Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Send it in a Letter

This is the last C.S. Lewis post for a long time, I promise :) I am done reading his books for now.

I am involved in a secular book club apart from the church one I attend. We read works of fiction every month, usually novels. When we first started a year ago, we were all throwing out suggestions for books. I mentioned The Screwtape Letters because I thought it was more fiction than apologetics (I was mistaken). Someone in the group liked that idea, and ever since has been bringing up the suggestion again and again. I had forgotten about it, but she didn't. So this month we read it. I was sick and consequently missed the meeting, but after speaking to the other members, I discovered that two people found it boring (but one said she was glad she read it anyway), the woman who re-suggested it enjoyed it, and the others didn't read it. This outcome was better than I expected. It is not a religious group like the other, and I was afraid they would be angry with my selection or think I was proselytizing.

I enjoyed the book very much and got a lot out of it (as I usually do with Lewis's work). For those of you who don't know, the book is a collection of letters that Screwtape (a veteran devil) writes to his nephew Wormwood (a novice), and they are full of advice on how to tempt the human he is assigned to. Here are some quotes I liked:

"Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. [...] Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment" (29).

"There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human's mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them" (34).

"He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles" (42).

"The Enemy will also try to render real in the patient's mind a doctrine which they all profess but find it difficult to bring home to their feelings - the doctrine that they did not create themselves, that their talents were given them, and that they might as well be proud of the colour of their hair" (60).

"We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow's end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the Future every real gift which is offered them in the Present" (62-3).

"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. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home on Earth, which is just what we want" (101).

"In peace we can make many of them ignore good and evil entirely; in danger, the issue is forced upon them in a guise to which even we cannot blind them" (104).
I like that he makes devils responsible for society's unrealistic standards of beauty (a.k.a. super thin types). That gave me a good chuckle.

As I was reading it, I was wondering, "What would the letters on tempting me look like?"

2 comments:

A. Estella Sassypants said...

I loved this book when I read it, and I found it to be a total "toe-stepper." I also found myself wondering what my letters would look like. Always love Lewis. I've been thinking of re-reading this one and Til We Have Faces.

sojourness said...

I began reading "Till We Have Faces" a few months ago but didn't have time to finish it. I was really enjoying it too. Will have to read it when I get a chance.