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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
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,
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.
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
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,
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
“But what if he persisted?” the inquisitive
“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
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
(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
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
(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
Meanwhile, the deployment continues to
drain limited resources. In these and other ways, we
try to twist the just war theory to accomplish our
Your devoted nephew,
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
Your devoted nephew,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Your devoted nephew,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
The megachurch is characteristically served
by a charismatic, authoritative senior pastor. As
for the former, one who is highly articulate and
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Your devoted nephew,
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 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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
(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
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
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,
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.
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
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
remain open, should she feel it necessary to
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
In any case, profoundly effected by his
indiscretion. In terms of his own perception, and
that of others. Making the best of a difficult
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
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
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
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
Your devoted nephew,
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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,
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.
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
(4) Finally, don’t let up. Persistence
assuredly pays off. Whereas reluctance proves to be
one’s downfall. Cultivate a reputation, and guard it
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,
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
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
“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
“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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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 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
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
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
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
Euthanasia, pertaining to a
also makes an appearance. In other words, to allow a
person to die comfortably, rather than prolong the
inevitable. Accordingly, as an expression of
Meanwhile, inviting special interests to
take over. Such as the family, which is concerned
over the cost involved. So that there may be
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Like a mouse pretending to be an elephant.
Going through the motions, without convincing
evidence. In this regard, pretentious but
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,
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
(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
(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
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
(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
Your devoted nephew,
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
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
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
Your devoted nephew,
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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,
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,
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
Likewise, with euthanasia. As a concession
to lingering ill health, and so as to ease the
obligation of others. Once allowed, then more easily
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Your devoted nephew,
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
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
Moreover, the dialogue boarders on being
vulgar. The interchange being characterized by
indiscretion. With a failure to communicate and hurt
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
Your devoted nephew,
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
“And how did he come by it?” the former
“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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
pray. For guidance, endurance,
and resolve. As if calling for the assistance of a
gracious mentor. In anticipation that he will
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
Your devoted nephew,
Dear Uncle Screwtape,
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
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
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
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
“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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
“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,
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
Your devoted nephew,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
Consequently, armed conflict appears as if
the only viable solution. Sooner or later. Along
with uncertain results. Except for the fact that
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
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
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
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
Your devoted nephew,
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
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
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
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
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
Your devoted nephew,
MY SERVANT JOB
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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.
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.
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
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
“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).
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
“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.
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”
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.