The film adaptation of the Narnia series was successful because of its fantasy plot, with the genre popularized by the Harry Potter series. Unlike the Harry Potter films, the Narnia series were written not as purely fantasy stories but based on biblical themes. C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia series, was a Christian writer who has written other books with faith subjects.
I chanced upon one of his books titled The Screwtape Letters. The book was a satire that played on the so-called Christians of his time. Screwtape, an elderly devil wrote the “letters” to his nephew Wormwood to advise him on the ways of improving his soul-catching skills. It contained advice by a mentor to his apprentice how to successfully snatch away human souls from their Enemy (God) and bring them to their fold. Each letter contains discussions on a particular human weakness and how to maximize these to the devil’s advantage. Presenting frailties from the devil’s perspective never failed to expose the hypocrisy, vanity and inconsistency of many Christians of his time.
My personal reflections led me to realize my religiosity and not on the strengthening of my faith. I feel spiritual, when in reality I am miles away from my relationship with the Lord. One of Screwtape’s advice to Wormwood was, “Do not let us be infected by our own propaganda”. In the same manner, many complacent Christians believed in their own spirituality but are lured into temptations. Worse, human nature is always made as the justification for waywardness.
Among the themes discussed by Screwtape, I have identified five “ordinary” themes which to my experience are the most lethal among the devil’s tools.
1. Negativity. We fall to temptations not because the devil is good at his trade, but because we look at the wrong side of life. We lose be default, as Screwtape advised,
The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives, and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it – all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.
2. Religiosity and intellectual arrogance. Just like the Pharisees and the Sadducees in the time of Jesus, we follow rules but we never take them to heart. Again in the words of Screwtape,
False spirituality is always to be encouraged.
3. Forever seeker of the ‘perfect’ church. As a result of our intellectual arrogance, we look for a church comparable to our level of understanding, or same level of social standing. We look for the pastor who can engage us in discussions to show our deep theological knowledge. Wormwood does not need his uncle’s coaching with this method.
The next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that “suits” him until he becomes taster or connoisseur of churches.
4. Attachment to the world. Jesus kept on hammering, the world is not our home, to no avail. We love the world and we cling to it like a depraved leech. C.S. Lewis further discussed that the possessive word “my” expressed the sense of ownership. We say “my family”, “my home”, “my career”, etc. and we will fight (and even die) for these. Even the words “my God” has certain level of ownership and a sense we have a servant who can provide for everything we need through prayers. So it is easy for the devil to encourage this habit.
The sense of ownership in general is always to be encouraged. The humans are always putting up claims to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in Hell, and we must keep them doing so.
5. Inactivity. This is one of the most effective methods used by the devil. We talk, say something, critique, but in most times we do not act. This is the worst we can do – not to do anything. Evil prevail because good men do nothing. Screwtape aptly advised,
Let him do anything but act.
The Screwtape Letters is a fictional devil’s manual, but if Christians remain apathetic, it may become more effective than the Bible.