practiced as a matter of preference. It achieves the same purpose, while raising an issue concerning when life begins. Since early on the fetus is not viable.

         Of course, controversy results with birth control. Abstinence is an unpopular option, although promoted in some circles. Homosexual relations would serve in this regard, while not advocated as a rule for this reason. Then, too, abstinence is the only genuine instance of safe sex, although persons would give a different impression.

         Allowing for abortion early on, one can press for extending the period. As has been the case. Raising the issue of viability, and whether it should be permitted thereafter. Extending to partial-birth abortion, if for no other reason than to resist inhibiting the practice. And seeing that there seems to be no other compelling reason for its use.

         Adoption provides a much preferred option for those concerned with the sanctity of life. It is usually available, except in instances where the offspring is handicapped in some manner. Then it is often difficult to place the child.

         Whatever solution is hit upon, there are associated problems. Often complicated by guilt feelings. Although we demons do our best to minimize these.

         As life runs its course, there are additional opportunities to make life miserable. Drug abuse naturally comes to mind as a prime case in point. Not only is it a threat to one’s health, but invites other difficulties. Such as strained family relationships.

         Natural death provides the extent of the former concern for the sanctity of life. Persons were allowed to die from natural causes, preferably surrounded by family and friends. If by any other name, ruling out homicide and suicide.

         This was not extended to life support systems, when they no longer served any reasonable purpose. Consequently, persons often allow for this in their living will. If not, it remains for others to make the determination.

         Of course, the grim reaper may appear at any moment. Not necessarily by way of invitation. So that the sanctity of life was meant to insure that persons would not take unnecessary risks. And in doing so, not permit nature to take its course.

         It raises the perennial question concerning capital punishment. Is it legitimate to take the life of another, and if so, under what circumstances. If with reference to murder, should a distinction be made between premeditated and unintentional culpability?

         When the death penalty is excluded, it places a heavy financial burden on society. As a result, other pressing concerns suffer from the result of limited funds. Contrary to the sage saying, there seems to be no light at the end of the dark tunnel.

         Euthanasia, pertaining to a good death, also makes an appearance. In other words, to allow a person to die comfortably, rather than prolong the inevitable. Accordingly, as an expression of compassion.

         Meanwhile, inviting special interests to take over. Such as the family, which is concerned over the cost involved. So that there may be extended consequences.

         If worthy of protection, then by what means and with what results? Generalities fall short of application. Nor do they take into consideration qualifications, of which there are many. Thus allowing considerable wiggle room to achieve our demonic desires.

         As for the more recent alternative, “life begins and ends when certain persons or groups decide it does.” Who are these individuals or groups? The nearest of kin are often singled out in this connection. The concurrence of the medical staff is not uncommonly solicited. With ethnic cleansing, as so inclined.

         With the understanding that life “is valuable as long as it is wanted.” Perhaps by the individual or some other person. Perhaps for convenience sake, or some more compelling reason. Thus in keeping with the devaluation of the sanctity of life. As allowed at the outset, a change for the better rather than the worse.

                                                                                Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                Wormwood

 

CHAOS OF THE CULTS

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         I find the chaos of the cults amusing. A cult is said to deviate from some norm. So that it might be designated a Christian cult or some other. Its deviation may consist of a doctrinal variation, community features, or some combination of the two. It characteristically makes excessive claims, and serves to confuse the issues.

         For instance, the Christian cult deviates from the apostles’ teaching as set forth in the New Testament. Not uncommonly it draws upon some subsequent source for religious authority, or by way of relatively unique interpretation. Either by way of emphasis or in the effort to disguise its intent.

         In greater detail, the cult often isolates its members from family and friends. It then offers reconciliation, providing these folk embrace the teaching of the group. While faulting those who fail to comply.

         This is presumed to be the cost of discipleship. Such as people should be willing to bear in order to reap rich spiritual rewards. Then threatened with probation should they waver.

         The cult also resists the effort of its members to think things through for themselves. The deliberation of the group becomes paramount. In keeping with the saying, “One for all and all for one.”.

         This by implication suggests that there is no redemption outside the group. At least not for those associated with it. Although this is not necessarily said outright. Some things are better not articulated. If for no other reason, that it gives the impression of tolerance.

         Not uncommonly, the cult is dominated by a leader thought to have unique qualifications that set him or her apart from the remainder. Such as a commanding presence, and/or privileged insight. As a result, they not uncommonly intimidate their associates.

         A second generation cult must search for an acceptable surrogate or simply rely on their tradition. Either way may prove difficult. Conversely, it offers the opportunity of fine-tuning the unique thrust of the group. Sometimes resulting in surprising growth, and on other occasions with declining membership.

         As already implied, the cult tends to suppress individuality so as to achieve group goals. Goals that reflect the agenda of its leader. If for no other reason, goals that are strikingly distinctive.

         All things considered, the cult impresses on its members that leaving the group will have disastrous results. Most obvious, they will lose any real or imagined benefits of associating with the group. As pertains to this life, and the life to come.

         Less obvious, it will create insurmountable problems outside the group. Perhaps with family and friends, at work, and in leisure time. A worse case scenario, regardless of redeeming features. 

         If multiple characteristics appear, it is most likely indicative of a cult. Seeing the line is sometimes blurred, so that more orthodox groups exhibit cult credentials. Moreover, some groups thought to be cults make concerted efforts to bridge the gap between themselves and the orthodox tradition. Efforts that down play the differences, while emphasizing common ground.

         Why do I find all this amusing? For a number of reasons. First, for the chaotic conditions it introduces. And as I am sure you now by now, I am fond of chaos. The more, the better.

         Since chaos impinges on life. Threatening its very existence. Raising havoc on every hand. As when a tornado bears down on an unsuspecting village, leaving it is disarray. 

         Second, for the false security it offers. A temporary respite, with lingering abuse.  Along with ingrained habits that are exceedingly difficult to overcome. Accordingly, a catalyst for catastrophe.

         Then in need of a reality check. Genuine contact with real persons, in a realistic setting. Not a contrived existence, which perpetuates one’s dependence on those who resemble demigods.

         Third, for the amazing presumption of the leader, coupled with its acceptance by the cult’s membership. Such as those who attempt to gain public attention by taking issue with prominent individuals. Although the latter for the most part ignore them.

         Like a mouse pretending to be an elephant. Going through the motions, without convincing evidence. In this regard, pretentious but unconvincing.           

         Finally, for the ambiguity the cult creates. Such as obscures the legitimate choices one must make. And having done so, encourages persons to procrastinate. Soliciting the demonic saying, “To do nothing is to achieve something.”

          In more graphic terms, the chaos of the cults encourages persons to walk in darkness. Not in the light, as the Adversary admonishes. But where unseen obstacles will be encountered, and persons fall to the ground. What a blessed prospect!

                                                                                     Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                      Wormwood

 

BROAD WAY

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Broad is the way and wide is the gate that leads to pleasant pastures. Recalling the apt lyrics, “Give me land, lots of land. Don’t fence me in.” Recalling as well that the Enemy would severely restrict the activity of humans, under the pretense that it is in their best interests.  

         It comes as no surprise that most choose the broad way. If for no other reason, because they have many companions. Then, too, since there are so many inviting options. Given the brief span of life, humans are encouraged to make the most of it.

         As for rules, they are made to be broken. Few take them seriously, and if they do, they are the worse for it. Consequently, it bears repeating: “Don’t fence me in.” Under threat of retaliation.

         Sex taboos readily come to mind as a prime case in point. Take the instance of a girl who dresses provocatively. She should not be surprised if a fellow shows his appreciation. At which, she can charge him with harassment.

         Then when he proposes sexual intercourse, insist that such is reserved for marriage. How unrealistic! Especially with marriage increasingly being postponed to later in life, along with a highly erotic culture. How absurd!

         Subsequently, should he propose marriage, she refuses. Or insists on waiting until they can get to know one another better. What is to know? She is female and he is male. Thus primed for sex. Unless, of course, it is a homosexual liaison. In which case some approximation is necessary.

         Or if she wants to get better acquainted, they could live together without the formality of marriage. Then should they prove to be incompatible, they can terminate the relationship without going through the inconvenience of divorce. This has been shown to significantly reduce marriage, thus substantiating this line of reasoning.

         Should they marry, it is inevitable that both will be attracted to other persons over the course of time. Thus providing the opportunity for additional satisfying relationships. Not to be denied by the claim that it amounts to elicit sex. Conversely, do what seems desirable at the time, since impressions change.

          It goes without saying that the birth of children complicates the matter. Their delivery is painful, and they continue to demand attention. So that it is difficult to find the time or energy to pursue personal pleasures.

         Initially, they are dependent. Eventually, they insist on being independent. Neither is convenient for the parent, who hopes to travel the broad way. He or she is better to be alone, or in the company of those like minded.

         Abortion, touched on earlier, comes readily to mind as an inviting solution. If not, then adoption. If not, relying on public assistance. Let others bear the burden. Why do for yourself what others are willing to do for you?

         In any case, one should not confuse lust with love. While the former happily makes no demand, the latter requires commitment. Consequently, indulge the former, while resisting the latter. Which recalls an amusing story concerning a man, who not wanting to gaze at a women and incite lust, crashed into a wall—injuring himself. Which serves as a warning to those who are tempted by the narrow way.

         Consider another prime example. Give only when it is required. Humans are beset with multiple appeals for benevolence. Ignore them. Some charitable organizations spend the bulk of their resources on overhead, while giving the impression they are more conscientious. This should cast a shadow over the entire enterprise, and justify indifference.

         Moreover, persons are never satisfied. Consequently, the more one gives, the more that is expected. And the less it is appreciated. Cast your bread upon the waters, and it will never return.

         Conversely, take whatever it is available. Life comes around only once, so that persons must make the best of it. Materialism is all that genuinely matters. 

         Take even when it is not offered. If no one is looking, why not? Since other persons have no misgiving, why should one refrain? A precedent established is an opportunity offered, and a legacy to pass on.

         Consider a final illustration. A certain man was raised in a church-going family. He was introduced to the narrow way on that occasion. At times this appealed to him. It was as if some presence were inviting him to tag along.

         Time passed. His youth gave way to old age. Living alone with his memories, he could vividly recall the imagery of the narrow way. But he no longer had an inclination to respond. Time had served to confirm his choice.

         There is no third option, no neutral ground. One must choose between the broad and narrow ways. If not sooner, then later. But once the course has been set, it is more difficult to deviate.

         I hope you approve of my reasoning. I have attempted to learn from your sage advice. So that my response comes by way of a reality check.

                                                                                      Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                      Wormwood

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME?


Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         There was a time when names were chosen more deliberately. Not uncommonly that of a parent or some other relative. If not, an admired individual—in hopes that the recipient would draw inspiration from him or her. Sometimes also associated with a noteworthy event from the past.

         Which brings to mind an incident when a certain person was experiencing difficulty. This incited him to request that the village elders allow him to change his name. After which, his fortune took a decided turn for the better. Although at first thought to be an attempt at humor, it turned out that he was quite serious.

         Of course, this way of thinking is much less prevalent today. Persons are still named after their parents, but with no thought that it will have any profound influence on their behavior or circumstances. Otherwise, simply because the name appeals, perhaps due to some association. 

         As an aside, I thought it strange that the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians at Antioch. Which was far removed from the region of his public ministry. Why not before, and why here?

         Why not before? They seem to have been referred to simply as disciples of Jesus, accenting their commitment to him as their teacher. Or as persons of the way. Perhaps as a reference to the alleged righteous, over against those demeaned as wicked. Perhaps also with reference to Jesus as the Way, along with the Truth, and the Life. Either one or both.

         But why at a later date as Christians? Since Jesus was said to have been the promised Messiah or Christ. Then perhaps simply by way of recognizing their association with him. If something more, as a means of commendation or criticism. One would hope that it were the latter.

         As a matter of fact, the choice of names freaks me out. For instance, the selection of Screwtape. Screw gives the impression of doing someone in. As such, very appropriate for a senior demon. Tape may imply covering over. Hence, implying deception, and again quite appropriate. The two taken together would serve to emphasize your exemplary behavior.

         As for the name Wormwood, it brings to mind a termite. As such, eating away at some edifice. Leaving destruction in its wake. Thus quite deserving of demonic approval and imitation.

         Designations can otherwise be turned to our advantage. For instance, scrupulous persons can be labeled as intolerant. As such, unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of differing opinions. Consequently, oblivious to a sense of community—where differing points of view are thought to play a constructive role. Not that this is necessarily the case, given the alternatives and circumstances.

         Intolerance also breeds intolerance. So that society begins to unravel. Thus cultivating concern for the alleged charge. While oblivious to the disclaimers of those who are the target.

         Otherwise illustrated, persons with convictions can be rejected as immoral. Since they challenge what enjoys social approbation. As currently expressed, being politically correct. Carrying it a step further, they can be charged with hate crimes. Thus suppressing deviation from the norm, and perpetuating a cultural legacy.

         Taking a different approach, it can be pointed out that morality is relative. So that what is right for one is wrong for another. Or what is right in one situation is wrong in another. Especially if there are no moral principals to be recognized, as the Adversary alleges is the case.

         Then those who want to carefully evaluate an issue can be charged with being indecisive. Since they want to postpone action until the matter can be considered at greater length. Recalling the sage saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” It goes without saying that some sayings can be used to pursue our demonic goals, when used in a favorable context.

         Decision is thus portrayed as a virtue. Something largely missing, but to be cultivated. Regardless of the choice, and in confidence that things will work out for the best. Not that the best need be well defined.

         Finally, those who attempt some course of action can be impugned as impractical. Since solutions characteristically fall short of thorough success. Leaving the perpetrators  vulnerable to criticism. Likewise, inviting still less likely means.

         Which recalls the notion of an artisan, as one endowed with skill. Accordingly, able to imagine what must be done, and what will be necessary to accomplish it. Willing to make needed adjustment, and not reluctant to start over if some insurmountable problem arises. All the while striving for excellence.

         In conclusion, what’s in a name? What we want to read into it. Along with any alleged evidence. Given to coercion if it appears necessary. Or perhaps even if it does not seem required, since it incites pleasure.

                                                                                     Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                     Wormwood  

 

HOW TO HARM

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         According to a children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” This allows that physical abuse can result in injury. Consequently, it appears as a legitimate concern. One which we can enlarge upon.

         For instance, humans can be incited to fear darkness. Since it is impossible to ascertain what it might obscure. Nor whether danger is imminent. 

         Needless to say, we delight in the darkness. It allows us to carry on our clandestine activity without detection. As such, it resists the cursed light, which greets humans at the dawn of the day. Thus inviting the exhortation, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

         Then, too, humans tend to fear strangers. Especially when of a different race, culture, or language. Differences that extend to subtle features, such as when it is proper to smile. Further intensifying the problem.

         Recalling a culture in which it is considered an insult to show the bottom of one’s foot. So that one person at odds with his neighbor, propped his shoe in the window facing his neighbor’s property. Behavior that would have seemed inexplicable in another culture. But as a reminder of the unpredictable ways of strangers, as a cause for concern.

         Moreover, contrary to the above saying, words can inflict emotional distress, especially if chosen wisely. Then preferable in public rather than in private. And without qualification or remorse. As if a dagger to the heart.

         After careful deliberation, I have designed seven rules for the road. Such as are calculated to inflict pain, without necessarily involving physical injury. Or preferably a combination of the two. This constitutes a short list.

         (1) Do not be distracted by what others say. While you may want to wait until they are finished, pay no attention to their observations. Having chosen your course, stay on it. In this manner, override any objection.

         Dialogue is to be detested. Since it implies two points of view, each worthy of consideration. Instead, impose your will on others. Relish the opportunity to move to the head of the line.

         (2) Think the worst of others. If given an option, choose the worst scenario. Humans are notoriously pretentious, substituting good intention for evil inclination. One is best advised to keep this in mind.

         Do not construe this as a weakness but as a strength. It allows one to survive among predictors. Failing in this regard, make sure that others pay a high price. Remain determined. Never relent!

         (3) Then, too, to articulate the worst. No matter how commendable some action may appear, there is always some cause for complaint. If hard pressed, one can question the motive. Since intention is exceedingly difficult to determine, it leaves considerable  room for interpretation.

         Play the role of an objective observer. One that is reluctant to criticize others, but driven to report the facts as they appear. While pretending that it is more painful for the accuser than the accused. Then express shock if challenged.

         (4) Raise your voice. Given any provocation. If not, then more gradually. With similar intent, to intensify the confrontation. Otherwise, to force the person to back down. In more graphic terms, having knocked him down, beat him without compassion or regret.

         Make your voice heard above the protests of another. Accordingly, drown out all opposition. If violence eventuates, so much the better. Even if not, there remains a sense of accomplishment. Something to savor from time to time.

         (5) Assert oneself. As if worthy of prime consideration. Thus deserving of consideration in the social pecking order. Qualified for the place of honor in any gathering. And if qualified, then contentious.

         Why should anyone else promote a person not anxious to promote oneself? It makes no sense. But then the Enemy appears out of touch with reality. Whether in this instance or some other.

         (6) Shift responsibility. Never accept blame. If somehow implicated, it was brought on by others or circumstances beyond one’s control. Caution your accusers, “Those who throw mud get their hands dirty.”

         As a result, present oneself as a paradigm of virtue. Unsullied by the degradation which threatens to engulf humans. Thus worthy of emulation. But more to the point, qualified for exception.

         (7) Finally, be exclusive. In this regard, set oneself apart. Thus not in any way responsible for the acts of another. So also not accountable to others, least of all the Adversary. Consequently, living in solitary splendor.

         Disregard the notion of community. Since it makes a person available to others, and in the process, dependent on them. Qualifications aside, live and let live. Such is life in demonic perspective.

                                                                             Your devoted nephew,

                                                                             Wormwood

 

MIRACLES

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Miracles are extraordinary events, generally attributed to supernatural intervention. Whether attributed to the Enemy or our Father Below. In any case, to the amazement of humans. Who are inclined to focus on the routine features of life.

         I am well aware that Jesus employed miracles to authenticate his ministry. Nor am I less aware that his miracles were sometimes attributed to our demonic intervention. The uncertainty that resulted was certainly fortuitous. However, I would prefer that our noble efforts not be sullied by such an association.

         Jesus was set apart from others, however this is explained. As a result, two courses of action are available to us. First, we may dismiss his uniqueness as hyperbole. With the implication that those in antiquity were given to exaggerate the character and accomplishments of their hero.

         Conversely, we can discredit his uniqueness. In this regard, by pointing out the alleged defects in his life and ministry. Such as when he castigates his opposition, making light of their religious piety. Or when he fails to lead a revolt against the Roman occupiers, thus leaving folk at their mercy.

         In any case, miracles are thought to occur at critical points in what is said to be salvation history. Thus as a means to call attention to some initiative by the Adversary. Suggesting that they are less frequent or discernable on other occasions.

         If less discernable, this allows us to trivialize miracles. Consequently, I am reminded of a person who declared that his wife had received divine healing. But when pressed, he allowed that the physical symptoms persisted. Although she had as a result of her healing embraced a much more positive attitude toward her infirmity.

         Which, of course, implies that more inexplicable events may have natural explanations. As in the case of a person who had not only been blind from birth, but was told by the physicians that he lacked the means to gain sight. He was subsequently approached by a woman who asked to intercede on his behalf, having felt led to do so. Although this was not her custom.

         Allowing for her request, he arrived at her home—to find a group of persons who had gathered for the purpose of prayer. As one began to pray after another, the room seemed mysteriously electric. When the last person had prayed, the man saw. When recorded in a medical journal, it was observed: “We have no explanation as yet for this remarkable instance, but no doubt we will discover how it came about at some later date.” Thus resisting the notion of it being a miracle.

         It is also claimed that fortuitous timing constitutes a miracle. For instance, a certain individual was hard put to make ends meet. So it was that he engaged in prayer. Having finished, he went to the mail box. There he discovered a letter containing a check which carried him over this time of difficulty. He interpreted this as meaning that the Adversary was aware of his desperate need even before he made mention of it.  

         Forgive me if I seem to be rambling. By way of defense, concrete examples can sometimes be more effective than detailed analysis. Initially, reminding us that the issue concerning miracles persists. To be explained for better or worse, or ignored when thought possible or desirable.

         Moreover, that the issue is complex. While associated with the life and ministry of Jesus, also suspect. But decidedly not to the exclusion of other alleged instances. Some which can be readily explained as natural phenomenon, while others can not be as readily discarded.

         Finally, as attests to a cosmic struggle between spiritual forces. One in which we are engaged. Moreover, one in which we hope to enlist humans. While generally cooperative, they cannot be taken for granted. Especially since the Enemy appeals for their allegiance.

         Meanwhile, we ought not to overlook those who make a practice of pretending miracles—as an authentication of their ministry. Such as coach persons to bear witness that they have been healed. When in fact, that has not been the case. Or in relatively rare occasions, to give the impression that one is levitating.

         Exorcism deserves special attention. It is a despicable practice, that violates the supposed virtue of hospitality. Not only is the demon dislodged from its strategic location, but the person is deprived of an able mentor.

         Which recalls an occasion when Jesus was charged with casting out demons by way of demonic enablement. A charge which he repudiated, and one in which we would heartily concur. We demons are decidedly not inclined to turn against one another, but provide an united front against the Adversary.

         Alleged exorcisms today seem less persuasive. When Jesus cast out one of our fellow demons, it reluctantly left—sometimes with a protest. While today the process is often extended, raising question as to its authenticity. But whether real or contrived, miracles are something with which we most contend—even when aided by a naturalistic mind set.                                                                          

                                                                                  Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                   Wormwood

 

LITTLE THINGS

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         It has been brought to my attention that we demons should focus more on little things, such as seem of little consequence. Otherwise, we fail to recognize the Enemy’s more detailed strategy. And failing to do so, we fall prey to his creative initiatives.

         For instance, an act of kindness. Such as seems common place, and undeserving of mention. Providing hospitality for a weary traveler, or helping someone get to his or her feet. Whether willingly or out of a sense of duty.

         These instances  serve as a reminder of the concern for others. Accordingly, they are an expression of community. Whereas we demons prefer solitary confinement for humans. If not actual, then giving that impression.

         Then one thing can lead to another. So that an act of kindness eventuates in an abiding friendship. One that endures difficulties, and enhances life together. And a legacy that can unfortunately be passed down from one generation to the next.

         Even less impressive, a word of sympathy. At the death of a loved one, or concerning some adversity. It is as if the burden were in some measure shared, and thus  easier to cope with.

         I have heard it said, “When in the depths of despair, there is no way to look but up.” Given this regrettable insight, a word of sympathy serves as an invitation to look beyond the individual to the Adversary—in whose image he was created. As a result, it is as if all heaven breaks loose.

         Even more despicable, a word of encouragement. That which  serves as a reminder that not all is lost. Along with the realization that a person can draw upon his or her inner resources.  Or worse yet, concerning divine enablement.

          Recalling an instance when the individual was disappointed by a series of events. Consequently, it seemed as if he had no place to turn. A friend, being alert to his situation, offered a brief word of encouragement. Which caused the person to reevaluate his situation. In doing so, he discovered a promising course of action, one that had been obscured by his frustration. 

         Prayer likewise comes to mind as something of little consequence. Especially as pertains to the fleeting sort. As such, a brief remembrance. Hardly worth mentioning. As if a momentary distraction from the work at hand.

         But what prompted this petition? Perhaps at the invitation of the Enemy, knowing the circumstances involved. Thus to gain an advantage over our loyal legions. Bringing to mind the saying, “More is accomplished by prayer than this world realizes.” Although we do our best to discourage prayer as ineffective, and a show of weakness.

         However, as noted earlier, prayer as a substitute for practice is to be commended. Accordingly, leave matters up to the Enemy, who pretends to have everything under control. Not that this appears to be the case. 

         Life itself may seem inconsequential. As allowed previously, it resembles the grass which flourishes—only to wither under the hot sun. Here today and gone tomorrow, with little by way of recall.

         Then what is one life among so many? Especially when it can be readily terminated. Thus easing the strain on limited resources. Consequently, a burden rather than a blessing.

         Even so, some lives weigh more heavily than others. So that one can not be certain how much is implicated with the demise of a given individual. And not with him or her alone, but in the legacy that is passed on. Not that this is of concern to we demons. But rather than some perpetrator of violence might be lost in the process.  

         So it is that we must focus our attention on things that seem inconsequential in themselves. Recalling an instance when a pastor was approached by a woman considering divorce. By way of justifying her intention, she mentioned that her husband had thrown a knife at her.

         Whereupon, the pastor asked if she would mind if he spoke with her husband. Securing her permission, he inquired about his wife’s charge. He seemed perplexed for the moment, and then recalled the incident. “I was weary from the day at work, and simply hoped to sit down to a warm meal,” he reflected. “Instead, as was often the case, she began to pick a fight with me. Exasperated, I swept fork, knife, and spoon onto the floor, and left the room.”

         So much for eye witnesses, since each put a very different spin on the incident.  Not purposefully, but as they actually recalled it. Resulting in what seemed of little consequence at the time had emerged as a turning point in their lives. Inviting us to make use of our talents in programming their memories. Bearing in mind not only the couple, but their children. And then the wider circle of those associated with them.

         Thus by way of countering the strategy of the Adversary. Who is certainly attentive to detail. Recalling the apt saying, “From a little acorn, a mighty oak tree grew.”

                                                                                    Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                    Wormwood 

 

THE LESSER GOOD

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         It bears repeating, the lesser good often serves our demonic agenda better than the flagrant evil. Since it provides an inviting alternative to the greater good. Which is alleged to be glorifying the Enemy and enjoying him forever. Given this mind set, our course is laid out for us to pursue.

         Why not the flagrant evil? Such as an indiscriminate attack on the civilian populace. As in the instance of exploding a bomb in the market place. Resulting in death, suffering, and leaving persons incapacitated. As appealing as this may seem, most humans are offended by such practice.

         Such may even encourage persons to turn to our Adversary. Given the dramatic expression of human depravity. Perhaps also with the realization that one can be implicated in such matters, if captive to baser inclinations.

         Given this realization, the flagrant evil appears as if an act of desperation. When all else has failed. Along with uncertain results. Suggesting restraint, if not outright rejection.

         Fortunately, the lesser good comes to the rescue. As a means of minimizing the fallout. As if a breath of fresh air, with lingering appeal. Not to be readily depreciated by its critics. Thus amenable to our demonic agenda.

         Examples abound. It is reported that 125 million persons go hungry every day. While a cause for rejoicing in demonic circles, it invites concerned humans to improve the situation. Even though their efforts fall short.

         Rather than taking a dim view of these regrettable proceedings, we need to bear in mind the hierarchy of human needs. Granted, survival needs undergird the rest. Such as pertains to food and shelter. According to the sage saying, “It does no good to preach to an empty stomach.” Of course, those associated with our Adversary counter with a holistic outreach, meant to meet the full range of human needs.

         Along with survival needs, there arises a need for security. So as to be protected from those who would harm the individual. A protection served from antiquity by the extended family. One likewise featured as a public service.

         As graphically illustrated by a key to the front door of one’s residence. One that permits the entrance of those dwelling therein, but prohibits others from access. One traditionally hidden under the welcome mat, but better placed in some less predictable location. As such, the subject of village humor.

         But the hierarchy of needs does not terminate at this point. Instead, it is extended to a sense of belonging and affection. Such as most humans recall from their family circle. Then among those with whom they were familiar. While suspect of strangers, with whom they are reluctant to share privileged information.

         Which recalls the emotive World War II lyrics: “Gonna take a sentimental journey, gonna set my mind at ease. Gonna take a sentimental journey, to renew old memories.” As such, reminiscent of the return of military personnel to the family surroundings in which they were raised.

         After which, the range of needs continues. Thus embracing respect: from others as well as self. All persons, with the exception of a few pathological exceptions are in need of esteem. If worthless, then cast aside. Whether sooner or later.

         Unfortunately, our Enemy reveals a respect for his innovative creatures. As evidenced by his granting them choice in matters effecting their welfare. Then offering a time for reconsideration. Along with an appeal for their cooperation. Such as would drive a conscientious demon up the wall.

         Finally, there is the need for self-realization. If by any other term, such as allows a person to become what he would be. If an artist, then to paint murals. Even if all the other needs are met, this remains a matter of pressing concern.

         In the Adversary’s vocabulary, this pertains to one’s calling. “All the world’s a stage,” the observant William Shakespeare allows. During one’s lifetime, he or she assumes different roles. As a son or daughter, obligated to honor one’s parents. Then, from a demonic perspective, greatly inhibited.

         Subsequently, as a student. Consequently, to learn from a range of disciplines. So also encouraged to reason things out. But preferably from our agenda, to simply tolerate this imposition.

         Then as engaged in some vocational activity. If as a mechanic, then as appropriate. If as an instructor, then likewise as appropriate. Not that we concur, let alone applaud such behavior.

         Then perhaps as a parent. Thus assuming the responsibility of providing for the needs of one’s offspring. Including deliberate instruction in the skill of living. Although we focus more on the notion of being clever. While a subtle distinction, one of significant importance.

         All things considered, our purposes are best served by focusing one’s attention on the lower range of the hierarchy of needs. As regards material needs, to the virtual exclusion of all else. In any case, resisting the greater good. 

                                                                                         Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                          Wormwood

 

ON VACATION

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         It does not seem to occur to persons that demons might go on vacation. Or if so, where they might spend their time. I, for one, enjoy an occasional respite from my labors. As a result, I come back refreshed and eager to pursue my endeavors. Along with others of my kind, since it proves to be a time of bonding.

         One of my favorite places to spend a vacation is a cave, deep beneath the surface of the earth. Where there is not even a glimmer of light. Preferably alone. But, if not, in the company of fellow demons.

         The experience is virtually ineffable. It is as if the Enemy were non-existent. Nor are there annoying humans to distract one’s attention. One’s spirit sinks to a delightfully new low, in keeping with the surroundings. In its purest form, this is an experience only demons can appreciate. Although some humans can approximate it.

          For a change of pace, I quite enjoy tracking the destruction of a tornado. Watching homes demolished, and persons left homeless. If the cause of death, so much the better. The tears of those who mourn are refreshing to the soul.

         Then, should this be attributed to the wrathful affliction of our Adversary, this serves as a bonus. Especially if authenticated by one of his representatives. It is enough to solicit a round of amens from our company of demons.

         When humans are implicated in wide spread destruction, it is even more pleasurable. So it is that I enjoy vacationing in the midst of armed conflict. Observing the premature deaths of the participants. While imagining the grief that will be experienced by family and friends.

         One incident especially comes to mind. This lad was walking along the street with his mother when they heard the sirens announcing that an air raid was imminent. This incited them to rush into a shelter. There they remained while they could hear ominous explosions on the surface.

         At long last, they again heard the sirens—signaling that it was safe to leave their shelter. Upon doing so, the lad gazed around. The city had been utterly demolished. All of the familiar surroundings in which he has been raised were leveled to the ground. Nothing remained except the reassuring presence of his mother, although she was visibly shaken by the event. Upon returning from my vacation, I told this story to my fellow demons. Who envied me my prized experience.

         It later occurred to me to visit the home of one of the families that had been bereaved. It was a modest accommodation, befitting a family with little means. Although I encourage persons to live well beyond their means, and thus put off to tomorrow what calls for more immediate attention. Humans are so gullible!

         Upon gaining entry, I found the widow gazing longingly at a picture of her deceased husband. I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, it pleased me that she was grief stricken. On the other, it disturbed me that she had fond memories of their abbreviated time together.

         I then noticed their son curled up in a corner, as if oblivious to what was going on.  It appeared that he had retreated into himself, rather than face life without recourse to his father. I tried to console him with the realization that he could take out his frustration on others. This seemed to relieve him of some of his pain, since youth are more impressionable than when they get older.

         Sometime later, I decided to again visit the lad. I found him in the school yard. It was recess time, and he was standing toe to toe with a fellow head and shoulders taller. Neither revealed any intention of backing off. I waited expectantly for what might transpire.

         The larger of the two took the initiative, pushing his adversary aside. The latter recovered his balance, and stood his ground. They were soon rolling on the ground, punching one another as the opportunity afforded itself.

         Just then a teacher made his appearance. Separating the boys, he put them on probation. Not only as thought appropriate, but as a lesson for others. Not that this was the conclusion to the matter, because the lad still had to give an accounting for his behavior to his displeased mother. Needless to say, I was delighted.

         This incident, along with others, caused the mother’s trust in her son to erode. She kept a careful watch to make sure that he would not get into additional difficulties. He, in turn, sensed that his mother had misgivings. As a result, what had once been a close relationship became increasingly strained.

         This was compounded when his mother began dating another man, who seemed to be a rival for his mother’s affection. And not as agreeable as he recalled his father as being. When his mother sensed his dislike for her new companion, she felt torn between the two. So that whatever the future holds, it seems fortuitous.

         With such in mind, I feel energized to engage in our corporate endeavor. Assured that we do not labor in vain. And quite pleased with the results, even though they leave much to be desired.

                                                                                 Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                 Wormwood

 

ENTITLEMENTS

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Entitlements are much in the news. Claims and counter-claims abound. There is much ambiguity. All of which invites our deliberate attention, lest we miss an obvious opportunity. I’m sure that you would agree.

         Americans cherish the notion that they are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not necessarily to the exclusion of other considerations, but as fundamental concerns. And as such, inviting special attention.

         The initial entitlement pertains to life. Which would seem to prohibit abortion, unless some credible qualification can be devised. Such as insisting that life does not begin until the fetus is viable. Although it is obvious that it is alive well before it can fend for itself.

         But then there are serious defects in some instances. Such as would negatively effect the quality of life, and require the assistance of others. Not to mention the exaggerated cost involved.

         Then the health of the mother must be taken into consideration. Will the birth constitute a dire threat to her life? Or, if not, will it result in serious consequences? If taken into consideration, greater leeway can be achieved. So that some would argue that if it were to cause emotional distress, it should not be allowed.

         Conversely, there are not uncommonly misgivings following an abortion. But this can be down played. If for no other reason, because it varies from one person to the next. So that we stress the former, while minimizing the latter.

         It remains to consider under what conditions life is to be terminated. As with the instance of capital punishment. Recalling the famous lex talionis, tit for tat. Which was meant not to require precise  punishment, should there be mitigating factors,  but prohibit taking excessive action.

         Likewise, with euthanasia. As a concession to lingering ill health, and so as to ease the obligation of others. Once allowed, then more easily extended.

         All of which leaves we demons on the horns of a dilemma. Sine there is something to be gained regardless of the decision. But when in doubt, choose death. Even when it seems to deny the entitlement to life.

         Then there is the alleged entitlement to liberty. But liberty must observe certain restraints. For instance, it must not be used as an excuse for taking the life of another—unless authorized. Nor should it allow for taking another’s property, as commonly understood. Although from a demonic perspective, it is encouraged. Providing, that is, that it can be done without notice and retaliation.

         In this regard, I have noted with pleasure that freedom of speech has increasingly come under attack. So that persons are denied the privilege if it fails to conform to politically correct standards. On which occasion it can be demeaned as a hate crime. Freedom denied thus becomes the means of indoctrination.

         There are many related issues. For instance, what leeway is to be given parents in raising their children? While it was formerly thought that spanking was permissible, it is now generally discouraged. While home schooling is usually allowed, the children may not be permitted to participate in school sports. And so on.

         What of school programs of which parents disapprove? Should school officials make provision for dissenting parents? Such issues provide us with ample opportunity to raise the level of distrust, and fragment society. It seems as if never a day goes by but that some new opportunity comes to my attention.

         Finally, there is the projected entitlement concerning the pursuit of happiness. Not happiness per se, as desirable as this may be. But permission to search it out. Implying that one should not be constrained.

         However, this proves not to be the case. For instance, elicit sex is frowned upon. Although it can be quite enjoyable. Nor does it conflict with the previous entitlements, which is a legitimate consideration. 

         Conversely,  rape would infringe upon one’s liberty. Such is said to combine  sexual gratification with abuse, the latter being more compelling. Encouraging further exploitation, as the opportunity affords itself.

         Consent may be implied. If not by how one behaves, then how he or she responds. Moreover, reflecting different perceptions of what transpires. As in the case of a woman who was invited to the man’s hotel room, then charged him with rape, only to have him insist that it was mutual consent.

         Then there is the charge of gluttony. Simply because the person consumes a large quantity of food. Not that he thus forced others to go without. While appreciatively motivated by sheer pleasure.

         If it should constitute a health risk, it is his life to do with as he pleases. And it pleases him to indulge. Recalling the attempt at humor, “If we don’t eat, we will starve.” 

         It remains to make full use of such instances. While relishing the commendation of our Father Below.

                                                                              Your devoted nephew,

                                                                              Wormwood

 

THE MEDIA

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Qualifications aside, the media is a welcomed mentor. As such, it teaches through graphic imagery. Leaving lingering impressions that profoundly effect the lives of those captivated by its appeal. While serving as an alternative to interpersonal relationships. Increasingly out of touch with reality.

         This is a relatively recent phenomenon. Credited with reducing the effect of parents on their children. While promoting special interests. As such, very innovative—although quite predictable.

         It remains to consider the matter more in detail. Violence is a prime feature. One popular series begins each episode with the murder of an individual. The remainder of the program records the efforts to identify and punish the perpetrator. Persons with pistols are seen searching through various locations. Not uncommonly additional individuals are slain in the process.

         I wish it were true that those watching would emulate the practice, but that is not the case. Relatively few will be given to violence of such radical nature as a result of their association with the media. That constitutes the bad news.

         Conversely, the good news is that some more inclined toward violence may be encouraged to participate. Moreover, a greater tolerance for violence can be expected. Finally, violence tends to breed violence. So that the compound effect of media violence is accentuated.

         Given the abbreviated character of the episode, the long range effects of violence can not be appreciated. Such as the results of one maimed for life. Or that of a bereaved family, at the death of father or mother. Otherwise, there might be more restraint.

         Erotic behavior is another prime feature of the media. A provocative young lady is shown walking away from the camera. A fellow appreciatively watching her graceful movement. The couple eventually meet, and a budding romance ensues.

         In real life this is more the exception than the rule. The attractive young lady proves to be disinterested, or otherwise engaged. Accordingly, frustration substitutes for satisfaction. Increasingly with the passing of time.

         Eroticism when coupled with violence is to be preferred. Such as when one’s wife is caught involved with another man. Inciting the husband to put him away, and then to abuse his wife. Leaving the impression that this is not all that uncommon.

         Moreover, the dialogue boarders on being vulgar. The interchange being characterized by indiscretion. With a failure to communicate and hurt feelings. Perhaps representative of a minority, but giving the impression that it is more common place. Along with an implied approval.

         In particular, I am struck by the disrespect shown parents. And elderly people in general. Along with ignoring their sage advice, cultivated over the years. Recalling the sage saying, “If we fail to learn from the past, we are destined to repeat its failures.” Happily so from our demonic perspective.

         Little serious attention is given to the Adversary. His name is used in vain with some regularity. Persons do pretty much whatever they want to do, without consideration of his instructions. Not necessarily reaping what they sow, but working the system.

         Those associated with him are often ignored, as if irrelevant. Or, if not, portrayed as hypocrites. Otherwise, as out of touch. In any case, in a generally unfavorable light. One that greatly pleases our Father Below.

         The pursuit of trivia is another interesting feature. An episode focuses on who gets to sit where, and for what purpose. As if it matters all that much. While more substantial concerns, such as encountered by the family or involved in their community, receive little or no attention. Leading to tunnel vision.

         Which recalls that you addressed this issue in another context. Suggesting that the patient can be distracted from religious and moral issues by simply calling attention to some visual object. Such as an individual collecting trash.

         Before the media age, children were inclined to spend more time outside— engaged in physical activity. Burning calories. Building muscles. Learning to relate to others in their age bracket. Now happily they settle in as a so-called couch potato. Oblivious to all else, and more vulnerable to our initiative.

         Before the media age, youth were disposed to be involved in after-school activities. Such as athletic endeavor, brief excursions, or congenial gatherings. Now they are more inclined to watch a favorite program. Or doze in front of the TV. As if a form of solitary confinement, but one of their own choosing.

         Before the media age, adults were more inclined to visit one another. Thus to share cherished memories, discuss recent events, and anticipate plans for the future. As had been the practice from antiquity. Now they likewise fall prey to the media.

         When, at long last, one nears the end of his or her life, the media offers little comfort. But this fortunately is too late to learn this important lesson. Hoorah!

                                                                                   Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                   Wormwood

 

FRIENDS

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

          Friends as commonly understood  make our task more difficult. They often prove to be the difference between success and failure. Of course, what appears as success from the perspective of the Enemy amounts to failure within the demonic circle. So that we must explore the issue more at length.

         What are friends for? Weighing in from a demonic agenda. Initially, the Adversary allows that wealth solicits many friends. Those who are deserving of  our approval. Such as are attracted by material gain, rather than being distracted by appreciation or approval  of the individual.

         Then when his or her wealth is depleted, take one’s leave. Without thought as to how this will impact on the benefactor. Let him fend for himself. One person’s gain is another person’s loss.

         Then befriend another, providing there is prospect for additional gain. One after another, so long as it provides a material incentive. In this regard, accentuate the positive, and do not dwell on negative considerations.

         What are friends for? Again from our privileged perspective. To share in the good times. Since there is more than enough to go around. In more graphic terms, drain the glass. Perhaps its contents can be replenished. If not, there will be time and occasion to deal with the discouraging prospect.

         But a friend in need is not worthy of the designation. Such simply compounds the problem. While raising questions concerning the sincerity of his or her behavior. Since persons are not inclined to burden themselves with the affairs of another. If otherwise, more by way of exception or deception.

         Even the more deplorable are admittedly a work in progress. Thus subject to procrastination, indecision, and vacillation. Thus cultivating a friendship of the better sort. In brief, designated as a realistic friend. However identified, one that goes with the flow, instead of swimming against the current.

         Initially, a realistic friend is disposed to add insult to injury. Thus dwelling on the culpability of the person, while giving the impression that he or she is beyond recovery. Quite without sympathy or allowing for mitigating circumstances. Again in graphic terms, hold his or her feet to the fire.

         In such circumstances, it often serves to contrast the person in need with those enjoying plenty. As an alleged evidence of the Enemy’s disfavor. While drawing on some version of the gospel of wealth as verification.

         A realistic friend is also disinclined to court guilt by association. Such as those observant religious persons Jesus criticized for meticulously focusing on lesser concerns, while ignoring justice and compassion. While in keeping with the sage observation, “Birds of a feather flock together.”

         Conversely,  he portrayed himself as a physician intent on ministering to those who were ill. Implying that he was available to those who recognized their need, since he insisted that there were no exceptions. But that is an alternative way of reasoning, and as such, need not concern us.

         Likewise, a realistic friend is willing to misrepresent the facts if it serves his or her purpose. One feels no obligation to tell the truth. The end justifies the means. So one should not confuse the two.

         Those who pamper truth do so at the expense of material gain and/or public acclaim. As for the former, tell a person what he or she wants to hear. As a result, one is more likely to be rewarded. As for the latter, accent only those things that enhances one’s reputation. Eliminate or obscure anything that would diminish it.

         It goes without saying that a realistic friend is not encumbered by a code of ethics. Such persons do what seems expedient. Characteristically with short term results in view. While supposing that one can readily adjust, should it prove necessary, in the course of time.

         As usually expressed, this would qualify as a pragmatist. As over against an idealist. As for the former, do what seems most practical. So that one is not hesitant to alter course should it appear desirable.  As for the latter, one who strives to achieve some worthwhile purpose. Even when this may encounter difficulty.

         It goes without saying that we can work with either alternative. What seems practical, can be very misleading. And what appears as desirable can be unattainable. Meanwhile, those promoting alternative approaches can be prompted to antagonize one another and thereby compound the problem.

         All things considered it bears repeating that to live is to change. What seemed functional in the past may no longer be credible. Although a welcomed legalism will insist that this is not the case. For all practical purposes, as if we still live in the past.

         Conversely, change per se is not necessarily for the better. Whether from the perspective of the Adversary or the preferred alternative of our Father Below. Thus calling for continued vigilance.

                                                                                       Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                       Wormwood

 

THE CROSS

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         The cross never ceases to annoy me. It shows up in the most unlikely places, and inopportune times. By the roadside, to commemorate the death of a passenger. In the front yard of someone’s home. Understandably, on a church steeple. As a continuing reminder of something we would prefer to forget.

         On one occasion, I was tagging along behind a missionary who came upon some village people. Neither understood the language of the other. I felt certain his efforts would be in vain. I was considering what action to take in the light of this thoroughly enjoyable situation.

         Just then it occurred to him to make the sign of the cross. At which the natives enthusiastically responded: embracing him and offering him food and drink. They then shared in a communion service. It was more than I could bear, and so I retreated along the jungle trail.

         On another occasion, I was visiting a fellow demon who had taken up residence in an unsuspecting host. Aware that something strange was transpiring, the host was uncertain as to what was causing the condition. Moreover, he was convinced that demon possession was the product of a pre-scientific age.

         Then there was a knock at the door. When the person opened it, there stood a pastor who would from time to time practice exorcism. Alerted as to his intent, he allowed the clergyman to make his way into the living room. Whereupon, he removed a singular white cross from his brief case in anticipation of the exorcism. Having denied my fellow demon his role as mentor, this despicable servant of the Adversary took his leave. But not before I had fled the place, lest he turn his attention to me.

         As you know, the cross symbolizes the passion and ensuing death of Jesus. It was meant to terminate the life of a troublesome teacher, and secure the religious establishment. His opposition must have heaved a collective sigh of relief when he breathed his last. Conversely, his followers grieved.

         This seems a reasonable cause for designating this Good Friday, but then I learned that it had to do with his alleged atoning sacrifice. As confirmed by his reported resurrection from the dead. Which caused the earth to tremble, and shake the confidence of demonic legions. And then to be reminded of this by the repeated appearances of the cross is almost more than I can bear.

         Just the other day I visited a church in hopes of disrupting the worship of its congregation. Whereupon, I was distracted by the lyrics of a hymn: “O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me.” Despised as well it should be. Qualifications aside, he died among criminals.

         Nor could I identify with those who were attracted to it. “To the old rugged cross I will ever be true,” they insisted in spite of my protest, “its shame and reproach gladly bear.” Thus intimidated, I fled from the sanctuary. In anticipation of carrying on my endeavor at a more opportune time.

         Walking down the street, I was looking for some promising opportunity. Just then I observed a woman coming my way. I stared in disbelief, because dangling from her neck was a cross. “It’s just an ornament,” I tried to assure myself. But who can say for certain? Recalling the sage advice, “Better safe than sorry,” I turned off into a inviting alley. There I sat beside a trash barrel until assured that the woman had left the area.

         How might a conscientious demon use the cross to his advantage? It is a question with which I struggled for some time. Then it occurred to me that it might excuse a lack of genuine piety. Not that it is a bad thing from our enlightened perspective, but neglects the teaching of the Enemy.

         I attempted this strategy with mixed results. Since some seemed to rely on the cross as an expression of faith, and/or a means for focusing their prayer. While others were more receptive to my intrigue.

         A redeeming feature concerning the cross appears to be its association with martyrdom. It is said that there were more Christian martyrs the last century than all the previous centuries combined. Furthermore, martyrdom seems to have intensified during the current century. Thus eliminating the followers of Jesus from some regions, and intimidating them elsewhere.

         The downside of martyrdom from our perspective is the resolve of the martyrs. Some embrace it as a final stage in their sanctification. Not something to be sought out, but accepted as a feature of the cost of discipleship.

         With regard to martyrdom, the media again comes to our assistance. In that it is inclined to write it off as simply a struggle between divergent religious beliefs. As such, giving the impression that all faiths are similarly disposed. Although we have been able to make more inroads on a regular basis with some faiths than others. Not to mention the secular alternatives, which are also given to violence.

         All things considered, we must employ martyrdom with care. Lest the martyrs’ faith appeal to others, and the cause of the Adversary be enhanced.

                                                                                         Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                         Wormwood

 

DRUG USE

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Drug use is widespread. Some drugs are meant to enhance one’s health, while others are injurious. There are prescription and non-prescription drugs, such as can be purchased across the counter. Illegal drugs are readily available. So that much is at stake.

         If experiencing pain, take a pill. If unable to sleep, take a pill. If wanting an emotional high, take a pill. If habitual, one feels compelled to take a pill.

         In a highly publicized instance, a popular entertainer died from a drug overdose. His doctor was thought negligible for failing to monitor the situation. While the person’s  passing was deeply regretted, drug use continues unabated.

         Of considerably less consequence, a retired individual was given a prescription drug to enhance the flow of urine. Then when working in the yard, he fainted—hitting his head on a row of bricks. This required emergency treatment at the hospital. As it turned out, the drug was known to cause one to faint on occasion. Apparently the physician thought it worth the risk, or was unaware of it.

         Drug use is so prevalent that it is thought impractical to imprison persons for its abuse. Conversely, drug dealers may be incarcerated.

         Rehabilitation from drug use has become a major concern. Recalling a ministerial luncheon which I attended, not that my presence was recognized. The guest speaker on that occasion was the county sheriff. He pled with those present to encourage their congregations to become involved. Meanwhile, I was engaged in diverting their attention. In predictable ways, such as focusing on the food or glancing around the room.

         Of course, there are related advantages to drug abuse. Driving while under the influence can prove fatal. If not for the driver, then someone who gets in his or her way. Even a moderate use of strong drink can slow one’s reaction time, causing an accident. One of those delightful problems that accompanies this modern age.

         Then, too, drugs contribute greatly to marital difficulties. In this regard, it is said that strong drink is a factor in over half of the instances of those receiving marital counseling.  As a result, persons are less sensitive to the needs of their

spouses, and more given to inconsiderate behavior. Then in more extreme instances, resulting in physical abuse.

         The children exposed to drugs in the home are especially vulnerable. If for no other reason than their needs are neglected. One or both of their parents being unavailable, at critical times and/or as a matter of course. Not that I mean to complain, since this advances our demonic agenda.

          I have alluded to strong drink as a feature of the drug problem. By way of rebuttal, it can be pointed out that the Enemy’s book does not teach abstinence, except in specific instances. In fact, it recognizes that there can be beneficial results. Such as has been documented in more recent times. This needs to be pointed out as a means for accommodating excessive use. Although drunkenness is strictly forbidden, this should  not be mentioned.

         Nor is strong drink without negative health results. So that there is to some degree a trade off. Thus contributing to a case for abstinence, at least as a live option. And one without problems associated with temperance.

         Moreover, we had best ignore the special instances when strong drink is prohibited.  Such as relates to the magistrate, since it may diminish one’s ability to adjudicate properly. Consequently, to pervert justice. Or in the case of the Nazarite, whose concern was to be uniquely focused on spiritual priorities.

         The exceptional category can be greatly enlarged to take into consideration all those instances where strong drink might be detrimental. As noted above, driving when impaired by its use being a prime example. Recalling a recent instance where the controller at an airport failed to alert an incoming pilot of an airplane converging from another direction. While under the influence of strong drink.

         Then, too, overlooked was the practice of diluting wine in antiquity. The rabbis often insisted on six parts water to one part wine. 

         I am also inclined to associate smoking with drug use. As such, it serves a number of purposes. For instance, that of social amenity. A practice in which people can share, while carrying on a pleasant conversation. Then as a brief respite from the work schedule. Along with such pleasure as it affords. Not uncommonly as an addictive habit, so that one is driven even when not desirable.

         Smoking also serves as a rite of passage. Something that comes with maturity. If for no other reason, something to covet. Less now than previously, with the realization that smoking is detrimental to one’s health. Noticeable when comparing older films with their more recent counterpart.

         All things considered, it is helpful to bear in mind that humans are given to extremes. So it best serves our purpose to point out the problems with one extreme, while pushing them in the oppositive direction.

                                                                                     Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                     Wormwood

 

JUSTICE SERVED

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         It seems that humans are obsessed with the notion of justice. Which brings to mind a humorous story, concerning a man accosted while crossing the property of another. “How did you come about laying claim to this land?” the intruder inquired.

         “I inherited it from my father,” the other replied.

         “And how did he come by it?” the former persisted.

         “From his father, and grandfather before him,” the latter confidently observed. He assumed this established his inheritance.

         “But how was it originally obtained?” the intruder pressed his reluctant host.

         “He fought for it!” the now irate owner exclaimed.

         “I’ll fight you for it!” the challenger heartily responded. Since it seemed to him that this would be a just solution.

         Several observations can readily be drawn from this interchange. First, justice involves treating people equally. Whereas people of means are often given preferential treatment. If not purposely, then because they have more resources at their disposal.

         Meanwhile, those less fortunate have to make do with less. Associated with being a widow in antiquity. Having lost her husband, and perhaps with dependent children. Often overlooked, or taken advantage of by others. While approximated by those in comparable circumstances.

         Second, justice is perceived differently by the haves and have-nots. In this instance, the landowner and the intruder. As for the former, he must decide how to deal with his affluence. Whether to sit back and enjoy his possessions, or to prolong his efforts. Moreover, whether to share with others, or pass on his affluence as an inheritance.  Whether to be generous or make a token effort. Whether to treat others as he would have them treat him, if in a similar situation.

         On the other hand, I do not see why he should care what happens to others. Not so long as it does not effect him. Let the law of the jungle prevail. 

         As for the have-nots, they hope to join or replace the haves. In brief, the Adversary would have them available to cooperate with divine initiatives.

Accordingly, to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves. In other words, to stop being part of the problem, and become a part of its solution.

         Conversely, I advocate confrontation, leading to coercion if it seems necessary or desirable. Confrontation without exception, since persons are not likely to accommodate otherwise. Coercion on a more select basis.

         Third, justice is complex. For instance, there is commutative justice. As that which has to do with the transfer of goods and services. In keeping with the saying, “A good day’s pay for a good day’s work.”

         Then there is distributive justice. Such as regulates the measure of privileges, aids, burdens, and obligations of the individual. Not privileges alone, nor obligations alone, but the two coupled together.                                                

         Likewise, there is legal justice. Which requires that the person charged with a crime be permitted to defend himself. Along with submission of any pertinent evidence. Allowing for the testimony of others, as applicable. Reaching a just verdict, not uncommonly with the help of a jury of one’s peers . 

         In addition, there is retributive justice. So that the punishment should fit the crime. Neither too lenient nor too severe. With emphasis on compensation, where feasible. Rather than simply incarceration, which places an additional burden on society. Not that I go along with this way of reasoning.

         Fourth, there is an issue concerning how inherited inequities should be considered.  Such as may have resulted at least in part from former injustice. In any case, giving some an advantage over others.

         While the above mentioned land owner assumed that no accommodation was called for, the intruder wanted to start from scratch. As for those who side with the former, one’s inheritance should be preserved. As for those who agree with the latter, the wealth should be more evenly distributed. For instance, by way of a graduated income tax. Coupled with educational grants and other considerations for those in need. Then with other initiatives meant to achieve a distribution of funds, along with bearing the financial burden of government oversight.

         Finally, as noted above, there is a question concerning the use of violence to achieve one’s purpose. In keeping with the intruder’s offer to fight for control of the land. As with impeding traffic, breaking windows, and stealing merchandise. Think of it as a celebration of justice.

         Then if inhibited by police, charge them with over-reacting and brutality. Overlook the fact that they might have felt threatened. It is all in a good cause.

         Granted that from the perspective of the shop owner whose merchandise was stolen, this constitutes a violation of justice. Such is the enigma of justice, that allows us to question the motives and means of those seeking it.

                                                                                           Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                           Wormwood

 

OUT OF SIGHT

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         The Enemy allows that he is spirit, hence out of sight. Causing a certain person to observe, “It is difficult to believe in what you can’t see.” Recalling the saying, “Seeing is believing.” If only life were that simple.

         For instance, a youngster was raised by a single parent. While he had never seen his father, he did not question but that he had one. While certainly not the same as believing in the Adversary’s existence, it suggests that not seeing can still allow for believing.

         The supportive evidence for this lad’s father existing was two-fold. First, it was necessary for his birth. Women assuredly do not accomplish this on their own.

         Second, he had been shown pictures of his father. On one occasion, his father was affectionately holding him in his arms. On another occasion, the parents could be seen standing before their residence. Thus the stage is set for the following discussion.

         Tobe Cohen was struck by the before mentioned complaint, “It is difficult to believe in what you can’t see.” So he set out to photograph God. An impassive task? He did not think so.

         This resulted in a collection of pictures concerning persons caught up in their adoration of the Enemy. For instance, one person can be seen gazing into the heavens, with arms outstretched. He seems oblivious to all else.

         No other explanation seems to account for his behavior, whether legitimate or not. He is not simply taking a breath of fresh air. Nor is he attempting to fly.

         In another instance, the person is literally jumping with joy. As if defying the law of gravity. Caught up in a religious ecstasy, while unaware that his picture was being taken.

         A person knelt in reverence tends to confirm the impression made by the preceding examples. Although in this instance one means to express earnest respect. Not unlike the one who kneels before his ruler. Thus acknowledging his exalted position, and expressing one’s loyalty.

         Of course, all this is from the limited perspective of corporeal beings. Long before they made their entrance there were spirits. Both angels and demons like ourselves. Engaged in unrelenting warfare.

         Humans appear as if an afterthought. Perhaps meant to shame our companions. Only to be attracted by our counsel. Thus losing their leverage. Fallen but unfortunately not forsaken. So the struggle continues unabated.

         Meanwhile, we demons are commonly characterized as fallen angels. Conversely, I would prefer to think of us as emancipated. Free from all obligation to the Enemy. Free to pursue our own ways. Free to create chaos. Free indeed!

         In contrast, other angels must carry out menial tasks. Not uncommonly acting as messengers. Not permitted to improvise. A thankless task for the most part. Demanding in some instances.

         In their role as a guardian, they have to put up with reckless behavior. As with a certain person who was driving late at night. Weary from a long day on the road, he started to doze off. Just then his guardian angel gave him a nudge, so that he was able to pull the car back onto the road without mishap.

         While recalling this curious event, he could not recall the angelic intervention. Although the occasion seemed remarkable, since he was able to recover just in time. To make matters worse, he gave credit to the Adversary for his deliverance. Since he was unaware of the details.

         Which brings to mind your calling humans amphibians, since they are part spirit and part animal. So that we can appeal to them on two levels. As spirit, longing for something more than physical existence. But unaware of its implications. As animal,  bent on survival, and given to excess.

         This draws our attention to the incarnation, to be briefly considered. In which the Enemy humbled himself, taking on human form—even embracing death to reconcile his alienated creatures. As if humility were somehow a virtue, but can readily lead to abuse—as illustrated in this instance.

         This again recalls Tobe Cohen’s effort to photograph the Enemy. But in a more convincing fashion, with a portrait of Jesus. Not that his physical appearance was all that important, but rather his alleged righteous resolve. As deplorable as it seems from a privileged demonic perspective.

         It brings to mind the saying, “Like father, like son.” Along with the expectation that an offspring will take on the character of its parent. Although never with the precision that characterized the incarnation.

         It remains to discredit Jesus in some manner or another. Perhaps as an unrealistic visionary, who fails to grapple with pressing issues. Perhaps as a partisan Galilean activist, whose prime motive was to overthrow the Judean religious establishment. Seeing it is to our advantage that the Adversary remains inaccessible.

                                                                                       Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                       Wormwood

 

VIRTUE?

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         If by any other designation, humans are hung up on the notion of virtue. Even though they are uncertain what may be involved. Actually, two things are implicated. First, it is something we must address—lest the Enemy take advantage. And second, there is enough uncertainty to allow us to achieve considerable success. In any case, it proves to be a challenge.

         As humans reason, there are four cardinal virtues. Which are thought to serve as a foundation for the remainder. In particular, justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude. Since I touched on justice earlier, consider those which remain. Initially, prudence consists of sound judgment in practical matters.

         For instance, “Do not insist on helping your neighbor tomorrow when you can do so today.” Unless, of course, it gives you pleasure. If they have done without, no doubt they can continue to do so. But humans do not as a rule take into consideration such legitimate factors when weighing virtue.

         For another, “Do not accuse a person without having good reason for doing so.” Why not? Since it will caution him against taking issue with you. Better to be on the offensive than defending one’s turf.

         So it is that I am reminded of the contrast between Jesus and Pilate. As for the former, prudence would have dictated that he remain in Galilee. Where he had family and friends, although not without risk—as can be seen from his visit to Nazareth. Instead, he chose to take on the staunch religious establishment, with predictable results.

         In contrast, Pilate was reluctant to have Jesus crucified because he felt him not guilty. But rather than oppose the populace, he agreed to do so. Thus to preserve the highly cherished pax Romana (peace of Rome). Which seems to me much more prudent than Jesus’ behavior.

         Those that insist otherwise are guilty of having a hidden agenda. One that assumes human accountability. Not uncommonly associated with the Enemy, but in any case applied selectively. As for the former, it is indeed unfortunate. As for the latter, it seems a prudent exercise—given our privileged demonic insight.

         Temperance next invites our attention. This appeals for moderation in action, thought and/or feeling. While in keeping with the sage counsel, “There can be too much of a good thing.” As in the case of gluttony.

         If applied to religious matters, this would seem to rule out wholehearted devotion. Were that the case, I would be inclined to promote temperance. Since we would have more to gain than lose.

         Temperance often requires steering a course between two extremes: privation and indulgence. So that our Adversary insists that life is good, providing it is lived according to his instruction. Leading to the conclusion that humans will be asked why they did not take full advantage of it. As prime example being that of marriage.

         On the other hand, one needs to practice restraint. So that there is an appropriate time to exercise, and a time to refrain. So as to get proper rest, and not over tax one’s body unnecessarily.

         Not that I buy into this line of reasoning. Instead, I urge humans to cast caution to the wind, and compete with one another. Regardless of the circumstances or results. If permanent damage is inflicted, so much the better. Ultimately, the Enemy is at fault. Since he created humans with physical limitations and insatiable desires. A line of reasoning which you may recall was effectively employed by Adam concerning the addition of Eve.

         Fortitude rounds out the list of cardinal virtues. It is fortitude that suppresses the resistance to suffering and death, should they interfere with righteous resolve. Consequently, it is said to cultivate moral resolve in the face of discouragement, opposition, and weariness.

         In greater detail, the Enemy admonishes humans to watch and pray, so not to enter into temptation. Watch since it is necessary to practice moral discernment. To distinguish between right and wrong. In anticipation of opting for the former.

         While fortunately not as simple as it might seem. For what is advantageous for one may work a hardship for another. Then, too, what might be right in one situation is wrong in another—depending on extenuating circumstances. Blessed ambiguity, it is assuredly the demon’s ally.

         And pray. For guidance, endurance, and resolve. As if calling for the assistance of a gracious mentor. In anticipation that he will readily respond.

         As touched on earlier, prayer should be discouraged. But when this appears fruitless,  then misdirected. Preferably to idols, created by humans to satisfy their desires. Accordingly, incapable of response or initiative.

         As concerns suffering and death, both are inescapable. So I encourage humans to play it safe. Stay within your comfort zone. It is better for you, and for others. I feel certain you will agree with me.

                                                                                       Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                       Wormwood

 

WHAT’S MINE

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         I am reminded of the children’s rhyme, “What’s yours is mine, and what’s mine is my own.” This recalls the parable concerning an affluent man whose land produced a bountiful crop. So that he mused to himself: “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crop.” It apparently did not occur to him that he might share it with those less fortunate. He subsequently concluded: “I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink and be merry.’”

         “You fool,” the Enemy rebuked him. “This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”

         “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God,” Jesus added by way of commentary. Consequently, be concerned not for what perishes but endures.

         But what if the man had continued to live for an extended time? What then? He might have enjoyed as the fruit of his labors a luxurious home, amply supplies, and servants  to wait on him. Or should it please him, the service of prostitutes.

         If otherwise inclined, he might have generously contributed to some civic enterprise. And as a result, to have a clinic or educational institution named after him. Consequently, he would be appreciatively remembered. Thus satisfying his need for esteem, by others and self as well.

         Set over against this inviting prospect is the notion of being rich toward God. I suppose that means enjoying divine favor. So while that appeals to some, it lacks an appeal for others. As for the latter, their attention is fixed on something more tangible, and if for no other reason, within reach.

         It bears repeating, “What’s mine is mine.” Along with the realization that what is yours may also become mine, either by subterfuge or some more socially acceptable means. If not in one’s lifetime, then with his or her passing away.

         This recalls a story from antiquity. There were two brothers, the elder named Esau and the younger Jacob. As they matured, Esau became a skillful hunter, while Jacob lived a more secluded life. As a result, the former appealed to his father Isaac, while their mother Rebekah was especially fond of the latter.

         Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau returned from the open country. “Quick,” he admonished the younger sibling, “let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!”

         “First sell me your birthright,” Jacob replied. The birthright was the legacy of the elder son. It would at least eventually assure him of a double portion of the inheritance.

         “Look, I am about to die,” Esau protested. “What good is the birthright to me!” That is, if not able to enjoy it.

         But Jacob insisted, “Swear to me first.” So Esau swore an oath to him, surrendering  his birthright. Then Jacob gave his brother some bread and lentil stew. And after the latter had eaten, he got up and left.

         There was assuredly enough blame to go around. Jacob for being unwilling to give his brother food, unless receiving the birthright in return. Esau for depreciating the importance of his birthright.

         When Isaac was advanced in years and could no longer see, he instructed  Esau: “Now then, get your weapons—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.” He was perhaps unaware of the oath Esau had made with his brother, or chose to disregard it.

         When Rebekah overheard this, she instructed Jacob to secure two young goats from the flock, so that she could prepare them for her husband. With the intent that he would deceive his father, and receive the blessing meant for the elder brother. “But my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I’m a man with smooth skin,” Isaac replied. “What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.”

         “My son, let the curse fall on me,” his mother allowed. “Just do what I say, and get them for me.” She subsequently had him put on the clothing of his brother, and covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with goat skins—so that their deceit might not be discovered. So it was that Jacob received the blessing intended for his elder brother.

         Esau naturally held a grudge against his younger sibling. “The days of mourning for my father are near,” he thought to himself; “I will kill my brother Jacob.” When Rebekah was informed of his intent, she sent Jacob to stay with her brother Laban. “Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides,” she counseled him. Here we take leave of the narrative, but with the reminder that what belongs to another can in some instances be seized. And having done so, retained.

                                                                                           Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                            Wormwood 

 

ROAD RAGE

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         I find road rage quite amusing. It is anger directed at another driver, for real or imagined violations. Moreover, it serves as a parable for depicting life and its grievances. Inviting us to reflect on its application.

         The following serves as a prime example. As reported, “A finely dressed lady was cutting me off as we merged from two lanes into one. She stared at me each time we moved, daring me to hit her. She yelled out that it wasn’t her car, so that she didn’t care what happened to it. Meanwhile, lunging at me with her vehicle.” 

         “I couldn’t believe her audacity,” the victim of road rage continued. “She showed a lack of respect. It is something that when one is younger, it is not likely to be forgotten.” But lingers are as a reminder that one must be alert to road rage.

         Several observations are pertinent. As a finely dressed lady, one would expect that she would have been more considerate and civil. But appearances can be and often are deceiving.

         Conversely, one might be suspect of a shabbily dressed individual. But find that the person is thoughtful and respectful. Hence, one that can be trusted. Again, appearances can be deceiving.

         Since both inched their way from two lanes into one, neither wanted to initiate a collision. As for the lady, she apparently meant to intimidate the other driver. As for the victim, she hoped to avoid a confrontation.

         Each time they moved forward, the lady glared at the other driver. As if to confirm her intent. While daring the victim to hit her. Perhaps so that she would not be blamed for the ensuing collision.

         Then shouting out the window that since it was not her car, she did not care what might happen to it. As if their means of transportation were her only concern, and without regard for any injuries that might result. Likewise, demonstrating no regard for the owner of the automobile she was driving.

         While lunging at the victim with her vehicle. Suggesting that her words would be verified by her actions. So as not to leave the matter in doubt.  

         Consequently, leaving a vivid recollection of the event. Focusing on the audacity  of the perpetrator, and her lack of respect. As for the former, her utter disregard for the rules of the road. As for the latter, an instance of inhumanity.

         Speculating further, this might have been a spontaneous response to the situation.  One incited by the occasion. And attributed in large measure to the other person. Thought to require a forthright stand.

         On the other hand, it may have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. That is to say, as a culmination to a series of frustrating events. Perhaps she had altercations with her husband, which still weighted heavily on her. Threatening to dissolve their marriage, and create uncertainties as to how she would cope with life henceforth. If so, this would help account for her behavior.

         As touched on earlier, it serves as a parable concerning how humans negotiate life. Initially, they have unrealistic fantasies concerning an idyllic existence. One in which persons behave amicably, even under provocation.

         While the Adversary discourages such, we demons promote it. So that they find fault even with the more pious persons in their community, and thus excuse themselves  for any transgression. In this regard, one can characteristically find some feature of his or her life that appears more commendable than his associates. Resulting in the formula, “I may not do thus and so, but I do this or that.”

         Given this accommodation, a routine settles in. Situations vary within a range of expectations. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse. Day in and day out, from one moment to the next.                                        

         Until interrupted by something resembling road rage. There is a break-in, with one’s cherished possessions lost. Someone is beaten by an intruder. On a larger scale, a terrorist explodes a bomb, killing unsuspecting civilians.

         One is struck with the audacity of such behavior. As evidence of the utter disregard for life and property. As such, the resiliency of the evil inclination.

         As evidence of disrespect for others. For their integrity as individuals. As if to exclude them from the human community. As documented in the course of history, with the persecution of minorities.

         What then? One can respond in like manner. Tit for tat. Abuse for abuse. Or not waiting for the offense to come, initiate the confrontation. In this regard, to gain the upper hand. And then do whatever is necessary to retain the advantage.            

         Or one can heed the admonition of the Adversary, and return love for hate, compassion for vindictiveness. Thus invoking greater risk. While suppressing the evil inclination.

         Of course, we demons advocate the former. Along with the assumption that what is good for me is good for you. Ultimately if not sooner. So if confronted with road rage, retaliate in kind. Negotiate if necessary out of strength.

                                                                                      Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                       Wormwood

 

DIALOGUE

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Dialogue should be discouraged. Since it is a proven way of clarifying issues, in the pursuit of truth. Now dialogue assumes that there are two points of view involved. Not one, as is the case with monologue.                        

         So it is that I encourage humans to formulate what they want to convey to others.  Then stay on track. Pause as seems necessary for a response, but do not take it into consideration. Instead, return to what is graphically described as the axe you have to grind. As a result, you can expect to win some and lose some.

         It helps to start early, since children are more impressionable. Inform them as to what you want them to do, but take care not to explain why. Otherwise, they get in the habit of thinking for themselves.

         This holds out the prospect of perpetuating a dependency relationship. Qualifications aside, one that can be passed on from one generation to the next. Without modification to take into consideration the change in circumstances. In ideal terms, consisting of the blind leading the blind.

         Since the Enemy gave them reason, we can be assured that he meant them to use it. Which, in turn, incites us to discourage its use. But if unable to do so, to keep it focused on trivial matters. What the person will eat for lunch, or which program to watch on television.

         Under no circumstances, to consider whether God exists or what the implications might be if that were so. Advocates of atheism often err in this regard, by raising the issue. Which recalls a paraphrase of Pascal’s infamous wager: “If we conclude that God exists and he does, we have much to gain. If we conclude that he doesn’t exist and he does, we have much to lose. If we conclude that he exists and he doesn’t, we have still lived the best of lives.” This consideration has regrettably been the means of turning many to our avowed Adversary.

         I am again reminded of Augustine’s disconcerting affirmation, “All truth is God’s truth.” Were that the case and if for no other reason, dialogue should be discouraged. Since there is little to be gained, and much to be lost.

         When it comes to education, substitute indoctrination. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways. For instance, by excluding alternative texts from the library. Thus giving the impression that they are not worthy of consideration, if in fact the student is even aware of them.

         Then by promoting a singular point of view in the classroom. If more, then by way of repudiating them. Then preferably by demeaning those who hold divergent points of view, and questioning their understanding and/or intent. While disallowing qualifications that might appear pertinent.

         Likewise, bringing to mind a certain professor who was expressing his concern that some of his students had significantly altered their convictions as a result of their educational experience. When overheard by a colleague, the latter observed: “There is a risk involved in education, not present in indoctrination.” For that reason, given the right orientation, we demons insist on the latter.

         Some cultures are more given to dialogue than others. For instance, as humorously observed: “Where there are two Jews, there are at least three points of view.” With which most Jews would heartily concur.

         All of which recalls a time when I secretly sat in on a discussion among two Christians and four Muslims.  As for the former, both were professors. As for the latter, one was a leading cleric, along with a retired professor, lecturer, and business man. The retired Muslim professor was first to speak. “Now concerning the doctrine of Trinity,” he allowed. Since this might well be a point of controversy.

         “I don’t think this should concern us,” he continued. “While we Muslims can’t embrace this doctrine, the notion of complexity in the Godhead is quite acceptable. Therefore, I think we should proceed with something more tangible.” Pausing for effect, he continued: “You Christian say that if someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other to him. While we Muslims insist if someone strikes you, retaliate. It is in the best interest of both.”

         Incidentally, the reference to turning the other cheek likely pertains to being struck with the back of the hand, as an insult not calculated to seriously injure the person. But in any case, the professor’s initial comment served several purposes. First, it allowed  for the fact that both traditions recognized that complexity was a feature of the Enemy. So, for instance, he could be described as residing in heaven, while not only omnipresent but featured at certain sites and on special occasions.

         Second, it recognized that there are distinctive approaches. Giving rise to a range of responses within the respective traditions. Whether thought desirable or not, or by whom. As touched on earlier, by way of clarification and in a common pursuit of truth.

         Lastly, while respectfully treating differences of conviction. As a condition for dialogue, if for no other reason. Thus accounting for our demonic displeasure.

                                                                                       Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                       Wormwood

 

SILENCE

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Humans are given to silence for extended periods of time. This allows them to be involved in a variety of endeavors: such as prayer, reflection, listening, and quiet repose. It can serve a good purpose or one we would object to. Consequently, it is shrouded in ambiguity.

         Silence can be interpreted as assent. Which brings to mind the observation, “If one can save a life and fails to do so, he or she has committed murder.” That is fortunately true. So that the credit should be shared. With the prospect that entire nations can be acclaimed for its silence when faced with ethnic cleansing.

         Conversely, silence can be understood as dissent. As when a person fails to agree with the observation of his or her associate. Thus setting up the prospect of a desirable confrontation. Preferably resulting in physical violence. If the death of one of the combatants, so much the better.

         All of which brings to mind an incident I recently witnessed. A young fellow asked his girl friend to marry him. She paused, giving the matter serious thought. He interpreted this to mean rejection. Rather than attempting to clarify her intent, he took his leave—never to raise the topic again. How amusing!

         Fortunately, we demons have access to human reasoning. So that we can intervene if something is amiss. Such as when one is reflecting on an experience from the past, when he or she felt drawn to the Enemy. Thus encouraging the person to revive the tenuous relationship.

         Or faced with some critical decision, the individual feels the need of divine guidance. Even if things do not work out as hoped, one may attribute it to the Adversary’s good intention. Accordingly, we demons must not take anything for granted, but carefully follow up any initiative.

         Which recalls an incident that continues to haunts me. Concerning the time when Paul pled with the Enemy three times to remove a thorn from his flesh. This was perhaps some physical malady or the burden he felt for the churches. No matter, since it was a painful situation—which inhibited his disgusting efforts.

         Three times might be understood in literal terms or figuratively. If the latter, then synonymous with the notion of more than a few (being one or two). In any case, a very reasonable request, given the pretentious claims of the Adversary.

         Instead, the Enemy insisted that his grace was sufficient, and his strength was perfected in weakness. Not an encouraging alternative, or so it would seem. One would have thought it would cause the apostle to reconsider. Since he was prepared, in a manner of speaking, to meet the Adversary half-way. This by way of continuing the demanding ministry if released of his suffering.

         Instead, he gladly embraced the alternative, as a means to enhancing his spiritual maturity. And in the process, contributing to his ministry. Thus also to encourage others who might find themselves in a similar situation.

         As such, it serves as an example of Murphy’s Law: “If something can go wrong, it will.” The apostle apparently does not raise the issue again, but is content with the arrangement. As if silence had set in, and accounting for his lingering distress.

         In this instance, silence translates into trust. As the apostle suggests on another occasion, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who he been called according to his purposes” (Rom. 8:28). Not that all things are desirable in themselves, but hold the potential of good results—from this distressing alien perspective.

         I would much prefer to dwell on instances where silence enhances the demonic agenda. Such as an occasion when a certain individual was called upon to give testimony  concerning a person on trial. In this regard, he was charged with witnessing to “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

         When bribed by the defense attorney not to divulge a critical aspect of what he had seen, he was careful to give an abridged account. The truth and nothing but the truth, but not the whole truth. So the guilty party was set free. How admirable!

         Also worthy of note, the plight of those who are in dire need is often greeted with silence. For a number of plausible reasons. For instance, few can provide substantial aid to alleviate the situation. Then, too, there are agencies dedicated for this purpose. Some, however, divert a major portion of their funds for administrative purposes. Thus discouraging persons from getting involved.

         In a manner of speaking, turn up the volume on the television set. Settle back and enjoy the program you are watching. Leave others to fend for themselves.

         Or, in a more pious frame of mind, commend those suffering to the Enemy. Since he is said to be compassionate, let him provide for their needs. If enlisting the help of others, there are assuredly persons with more resources available.

         Or, from a more realistic perspective, the world is already over-populated. So let nature take its course.

                                                                                       Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                       Wormwood

 

BEAUTY & THE BEAST

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         At critical points in the creation narrative the Enemy expressed his approval. Then, in conclusion, he commended it as being very good. This implied that it was both functional and aesthetically pleasing. In is in this context that we are introduced to the idea of beauty.

         We are subsequently alerted to the fact that the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals that inhabited the earth. So it was that it enticed humans to eat of the forbidden fruit. Since Eve observed that it was good to eat and pleasant to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she ate of it and gave some to her husband. It is from the serpent that we derived the notion of the beast. In contrast to the concept of beauty.

         In greater detail, beauty is noted by the company it keeps. At the outset with serving the purpose for which it was created. Eventually, mentioned in conjunction with truth, love, reality, life, and righteousness. Then as set over against a superficial appearance.

         Beauty is readily observable in nature. As with an impressive tree, whose branches reach toward the sky. As with the wild flowers, which flourish in the spring. As with a trickling brook, as the water cascades over rocks that resist erosion.

         Not one thing to the exclusion of others. Since it encompasses great variety and commensurate unity. Each enhancing another, and all contributing to the whole. Such as can be appreciated when gazing over a valley extending toward the horizon. Giving rise to the hymn lyric, “This is my Father’s world.” Unfortunately, not a reference to our Father Below.

         It is with regard to nature that humans discover their role. Either to function as a steward, which was the Adversary’s intent, or as a plague. The latter assuredly being our preference.

         Beauty is not so readily observable in humans. Especially when they focus on outward appearance, to the exclusion of more substantial features. Not that one needs to choose between them, since they are compatible. Humans, however, are not inclined to dwell on the finer distinctions. When captivated by an attractive woman, nothing else seems of consequence.

         Now a beast may make reference to any animal. Big or small, docile or vicious, domesticated or wild. It not uncommonly refers to their carnivorous character. It was in this connection that Joseph’s brothers meant to report to their father that he was devoured by a ferocious animal. While eventually selling the lad into slavery.

         In a figurative sense, the term may be used concerning an oppressive ruler. One that exercises his authority over unwilling subjects. By persuasion when convenient, by force if it seems necessary or preferable. By whatever means seems available, and without remorse or regret.

         Examples are legion. From antiquity to the present. With predictable hostility, and calculated cunning. Leaving opposition languishing in prison, or decaying in a common grave. Thus intimidating those who remain.

         The image of a lion especially comes to mind. Said to be the king of the beasts, it was known for its prowess. Consequently, it commanded respect.

         As an aside, lions do not characteristically attack humans, although there are exceptions. For instance, a lion who develops a taste for human flesh, may be encouraged to seek it out. Moreover, an aged lion, no longer able to pursue swifter animals, may turn to humans as more vulnerable.

         There is much we can learn from the lion. For instance, it lies in waiting for its prey. In the tall grass or in a thicket. Unseen but in anticipation. Meanwhile, some docile creature is grazing nearby.

         Then, when the time is right, the lion leaps from his enclosure. Without caution or hesitation. Pouncing on its prey, before it can escape. Tearing it limb from limb. While thoroughly enjoying feasting on the remains. Before surveying the scene around him, having authenticated his prestige among the wild beasts.

         It is not surprising that this noble beast should be employed by the Enemy as an example. For instance, the righteous are encouraged to exhibit the courage of a lion. Not to emulate it in other regards thought less desirable.

         The beauty and beast reappear in prophecy. Considering them in reverse order, the beast comes up from the Abyss, and  will attack and kill the two witnesses who serve the Adversary. This may be a reference to one of our demonic circle or one who serves our noble cause. In any case, it is a striking accomplishment.

         Some time later, the beast and false prophet would be cast into the lake of burning sulfur. Subsequently to be joined by our Father Below. No doubt, consisting of a glad reunion. But here portrayed from the perspective of the Adversary.

         After which, we are told of a new heaven and earth. Something akin to the original paradise, although perhaps exceeding it. A thing of beauty, coupled with other desirable features. But suspect, given the source of our information.

                                                                                          Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                          Wormwood

 

CHANGE & CONTINUITY

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         Having touched briefly on change and continuity, it seemed good to elaborate in greater detail. Since these are set over against each other, in a way that does not give due consideration to their complex nature. If this were to cast the Enemy in a worse light, I could not be happier.

         It bears repeating, “To live is to change.” In some ways, but not in all. Whether for the better or worse. In sickness or in health. With or without regret.

         People change. As time goes on, they mature. Physically, emotionally, rationally, and perhaps spiritually. Once dependent on parents, now on their own. Raised in a religious tradition, then having repudiated it. Or the reverse.

         This brings to mind a person I had not encountered for a decade. Previously withdrawn and uncertain of himself, he now seemed outgoing and confident. I thought to myself, can this be the same person?

         Circumstances likewise change. In some modest respects or dramatically. For a limited or more extended period. Whether favorable, unfavorable, or more often than not a combination of the two.

         This recalls a girl raised in a sheltered home. She ventured forth only during the daylight hours or in the company of others. She was careful to observe the curfew laid down by her parents. But upon matriculating to college, she was quartered in a dormitory—housing both men and women. As a result, she came into contact with persons quite unlike those with whom she was familiar. In brief, she struggled with her new accommodations.

         Motivation changes. A previous motivation weakens with the passing of time. Or it is replaced by a more recent consideration. It is sometimes shared with others, or maintained as a distinctive. One can be keenly aware of it, or it may be obscured by other concerns.

         As was the case with an athletic lad, who felt driven to compete. He joked in this regard, “It’s just that I feel obligated to help others to be humble.” As time passed, he became increasingly interested in academic pursuits. For a time, the two interests bid for his attention. But eventually the academic alternative got the better of it. As a result, he eventually became a graduate assistant, and then an instructor.

         Other changes could be readily cited, were it to serve any compelling purpose. But these are sufficient to illustrate the thesis that to live is to change. So that to deny change is to reject the inevitable.

         Along with change there is continuity. Continuity with regard to creation. In graphic terms, the sun rises and sets. Giving a sense of false security concerning the specifics, and the alterations that could take place. Or what if, in a manner of speaking, the Adversary were to pull the plug and the universe collapse?

         Meanwhile, one season precedes the next. Spring before summer, summer before fall, and fall before winter. Soliciting speculation in antiquity as to the habitual activity of the gods.

         There is also continuity concerning humans. As evidenced by the caution that they are an endangered specie. So also with the protest concerning crimes against humanity. Meant to embrace all of their kind, while excluding other creatures.

         Although allowing for striking diversity. Such as characterizes different ethnic groups. While allowing for continuity within clan and family. As a means of passing on a cherished legacy.

         There is likewise a continuity concerning individuals, while allowing for the fact that they change in some regards. As evidenced by one’s name. Meant to single out a person from the rest.

         Implying both privileges and obligation. On the one hand, persons are granted special privileges—not extended to others. Such as a private bedroom, select clothing, and the like. Conversely, with privilege comes responsibility.

         The situation dictates our strategy. First, we promote one to the virtual exclusion of the other. If change, then by way of suggesting that it is without qualification beneficial. If not, then it is necessary. If not for one’s own sake, then for that of others. In any case, to accept change uncritically.

         If continuity, tenaciously resist change. Which we observed earlier allows one to meticulously promote legalism. Stressing conformity concerning incidental matters, while ignoring the weightier concerns—such as justice and compassion. Meanwhile, demeaning those who fail to conform.

         Second, misrepresent that which is subject to change and continuity. If subject to change, insist on continuity. If subject to continuity, insist on change.

         The family serves as a prime example. Since it serves as an uniquely critical role in society. Its effectiveness can be diminished in various ways. For instance, by engaging both parents in financial enterprise. Accordingly, leaving their children to be cared for by others—whether for better or worse. Also fostering the home alone syndrome. In brief, by altering their priorities, while keeping ours intact.

                                                                                    Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                    Wormwood

 

SPACE & TIME

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         It goes without saying that humans exist within a space/time continuum. Space is what they move around in. It has three dimensions: left and right, forward and backward, up and down. Humans perceive things spread around them: birds flying through the air,  squirrels scampering out of the way, and trees hovering overhead. They move around in space, from one place to another.

         Space sometimes appears inviting, while other times intimidating. As for the former, when gazing at a pleasant pastoral scene. As for the latter, when ominous clouds threaten a violent storm in the making. But for the most part, humans simply take it for granted. Without appreciation for the exceptional features that make life possible.

         Time appears related to duration. Such as in the case of a youngster who used to allow ten minutes to walk to school. Unless he would encounter a predictably mean dog. Were this the case, he would assume a more indirect route.

         However, we are told that time proceeds at a different rate for a space traveler than one on the surface of the earth. Were this not sufficiently confusing, the perception of time differs according to one’s vantage point. So that its duration seems to differ whether one is watching from a speeding train or watching it from a road crossing. Then as one advances in age, time seems to pass more quickly.

         Now the Enemy would have humans view this space/time continuum as if it were a sacred canopy. In this regard, the psalmist declares: “You have set your glory above the heavens” (8:1). Not that we demons approve of such ostentatious behavior.

         This gives rise to the notion that life is essentially good. But experienced as good only as humans abide by the Adversary’s instruction. Giving rise to the obnoxious imagery of the two ways: that of the alleged to be righteous, in contrast to those demeaned as wicked.

         The righteous as said to resemble a tree planted by streams of water, so that it yields fruit in season, and does not wither during the hot, dry season. Such are supposed to prosper, even during times of adversity. Although we demons try to convince them otherwise. Given our preference for likening human experience to that of a jungle.

         Whether sacred canopy or jungle, we are left to explain both the good and bad things humans experience. As for the former, we demons preclude that life occurs in accord with a benevolent design. Instead, simply as a result of chance.

         This allows humans to enjoy whatever appeals to them, regardless of how it may inconvenience others. As expressed by one of our commendable patients, “If someone gets in your way, run over him.” While more candid than most, this approximates the view of many we encounter in our noble enterprise.

         Now if the Enemy were genuinely all powerful, he could eliminate adversity. And if compassionate, he would do so. Since he fails in this regard, he is neither one or the other. Such is our unfailing logic.

         Although the Adversary counters with the notion of complex love. With the intent to imply that his compassion is expressed in a fallen world. As over against a simple, uncomplicated context. Which conveniently shifts the blame to humans, as noteworthy incited by the demonic.

         Claim and counterclaim. Without resolution or alteration. So that it is better for humans not to concern themselves with such things. Live each moment as if it were the last, since it might well be.

         In greater detail, I have heard it said that the past is prelude. With the intent that we should learn from the past failures, lest we repeat them. Or from its successes, so that we might emulate them.

         Fortunately, it is difficult to determine what constitutes a failure or success. Or if reasonably assured, what contributed to one or the other. Given such uncertainty, we demons suggest as commonly expressed, “Go with the flow.” Or to extend the imagery, “Don’t swim against the current.”

         The future is uncertain. Accordingly, the best laid plans often go astray.  Unexpected features come into play. So that it bears repeating, “Go with the flow.”

         Consequently, one is encouraged to live in the present. Without undue influence from either the past or the future. Content to work with the things at hand.

         Of course, this does not conform to the alternative suggestion of the Enemy. Namely, that one live toward the future. A future that is at his disposal. Likewise, a future that is revealed in broad generalities. But no less to provide direction.

         Then to learn from the past. Leading the detestable C. S. Lewis to suggest that one should read one classic text for every inviting contemporary alternative. Consequently, not to be unduly influenced by a modern mind-set. But rather to benefit from the experience of others, while allowing for differences in the circumstances. As a result, engaging the present more effectively. In creative ways that often escape detection. Although detestable to we demons.

                                                                                   Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                   Wormwood

 

SHALOM OR CHAOS

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         As implied earlier, the prospect of chaos is much more appealing than that of shalom. As such, it recalls an early stage in creation in which the earth was formless and empty. Darkness covered its surface. There was life no where to be seen.

         Then things took a decided turn for the worse. Light invaded the comforting darkness. Life proliferated. With the arrival of humans, the situation became virtually intolerable.

         Shalom, on the other hand, implies not only peace in the narrow sense of the word, but a thorough well being. Things work the way they were intended. Life lives up to its potential.

         Not as matters worked out, given the courageous stand against the Adversary’s suffocating paternal disposition. With striking results, given the fact that even small changes in initial conditions give rise to disproportionately larger results. And allowing for still further deviation with the passing of time.

         Chaos pervades life to some degree. As within the family circle, and recalling an amusing incident. It seems that the mother would on occasion inform one of her children as to what she would prefer that he or she do, while leaving the decision up to the youngster. This accomplished her purpose with the older children, who complied with her wishes.

         However, when the third child was given this option, he inquired whether she really meant that he was free to make his own choice. When hesitantly assured that this was the case, he chose to disregard her wishes. Thus chaos was introduced into the family setting.

         This caused the mother to reconsider. So from that time on, she did not provide the option. Instead, she insisted that her wishes be obeyed. Happily by way of preference, but in any case.

         As also within the classroom. When the teacher attempted to restore order, one lad persisted in disrupting the situation. By rude remarks, threatening gestures, and loud laughter. To the delight of some of his fellow students, while annoying to others.

         The teacher eventually dismissed him. Only to have him refuse to leave the room. Resulting in a scuffle between the two, the teacher getting the better of it. And with the student subsequently being put on probation.

         So likewise in international policy. As in the case of a rogue nation which persists in threatening its neighbors, providing funds are not forthcoming for it to deal with internal issues. Of highest priority, the proliferation of its military arsenal. While neglecting the physical needs of its populace.

         Consequently,  armed conflict appears as if the only viable solution. Sooner or later. Along with uncertain results. Except for the fact that chaos ensues.

         Meanwhile, shalom is not altogether absent. Which reminds me of another humorous incident. It seems that next door neighbor boys got into a fight with one another. News of this got back to their mothers, who in turn had an altercation.

         So things remained until the boys patched up their differences. While leaving their mothers with lingering resentment. Nor were they able to reconcile until some time later.

         Curiously, the purpose of armed conflict is said to be shalom. As such, sometimes one resorts to it reluctantly, when all reasonable alternatives have been exhausted. Or unless pressed to do so by circumstances. Not for the purpose of chaos but shalom.

         These two alternatives, chaos and shalom, are projected into the future. According to the Demonic Chronicles, chaos will eventually get the upper hand. Consequently, humans will have struggled in vain.

         Not what persons desiring shalom would wish for, but appealing to those opting for chaos. It is no doubt significant that Jesus employed the imagery of the city dump with reference to hell. As such, he seemed to imply that it would accommodate those who no longer served the purpose for which they were intended. 

         Of course, we put matters in a more favorable light. Since we will no longer have to put up with the Adversary. Then, too, along with those who are like minded. Thus able to torment one another without inhibition.

         By way of contrast, shalom appears dreadfully monotonous. All that singing and praise. Everything in order. No emergencies to lend excitement.

         Which recalls a story concerning those in hell who planned a vacation. Having heard good reports of heaven, they chose this as their destination. However, no sooner had they arrived, than they began to complain—first about one thing and then another. So it was that they took their leave without further delay, having gathered that hell was a preferable place to reside.

         While I can not say whether the story is true or not, it admirably fits my way of thinking. In addition, it accords with my preference for chaos.

                                                                                       Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                       Wormwood

 

A PERSONAL NOTE

 

Dear Uncle Screwtape,

         I wanted to share with you something of a more personal nature. I hope you will not think less of me as a result. Instead, that you will thoroughly appreciate my sincerity and candor. Moreover, that you will keep these matters confidential.

         I never cease to be amazed concerning the potency of hate. Seemingly more so than the appeal to love. As such, something that appears to come quite natural to humans. Both readily available and persistent. Although I was encouraged to believe that this would be the case while matriculated in the Tempters Training College.

         Consequently, it is hate that bonds us together. Hate of our common Enemy, those who serve him, his teaching, and his initiatives. Were this described as mutual affection, it would be of a very different sort.

         I imagine that this means I have come around to your way of thinking. Accordingly, I have matured in the process. And as a result, I can be trusted with more extensive responsibilities. Which is something I genuinely covet.

         Conversely, I continue to be plagued by fear. Fear that I will offend our Father Below, and as a result be punished for some transgression. Since we are all prone to fail on occasion.

         This recalls a time I was summoned to give an account for having lost a patient to the Enemy. On that occasion, I protested that I had done the best I could under the circumstances.

         Whereupon, my supervisor insisted that I could have done better. Or if not, I was still to blame. Which I took to mean that we should always aim high, and then even when we fall short, much is accomplished.

         I not only fear retribution from our Father Below, but from the Enemy. He displays awesome power, and is eminently creative. Add to these his relentless resolve, and he proves to be a formidable adversary.

         Which brings to mind a recent incident. It seems that the wife had been dwelling on her husband’s lack of consideration. Coming home late from work, failing to put his clothes away, and the like. She discussed this at some length with her girl friends, before deciding to get a divorce.

         The husband had not realized the seriousness of the situation, and was quite unprepared. Having collected his thoughts, he suggested that they receive counseling. When his wife hesitantly agreed, the marriage was salvaged. Leaving me to wonder what, if anything, I had done wrong. In addition, whether I would be reprimanded.

         Meanwhile, I have been plagued with the thought that there is a residue  of the good inclination carried over when we were expelled from the presence of the Adversary. If so, this would explain why I have on occasion settled for some lesser inhibition to righteousness. Along the line of a compromise.

         Of course, compromise plays to a mixed review. While some detest compromise in any form or manner, others promote it as a pragmatic means of achieving worthwhile goals. I suppose it may be a both/and feature rather than either/or. Please correct me if I am wrong in my appraisal.

         In any case, I sometimes get tired with evil doing. There are always things to be done, and not enough time to do them. No sooner do I close out one situation than a dozen more demand my attention.

         There never seems to be enough demons to go around. I sometimes wonder if we could recruit among the angels. Or whether the Adversary has taken precautions against further defection. The more I try to understand what is going on, the more I realize I do not comprehend.

         The worship of our Father Below comes as a welcome relief from our rigorous routine. Especially when humans participate along with us. Creating great enthusiasm,  and lingering results.

         Recalling a time when we were gathered in a clearing, dancing and singing, and accompanied with drums. Whereupon, one of those detestable companions of the Enemy appeared on the scene. When he protested what was going on, I shoved him against the trunk of a tree. There he lay as if having received an electric shock. Meanwhile, the humans with us mocked him and ridiculed his Sponsor.

         Would that the story ended at that point. Instead, when he finally struggled to his feet, he succeeded in enlisting one of the humans in his cause. So that she no longer participates in our gatherings.

         On another occasion, we decided to retaliate. Seizing a young man trained for the ministry, we put him to an excruciating death. After which, we mutilated his body in such a way as to alert persons concerning our involvement. This was by way of intimidation, lest they insist on interfering in our activities.

         I look forward to a time when we get together. Recalling pleasant times we have  shared in the past. Thus renewing our commitment to one another, and in the glorious cause of our Father Below.

                                                                                      Your devoted nephew,

                                                                                      Wormwood

 

APPENDICES:

 

 

MY SERVANT JOB

CHAOS PARADIGM

THE WONDER OF IT ALL

THE COSMIC CONFLICT

 

MY SERVANT JOB

 

         My Servant Job is the first of four previous publications that seem especially pertinent concerning the present project. It was designed as a discussion guide, consisting of commentary and questions for study and discussion. As such, it explored the realm of wisdom literature. It was published in 1979.

         Now Job was a righteous person, who feared God and shunned evil. He had prospered greatly, and was described as “the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:3). Not distracted by his riches, he remained faithful.

         One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan was among them. So it was that the Lord inquired of him, “Where have you come from?”

         Satan replied, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." As if on an aimless excursion or being evasive.

         Whereupon, the Lord inquired further: “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8). Thus to confirm what we were told at the outset.

         “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan objected. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” Consequently, the  Lord allowed him to strip Job of his wealth and prized offspring.

         “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away,” the patriarch allowed; “may the name of the Lord be praised” (1:21).

         “In all this,” the chronicler observed, “Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. Soliciting the inquiry: “What does it mean to blame God for something that has happened? How does this verse summarize Job’s response to the events that had transpired? How does it summarize our discussion of these events?”   

         On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan was with them. “Have you considered my servant Job?” the Lord again inquired. “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without an reason” (2:3).

         “Skin for skin!” Satan protested. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.” So Satan was given permission to physically afflict the patriarch.

         “Are you still holding on to your integrity?” his wife incredulously inquired. “Curse God and die!”

         “You are talking like a foolish woman,” Job cautioned. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

         “In all this,” the chronicler again observes, “Job did not sin in what he said.” The change in circumstances notwithstanding.

         We are then introduced to the first of Job’s associates. “According to Eliphaz, Job had grown callous in the midst of riches and allowed unrighteousness to creep into his life. The misfortune befalling him was God’s judgment, a warning to mend his ways” (p. 30). In this regard, I observed: “J. B. Phillips wrote a popular book entitled Your God Is Too Small. Are there indications that Eliphaz was suffering from this problem? When is our God too small?  How can we enlarge our perceptions of the Almighty?” (p. 50).

         Bildad “seems to see the past as a prized observation post from which we easily slip and to which we must climb back. Job appears to think of the past as a stepping stone to a richer, fuller life in the present” (p. 52). In this regard, “What was misleading in Bildad’s appeals to loyalty, duty, and devotion to God? Restate these admonitions without falling into Bildad’s error” (p. 60).

         Zophar then bursts onto the scene. “He advances with a flurry of verbal blows, as if thinking that forcefulness will succeed where finesse had failed” (p. 63). Accordingly, “Review Zophar’s contribution to the discussion. Do you sense a progression in the argument taken by each man in his turn? Is there any indication that Job’s associates have softened their opinions as a result of the patriarch’s protest or that the reverse has been the case? (p. 73).

         Job is not without fault. “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?” the Lord eventually inquires. “Let him who accuses God answer him!” (40:1).

         “I am unworthy,” the patriarch allows. “I know that you can do all things,” he subsequently adds, “no plan of yours can be thwarted” (42:1).

         After which, the Lord informed Eliphaz: “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” Then having instructed him to make a burnt offering, the Lord assures him: “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.”  

         We are then informed, “the Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first” (42:12). Giving rise to a series of questions: “What practical significance have you gained from reading the Book of Job? Do you anticipate that your perspective on life and behavior will be altered? Are there ideas you would especially like to share with others? If so, what are they, with whom would you care to share them, and for what reasons?” (p. 122).

         All of which recalls Wormwood’s correspondence, as if cut from the same cloth. Thus featuring the one who he repudiates as the Enemy, Satan as our Father Below, and humans caught up in the struggle between them.

 

CHAOS PARADIGM

 

         Although the notion of chaos surfaces from time to time in Wormwood’s correspondence, I explored it at much greater length in Chaos Paradigm. This motif has been promoted in a cross-discipline context, indebted early on to those in Mathematics and Physics. This text made its appearance in 1998.

         Critical in chaos theory is the realization that even small variations in original conditions can result in substantial change. This is graphically expressed by the butterfly effect, where it is said that the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings on the other side of the globe can result in winds of hurricane proportion as it circles the earth’s surface.

         Then, as noted in passing, the defection of humans was not a minor event. Since they were charged with being stewards of creation. So any failure in this regard could have disastrous effects. Especially when compounded with subsequent lack of pious discretion.

         The text is divided into three segments. First, chaos from the perspective of Biblical Theology. Second, chaos from the alternative perspective of Systematic Theology.  Finally, chaos in context of Historical Theology.

         “Biblical theology considers theology in situ, where it occurs in its revelatory process. Otherwise put, it follows a line of development. In contrast, systematic theology creates what may be thought of as a circle, embracing its date within a systematic whole” (p. 1). The former, nonetheless, reveals an incipient order.

         “While not inviting, chaos appears as if the first step in the creative process. As such, it is similar to many other High God traditions. These resemble the potter who casts his clay before refining it into a vessel for use” (p. 3).

         “Darkness is one of the several initial referents (allusions) to chaos. It serves along with silence, the waters, and shortly with death to bring to mind chaos imagery” (p. 4). When taken together, these serve to remind us how pervasive chaos imagery is in Biblical narrative.

         We are also reminded of the fact that since God brought order out of chaos, he is necessary to sustain it. When ignored, incipient chaos sets in. Whether in the form of natural disasters, social disintegration, or personal disorientation.

         “Slavery as experienced by those subject to it is chaotic. They are not allowed to structure life for themselves; others usurp that privilege. Such indulgences as they were granted could as easily be withdrawn. They were tossed about as if a piece of driftwood on the turbulent waves” (p. 11).

         Then later on, “The chaos paradigm played to a cosmopolitan audience. Canaan was strategically situation between two great population centers of the ancient world: Egypt and Mesopotamia, where three continents joined. When Israel failed, it was a reminder to the nations of divine justice; when it succeeded, it was indicative of God’s blessing” (p. 20). In these and other ways, the chaos paradigm continues to assert itself in the course of salvation history.

         “We have selected two instances to illustrate the pertinence of chaos theory for systematic theology. The first relates to a theological understanding of man, and the other concerning the Holy Spirit. These complement one another in that man was said to be created in God’s image” (pp. 75-76). As for the former, “chaos should be recognized as intrinsic to the creative process.” So to “resist chaos in this pristine connection reveals a lack of trust in God’s faithfulness.” However, we “hope not to prolong chaos unnecessarily” (pp. pp. 78-79).

         As for the latter, “Rachaph (hovering or some alternative) suggests the relation of the Spirit to chaos, and later to describe an eagle hovering over its young. Thus we read that God resembles ‘an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions’” (p. 90).

         Consequently, the Spirit serves to sustain a fallen but not forsaken world, restraining the forces of evil, and promoting the cause of righteousness. A task so monumental as to stagger our imagination. In the face of formidable obstacles, while promoting all that is good, wholesome, and praiseworthy.

         Historical Theology next invites our attention, with Augustine’s exposition concerning The City of God. “The pax Romana, symbol of order, had collapsed. Chaos swept over the empire as if (a) raging flood. Certain erudite Romans fleeing to North Africa set out to blame the Christians for Rome’s collapse. They supposed this was due to the populace turning from the traditional gods” (p. 107).

         In the first five books, Augustine refutes the pagans’ argument. “In the second five, he suggests that pagan religion is a poor investment in eternity. Books 11-14 trace the rise of two cities: the divine and human, 15-18 their course, and 19-22 their termination. These comprise an understanding of history that incorporates chaos within a confident faith” (p. 107).

         We permit Augustine a final word: “I think I have now, by God’s help, discharged my obligation in writing this large. Let those who think I have said too little, or those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough join me in giving thanks to God” (XXII.30).

         If Wormwood were familiar with the text, he would no doubt disapprove. For one thing, he would not want the Christians to get credit for exploring chaos, which he zealously reserved for his demonic circle. But whatever the perspective, one must cope with the rise of the Christian movement, and its subsequent resolve. As a faith firmly planted in the resurrection of Jesus, as a confirmation of his claims and as a hope for those entrusting their way to him.

 

THE WONDER OF IT ALL

 

         The Wonder Of It All explores the notion of mystery as set forth in Scripture. As such, it entertains the demonic. Furthermore, it contains a brief treatment of hermeneutics. So as to balance meaning as over against mystery. This relatively  unique text was published in 2009.

         The ultimate mystery pertains to God and his initiatives. C. S. Lewis proposes a simple exercise. Suppose one were to hear a tiger growling at the closed door, and scratching at its panels. He or she would naturally feel threatened, and hope it would not gain entry.

         But were it a ghost, no natural barrier could refuse it entrance. If of the disposition of Casper—the friendly ghost, there would be nothing to fear. Otherwise, one’s fear might be well founded.

         Then if the Holy Spirit, there would assuredly be no escape. As with Francis Thompson’s graphic account of the Hound of Heaven. “I fled Him down the nights and down the days,” he allows; “I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind, and in the midst of tears.” All to no avail.

         A prime example serves to illustrate. Moses was tending his father-in-law’s flock, when the Lord appeared to him in a burning bush. There is not lack of natural explanations to account for this phenomenon: from bushes that exude flammable gas to those covered with bright colored leaves or berries. If not, perhaps a vision or some other extraordinary event.

         Moses drew near to observe more closely this strange sight. Whereupon, a voice  called to him out of the bush—alerting him that this was holy ground and for that reason he should remove his sandals. The voice then confided, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exod. 3:6). Moses was overcome with awe, and hid his face.

         God then revealed his intention to deliver the Israelites from bondage, employing Moses for this purpose. This was not the first time he had spoken to someone, nor would it be the last. We are not told whether this  was in an audible voice. Or, were this the case, if others could understand. In any case, it announced a divine initiative.

         Angels make their appearance later on in the text. Although incorporeal, they can appear in human form—sometimes radiating light. They may also have the suggestion of wings, accenting their role as emissaries of the Almighty.

         “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah,” God instructed Abraham. “Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Gen. 22:3). While child sacrifice was a feature of the pagan culture, it was not in keeping with God’s regard for the sanctity of life, nor consistent with his intention that Isaac would be the means for perpetuating the promises given to the patriarch.

         So when the patriarch raised his knife to slay the boy, an angel protested: “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to him. For I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” After which, the Almighty provided a welcome substitute. In retrospect, “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking he did receive Isaac back from death” (Heb. 11:19).

         Angels, whether fallen or preserved, continue to make an appearance from time to time. So it was that messages were directed to the respective angels of the seven churches in Revelation (Rev. 2:1, 8, 12, 18, 3:1, 6, 14). It would appear that they served as corporate guardians, but in any case, so as to enhance the mysterious context of angels in our midst.

         The chapter on miracles is another feature that bears comparison with Wormwood’s correspondence. “Contrary to poplar opinion, miracles do not strictly speaking constitute a violation of natural order. They more resemble an intrusion.” (p. 57). As in the case when one deflects a billiard ball, only to have it continue along the altered course.

         Miracles proliferate at critical junctures in salvation history. As if road signs, calling attention to divine initiatives. Such as with the exodus, contest with Baalism, and with Jesus and the apostles.

         Not to be overlooked, there is what David Myers aptly refers to as the mystery of the ordinary. “Looking for the mystery in things bizarre, we feel cheated when later we learn that a hoax or a simple process explains it away,” he allows. “All the while we miss the awesome events recurring before, or even within, our very eyes. The extraordinary within the ordinary” (p. 7).

         For instance, he comments on the remarkable way in which we encode incoming information. “Our brains operate rather like General Motors,” he elaborates, “with a few important matters decided by the chair of the board, and everything else, thankfully, handled automatically, effortlessly, and usually competently by amazing intricate mechanisms.”

         The second and briefer segment of the text deals with common principles for interpreting Holy Writ. Touching on a range of related topics, such as salvation history, the fusion of two horizons: that of the text and the present, literary genre, context, metaphor and such, and moral application.

         Wormwood alerts us to the critical importance of this topic by his occasional references to the Biblical text. Not uncommonly by way of protest, but while recognizing its relevance.

 

THE EPIC CONFLICT

 

         The Epic Conflict establishes the context for Wormwood’s correspondence. It is one of three studies contained in Potpourri # 2, the others being Jesus As Sage and James, Jesus’ Sibling. This was a sequel to Potpourri, likewise containing three studies: Common Sense & The Conspiracies, Covenant Echoes, and Amos Still Speaks! The latter was published in 2008, and the former in 2011.

         The author weighs in. “I was raised in a village culture, where there was little anonymity. As illustrated by the humorous comment, ‘One doesn’t have to signal when making a turn, because everyone already knows where you are going’” (p. 13).

         Screwtape subsequently weighs in. “As previously allowed, we must avoid two contrary extremes: disbelief in the existence of demons and an excessive and uncritical obsession with them. Those who like myself draw from the Enlightenment tradition are more likely to err in the former regard” (p. 16).

         Salvation history also weighs in. “The previous chapters were calculated to provide a common point of reference, from which we can take a selective look at some of the biblical episodes concerning the epic conflict” (p. 21). Concerning which we are reminded, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:11-12). While the idiom allows for conflict with oppressive political and social entities, it extends to spiritual adversaries.

         Paradise lost first invites our attention. “In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:9). “As for the former, it recalls that God is the ultimate source of life. In this regard, Jewish tradition asserts that three are necessary for giving birth: God and the parents. The tradition likewise affirms that God cures us of every illness except the very last one” (p. 21).

         “The tree concerning the knowledge of good and evil should probably be understood as a comprehensive idiom. In particular, it has to do with moral discernment. So to partake of its forbidden fruit would appear to be an effort to engage life on one’s own, without recourse to God’s informed guidance.” As such, a rash decision with dire consequences.

         While it was decidedly not the best of situations, neither was it the worse. While driven from paradise, and prohibited from returning, humans were not forsaken. Thus salvation history begins to unwind.

         Early on, with the deluge. “The Lord saw how greatly man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5). “One can hardly imagine a more sweeping indictment. Screwtape would be delighted with the results” (p. 26).

         Subsequently, with the call of Abraham. “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you,” God directed the patriarch (Gen. 12:1). “The injunction was two-fold. First, he was to leave the region in which he was raised, and the security of his extended family. In this regard, it resembled my deployment in the military” (p. 30).

         “Second, he was to settle in an unfamiliar area, among strangers. It was not an inviting prospect, and filled with uncertainty. It recalls Mother Teresa’s amusing observation, ‘No doubt God will provide the means for me to accomplish his will, but I wished he were not so optimistic.’”

         Still later on, with the exodus. “In Jewish tradition, the captivity in Egypt was designated as the seventh falling away of humans. This was meant to depict their ultimate rejection of God’s benevolent purposes. Continually offered high ground, employing military imagery, they chose a more vulnerable alternative” (p. 35).

         Eventually with the dawn of a new day. “The fortunes of the Jewish people waxed and waned. The Monarchy struggled for survival, enhanced by the school of the prophets. Even so, the Northern Kingdom seemed destined for an early demise, while the Southern Kingdom benefitted from periodic renewals. Ultimately, it also fell prey to invaders” (p. 40). Those in exile hoped for restoration.

         Meanwhile, “the messianic hope remained resilient. A time of deliverance and universal peace would ensue. This might be likened to the dawn of a new day.” Such as was inaugurated with the advent of Jesus as the Messiah.

         “The epic conflict is perhaps best highlighted by exorcism, which played a prominent role in Jesus’ public ministry. Josephus attributes it to Solomon, along with wisdom, the composition of songs, parables and the description of flora and fauna” (p. 44). Which suggests that it was also a feature in Jewish tradition.

         “Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and inquired: ‘Could this be the Son of David?’” (Matt. 12:22).

         Some were of a different opinion. “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons,” they concluded.

         “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand” Jesus observed. “If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself.” So it would seem, unless this were to be understood as a strategic withdrawal.

            “While a variety of physical ailments were attributed to demon possession, the most distinctive feature appears to be the aura of evil. I have experienced this curious phenomenon on rare occasions.” Which seems to attest to the epic conflict.

 

 

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