My first book of 2017 stressed me out so much that I literally had to take a three day break in the middle of reading it in order to catch my bearings.
I decided that I should follow that experience up with a light and easy read, so I chose The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.
In case you’re not familiar with the premise, this piece of fiction is written from the perspective of Screwtape, a senior demon. Each chapter is a different letter he writes to his nephew, Wormwood, a junior tempter who has been charged with making sure his “patient”, an ordinary British man, ends up eternally in hell.
Like I said, a light and easy read.
It’s impossible to sum up all my thoughts and applications about this book into one essay. There’s too much. I’ll still be processing its implications well into summer, I shouldn’t wonder.
Instead, I think I’ll let the book speak for itself.
So, here are seven quotes that were, for me, the most thought-provoking, convicting, or revelatory (more likely, all three).
(A helpful tip: first person pronouns (we, us, our) and second person pronouns (you) are in reference to the demons, while third person pronouns (he, him) discuss the man being tempted.)
Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily ‘true’ or ‘false’, but as ‘academic’ or ‘practical’, ‘outworn’ or ‘contemporary’, ‘conventional’ or ‘ruthless’. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, stark, or courageous–that is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.
It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.
One of our best weapons [is] contented worldliness.
Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will…The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.
You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption ‘My time is my own’. Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours.
Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him…build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth, which is just what we want.
There’s a New York Times commercial airing right now which you’ve likely seen. Now, I certainly don’t want to get into the politics behind its timing or its overall message, but I was struck today as I watched it because the last sentence to flash across the screen pretty succinctly sums up the main thing I took away from this book:
The truth is more important now than ever.
The battle for Truth is real (Lewis gave me an important reminder of this), and each day I must make a conscious choice to look for it in the right place and the right Person.
Now, in keeping with the long-standing tradition that I have newly created, I’d like to send my copy of The Screwtape Letters to someone for free. Books are worthless if you keep them to yourself. (Shout out to Courtney who got to add The Nightingale to her bookshelf!)
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s heavy and not very fun, but (more importantly) it’s important and thought-provoking.
So, if you want my copy (complete with the occasional highlighted phrase!), you can either
- Comment straight on this post.
- Comment on or reply to whatever social media outlet led you to this post.
Just throw up a few hand-raising emojis or tell me a book I can add to my list that will not stress me out or place heavy pressure upon my chest.
Note: I already started March’s book, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, so I’m not kidding: Happy. Books. Only.