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The Screwtape Letters Meets a Charitable Discourse

The Screwtape Letters Meets a Charitable Discourse

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My Dear Wormwood,

I am writing to commend you on your most excellent strategy for dividing the body of our Enemy. They have all but forgotten the admonition of their ancient hero, Paul, to keep their eyes on the goal of knowing the One who causes us such grief. You now have them debating their differing viewpoints in a tone and tenor that more befits the way we converse in the pits of our fiery home than in the spacious confines of theirs.

You have them at each other's throats over song selection, scientific theory, whether sexual orientation is a moral choice or not, the willingness to be led by a woman preacher, social drinking, dancing, emergent tendencies, their precious budget allotments, and the way they interpret their Book. I have spent many a night wringing my hands in glee at the total consumption of our enemy in these debates.

You have been the victor on several fronts. By turning their sacred Book into a club with which to pound each other, you have kept them from humbly placing themselves beneath it for correction and instruction in the ways of our Enemy.

By enticing them with the wonders of electronic media, you have whetted their appetites for religious blood in the water. By discipling them in the communication methods of the political spokespersons of their news networks, you have sanctioned the tactics that we have perfected across the years"labeling, enemy-making, grandstanding, half-truth, scripture quoting, and guilt by association. To see our market share expanded by these tactics is pure delight"the devilish kind.

I quote from an earlier enemy of creative persuasion in reminding you that, "One of our allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempers uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans."1

By enticing this Church to focus on other than the Enemy's kingdom come, they are effectively captivated by that which is vainly contemporary and rootless. As the dominant conversation of their gatherings centers on the trivial, our cause escapes the ending which the Enemy has in mind"all things made new, all death and dying ways destroyed, and love perfected. I urge you to keep them focused on anything but this vision of the future. It is death to our cause.

However, it now appears to me that your strategy may have run its course. The shelf life of our ways is not long. People tire of divisiveness when they taste its fruit. Our hope is that in tiring they will despair that good news exists anywhere or that the claims of a holy love that expels sin are far too overblown to be real"and thereby abandon all hope of such an experience. Whether we achieve this lofty goal or not, we can take pleasure in knowing that we have diverted them from preaching the Good News, caring for the poor, seeking justice, and walking humbly with our Enemy.

In addition, you have effectively stained even the sensible among them with a smug certainty that dismisses their weaker brother as a bother. And you have chased the young among them to other enticements that are more in tune with their questions and interests. Excellent work.

But do not rest on your laurels. Our Enemy is no stranger to attack, persecution, or struggle. His ways of holy love are the only tactic we have been unable to thwart.

Indeed the road to our eternal home is paved with divisiveness, littered with one's enemies, and marked by Babel's confusion. Continue to practice your inherited capacity to charm the snake by diverting its attention from the one thing standing before it"the One who is pure, holy, love.

Your affectionate uncle,


"One of the means of grace, according to John Wesley, is holy conversation. It is the practice of Spirit-guided listening to one another, discerning the ways of God, consulting scripture, using our God-given reason, respecting the value of time-honored tradition, and speaking truthfully without fear of reprisal. In this atmosphere saints are made. I have belonged to a few communities like this. They have sanctified me by their gracious way of conversing."

"Dan Boone, from A Charitable Discourse: Talking About the Things that Divide Us

1 The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1961, p. 22. The article is an expression of the ways of evil similar to the writing of C.S. Lewis several decades ago. Sometimes we hear truth better from a strange tongue.

Dan Boone is president of Trevecca Nazarene University.

Holiness Today, July/August 2012