Thursday, November 18, 2010

Screwtape Spin-off coming at you!

I miss writing and I miss you too.  I've been utterly swamped lately with some things grand and others not so.  You know how it is -- life at breakneck speed.  Not that I want to stand still or stagnate, but surely there is a happier balance?  A mysterious, elusive balancing formula?  Somewhere out there??
Here's a paltry effort on my part to post something worth reading... from the pen of RCA pastor.
Allow me to clarify:  The effort of mine is paltry (i.e. cut and paste from e-mail:) but this fella's writing is not.
Refresh your memory regarding The Screwtape Letters here and you'll know where this post is headed...
Helpful Tip:  Pour yourself a coffee or glass of wine first and commit to a thorough leisurely read, I do think you'll find it worth your while... Luv y'all!
Below you will find a fictional letter, written by Kevin DeYoung (an RCA pastor in Michigan), in the spirit of “The Screwtape Letters”  by C. S. Lewis.  Please read it;   I think it is outstanding.  In fact, please consider it “assigned reading” for all parents with college/university age children.  Share it with those children who will soon be leaving home to attend school out of town. These are wise words written at a time when the church is viewed by many Christians with increasing ambivalence.
Rev DeYoung's Introduction 
It is the season for the great migration of students to our institutions of higher learning. This week, next week, and into September, thousands of young adults will leave home and head off to college and university.  Many of these students are Christians. Some will look for Christian fellowship in their new home. Fewer will commit themselves to a church. This “fewer” is just as the devil likes it.  At one time or another every Christian writer tries his hand at a Screwtape Letter, the C.S. Lewis inspired form of address where you write like you’re one of the bad guys.  I don’t claim to be very good at it, but here’s my humble attempt. 
Pass it on to your friends and children. Churchless Christians are on their way to being no Christian at all.


Fall 2010, A.H. (Anno Hostis, “the year of our Enemy”)
My Dear Wormwood,

t’s been too long time since last I wrote. In my defence, however, it was dreadfully cold up above. 
How do humans endure such miserable conditions?  But poor weather aside, please accept my insincerest apologies for the delay in finally putting pen to paper. I trust all is devious and devilish between you and your subject. I am not an easy uncle to please, but your efforts over the past several years with your subject have been, I must admit, rather impressive. True, high school is a particularly grand time for opportunistic spirits like ourselves.  
But these advantages do not detract from your work, which has been to date, exemplary.
Your teenage subject has all the usual paradoxes of American youth we like to see down here: rebellious, yet disinterested; slothful, yet impetuous; disrespectful to parents, yet an irresponsible drain on their resources; tolerant of religions he knows nothing about, 

yet fiercely intolerant of the one he knows best. 
All in all, a splendid few years my injurious Wormwood.  Bravo!
It is because your work has proven so trustworthy over the last few years, that I now feel obliged to speak with you quite candidly about a matter of grave importance. Your subject is now enrolled in what the earth world calls “college.” I do not need to remind you what splendid opportunities these places afford us. But there is one particular danger, and you must see to it that it is avoided at all costs. 
And that danger is church attendance.
Though your subject seems safe from the clutches of our Enemy Above, you will recall that he has spent the majority of his Sundays, thus far, in church. The habit may not be easy to break. If he tries church for a few weeks, make sure it is a pointless endeavor. 
Do not forget our little rhyme:
“If to church one must go, lead him to an empty show. And when all we can do is meddle, makes sure on one church he does not settle.”
Church attendance is bad enough, nephew, but consistent attendance at the same church spells almost certain doom for our cause. If your human persists in his church interest, you simply must devise some way to shuffle him around from congregation to congregation. See to it he never knows the people he is worshiping with. Keep reminding him of how rotten the music is over here, and how long the sermon is over there, and how bland the coffee is at that other church.  Trust me, it won’t take much to get him floundering on church. 
Almost any excuse will do.
College students are nothing if not critical. They are trained in it daily.
Use this to your advantage, my dear boy. If your subject is determined to go to church, make sure he searches for the perfect church. Within a few weeks he will be fast asleep on Sunday morning, much to our Father’s delight. Speaking of sleep, do whatever you can do keep your subject out late on Saturday evenings? Drink, girls, football, video games, paper—it doesn’t matter. Just keep him up. You know perfectly well how our Father Below insists on busyness at all costs and how terribly he depends on sleep deprivation for his work. It’s a well known fact among the higher ranks of devildom, that silly humans suspect our interference in the big things–death, accidents, spinning heads, and the like. 
They never expect that our work consists mainly in distraction. 
So do not neglect our demonic bread and butter. Make Friday a fun day and Saturday a waste. 
He will have no choice then but to sleep on Sunday and use the rest of the day to get
ready for Monday.  Keep up your discipline my dear Wormwood or he will keepup his!
You will excuse me for my stern tone, but I cannot overstate the importance of this matter of church. Perhaps your youth prevents you from fully grasping the eternal significance of this issue. Heaven is at stake, my infernal child. Spirituality is one thing. God talk is generally harmless.  Student “fellowships” as they call them are tolerable for a season. 
But for hell’s sake, Wormwood, church is absolutely out of the question.
Of course, it goes without saying some churches serve our cause nicely. 
Dead tradition churches.  Silly entertainment churches. Social get-together churches. Political party churches. Loveless, divisive churches.  Doctrineless churches.
These are all wonderful. 
Our concern, and I must reiterate it is a deep concern, is with churches that act like churches, the ones that preach Christ and live out their blasphemous faith. Such churches
introduce many bad habits in our subjects. They become more thoughtful. They become more aware of our Enemy’s character and schemes. They learn to love each other, even people unlike them in situation and temperament.  This can only bode ill for our work in the long run.  At the risk of insulting your diabolical intelligence, allow me to remind me of your course in Youth Misery. 
Recall the Three S’s of Satan, our Sinister Snake (I know, he sometimes gets carried away with alliteration, but it does help jog the old memory). The Three S’s of youth misery: 
Keep them separate. Keep them selfish. Keep them searching.   
Allow me to expound.
The First S: Keep them separate. Our Bureau of Statistics (remember there are lies, damned lies, and statistics) has documented evidence proving that the best way to keep young people from growing into devoted followers of the  Enemy is to keep them far away from any of his grown-up, devoted followers.  Church attendance allows for too much interaction between old and young.   
With this interaction come manifold dangers: modeling, mentoring, service, and hospitality.
Listen closely. Groups of students meeting together for prayer and study is,  it’s true, a pernicious influence, but gladly, the influence is often short-lived. Soon, your subject will graduate and he will find that the rest of the planet is not like his university. He will not be surrounded by peers all his age with his same interests. It is to our advantage that he be unable to relate to anyone above the age of 25. 
This not only makes for misery, but it makes church involvement, 
and therefore the Christian life, much less likely.
This, of course, goes hand in hand with the Second S: Keep them selfish.
It’s really quite simple.  All of our human subjects are selfish, but the young especially. 
It’s hardly their fault. They have no spouse or children to think of, only themselves. 
They have food handed to them on plastic platters. And they live in a country that believes for some strange reason, pleasant enough to us, that history doesn’t matter, that the old are useless, and that youth culture should be prized above all else. And yet, I must hasten to add, don’t underestimate your subject. Human youths are capable of extraordinary acts of courage and bravery and accomplishment, as the Annals of the Enemy record.  Keep your youth far away from such examples.  
See to it that no visions of nobility or self-sacrifice or inspiration enter his head.

Which again, if I may repeat myself, is why church must be foresworn at all costs. It is at church that he will see examples of lived-out bravery and sacrifice. And, more importantly, it is at church that he will have to face his own selfishness. He will encounter music he doesn’t like and old people who do strange things and babies who smell and cry. (Incidentally, I only mention babies because your subject is male, as is mine. The female youth I am told must not, under any circumstances, be surrounded by small children, those children enticing the females to re-visit church rather than repulsing them away as with most male subjects). My point is that so long as the spiritual experiences of our youthful subjects can be catered to the whims and fancies of 18-22 year olds, the students will not likely stick with a church when they discover that churches must also deal with the whims and fancies of 8 year olds and grandmothers.
One more thing, students today love the idea of community. 
Do everything in your power to keep them loving the idea of community rather than loving their community.  As long as they love their vision of community instead of loving the actual fleshly people around them, they will never have real community and they will stay far away from church.

The Third S, and here I draw to a close, is to keep them searching. 
Use the native restlessness of this time to your advantage. 
Students think it is their inalienable right to be irresponsible and uncommitted. 
Feed this conviction. 
Do not, in any way, allow for your subject to consider commitment or service or what they call “accountability.” 
If he must be interested in God, keep it peripheral. Let him come and go and flit in and out of whatever spiritual venue suits him for the day. But see to it that he makes no promises, no commitments, no investment. And in the unlikely event that you cannot prevent such blunders, make sure there is no one in his life to hold him to his promises and commitments, especially those who are older and wiser. This goal is best served by keeping our patients away from church. 
Remember the cross-stitch (pardon my use of the foul word “cross”) above auntie’s fridge: 
“Keep them searching for the soul; never finding and never whole.”

All that’s left is for me to thank you for your patience in reading what has turned out to be a rather lengthy correspondence. Please do not hear my harsh words as anything but familial concern for your welfare and the good of our Infernal Kingdom. Would you be so kind as to write me back as soon as possible? These are weighty matters and we truly live in troubled times.
Might I suggest you use the post instead of email–what with your past internet struggles and dalliance with sermonography?
Say hello to your father for me. Best wishes in your malfeasance,
malevolence, and malediction.
Unscrupulously yours,  
Uncle Screwtape

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