Friday With Screwtape

Nearly every Saturday for over a year, I’ve met with a small group of guys and we’ve talked our way through C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. The book was first published in 1942 during WWII. This British WWII context gives this book a certain personality, and Lewis was definitely writing to his contemporaries. Yet, without question, I have found this book to insightful, even prophetic, as its author talks creatively about all the ways a person can lose his soul. If you’ve never read it, you should.

I’ve immensely enjoyed our conversations, and I thought the book would be a good blog topic. So, for the foreseeable future, we’ll have “Fridays With Screwtape.” I’ll drop in some good quotes from the book, and maybe add a little comment. Truthfully though, I won’t need to say much. Lewis was a tremendous writer, and I will probably only mess it up.

If you’ve never read The Screwtape Letters, I’ll need to give a little intro so you don’t get confused. Screwtape is a demon, and he is writing letters to his nephew and protege, Wormwood. Wormwood has been given the task of stealing the soul of a human male “patient” from the clutches of the Enemy (God), for the glory of “Our Father Below” (Satan). Screwtape is giving Wormwood instructions and advise on how best to keep the patient out of the clutches of the Enemy.

So today is our first Friday with Screwtape, in letter 1, we find Screwtape reveling in his glorious days as a tempter, recalling one of the most basic tactics in corrupting a human: distraction.

I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years’ work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defense by argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just bout time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear what he says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said ‘Quite. In fact much too important to tackle at the end of a morning,’ the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added ‘Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind,’ he was already half way to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of ‘real life’ (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all ‘that sort of thing’ just couldn’t be true.