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The Chalice
Sunday, April 28 2019

For the first time in many years, a mysterious piece of correspondence has fallen into my hands: another letter from Screwtape, one of the archfiends in the lower-archy of hell, a letter meant to be delivered to his apprentice nephew, Wormwood, a recent graduate of Tempters College. Those who read this letter are advised to remember that it is from the devil's perspective and that the devil is a liar.

My dear Wormwood:

I frequently receive reports on the horrors of the Easter season from minor apprentices such as yourself. Those events make all of our domain shudder. Even our father below recoils at the merest recollection of that abominable occurrence that Christians call the resurrection. We who are most close to him keep our distance because he fulminates with such anger that we are quite likely to become mere morsels to be consumed. That is between you and me; it would not be prudent to repeat such information.

However, in spite of the circumstances of this Easter season—I cringe when I write that word—certain things can be brought to our advantage if you will pay close attention to what transpires. Hence, do not permit any temporary depression over the state of your patient begin to dominate your thoughts or your job will be in jeopardy, and you know how our father treats those who fail him. Now some suggestions on how to undermine the faith of your patient.

Remember that all extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Remember last Sunday when the pews were filled with people? I see that you do. Well, turn this to your advantage since it is quite unlikely this will take place two weeks in a row. We want to keep those who don't return away permanently, or at least to make any return a social occasion rather than a religious one. For this reason, gently insert into the mind of your patient that Mrs. Bloggs, she of the second seat, sixth pew, gospel side, was wearing exactly the same hat she wore last Easter. This will shift your patient's mind from attention to the service and nudge him into a thought such as chapeau fashions and what he will be having for Sunday dinner.

Make worldly concerns his end and church attendance a means to that end, and you have almost won him for our father below. Provided that the latest fashions, egg hunts, and meals matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and love, he is ours. I could show you a pretty group of specimens we have secured already.

Even for those who have made it back to their place of worship for a second week, all is not lost. You have a marvelous opportunity when the time for the gospel arrives. This one concerns a certain Thomas, a particular doubter who finally comes to believe in the Enemy only when he has ocular proof. It is an unfair advantage of the Enemy that He loves even when he is doubted, but we can turn that to our advantage. Sneak into your patient's mind that doubt is healthy, that if he had been a real man he would have demanded more substantial proof than he was offered. Suggest that what the Enemy is about is propaganda rather than an appalling truth. Remind him of the last great war—and all the ones that have followed—how we were all conditioned to beware of propaganda.

Press home that after fifty days the Enemy will abandon him, that He will not always be present to his conscious experience. Hence, should he cry out, in a moment of weakness, with Thomas, he will be conditioned to expect no response. If, somehow, your patient persists, speak to him about “moderation in all things,” the via media, a particular Episcopal perspective. If you can once get him to think that “religion is all very well up to a point,” you can feel quite happy about the destination of his soul. A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all—and more amusing.

Keep what I have written in mind and 'low Sunday' will sink even lower and your patient will turn his attention outward. And our father below will be well pleased. Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape

With all blessing, Fr. John+

Posted by: Rev. John Morrison AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email