(Note: A number of years ago a rancorous debate took place in the pages of a local public forum newspaper in my area between Catholics and Evangelical Protestants. There was a lot of bitter “We’re right and you’re wrong!” claims, and a fair number of sarcastic insults. While followers of Christ from different traditions were attacking each other, I could only imagine that secular readers were laughing hysterically at both groups. In response, I wrote the following essay, blatantly stealing the format of the late, great C.S. Lewis, who styled his classic book, “The Screwtape Letters,” as the private correspondence of a senior demon to his nephew, an apprentice demon.)
My Dear Wormwood:
I am delighted by your recent success in northwestern Connecticut. It always warms the hollow cavity of my heart when followers of the Enemy squabble amongst themselves over doctrinal issues. If you handle this situation shrewdly, we will deliver many eternal souls to Our Father Below, to be forever ravaged and consumed by our fellow demons.
As you know, humans who have placed their faith in the Enemy and dedicated their lives to His service are currently beyond our clutches. But they are often so foolish and myopic in their understanding of spiritual realities, we can effectively employ them as unwitting tools in our quest for the capture of uncommitted human souls.
The key, of course, is to distract their attentions and passions from the Enemy Himself, and instead redirect their focus toward related but less significant issues. The more “religious” these issues the better, as petulant attitudes and insulting rhetoric are unleashed more forcefully than even in the field of partisan politics.
We must continue to prod the Enemy’s followers into behavior which is boorish and juvenile in the eyes of uncommitted souls. At some point, these searching souls will become so disgusted they will never again investigate the true identity of the Enemy nor consider putting their faith in Him. When this happens (I salivate at the mere thought), they are ours!
The Enemy clearly taught His followers, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” However, when humans are fixated on doctrines rather than the Enemy, love becomes invisible.
You have been most effective, my dear nephew, in pitting two historic camps against each other: those who venerate the Enemy’s earthly Mother and those who venerate the Enemy’s written text. How delightful when offspring of the same Father accuse each other of being bastard sons!
When one camp fires off a missive defending the Mother, make sure they also insult the other camp for “worshipping a book” (even though both camps agree the Book is Divinely inspired). And when the other camp replies in defense of the Book, make sure they insult the other camp for “worshipping statues” (even though both camps agree the Mother is a preeminent saint).
Continue also, dear nephew, to enflame passions regarding the precise definition and exact implementation of words such as salvation, sanctification, and justification. As we often say, “More heat, less light.” The Enemy, in His nauseating love for the pathetic human vermin, requires nothing more than “faith expressing itself through love.” (I’m about to wretch.) Don’t ever let either camp realize the word faith is a verb, or our fruitful centuries-old stratagem will be rendered useless.
I must at this juncture offer a word of caution. The day has just passed where the Enemy’s followers commemorate that ghastly event when our short-lived, three-day triumph was forever dashed to pieces. Even the most parochial and clenched-jawed followers can be softened and awestruck by the Enemy’s overwhelming love and gaudy display of power almost 2,000 years ago.
During this season, uncommitted souls are at the greatest risk of noticing expressions of Christian love and faith. (Years ago we successfully removed that risk from the annual December observance of the hideous Incarnation by turning it into a consumerist orgy.) You must redouble your efforts to distract the Enemy’s followers. Get them to concentrate on golf or yard work or the economy or vacations. Or better yet, get them to concentrate on their next insulting letter-to-the-editor. Anything but Him.
Keep up the bad work, my dear nephew. As long as two camps within the same army are shooting at each other, they are unable to observe the real foe, our forces, invading the land. As long as they are convinced the important battle is between different denominations, they won’t perceive that the true war is between the faithful and the secular worldviews. Your continued success will fill our subterranean storehouse with delectable souls on which we will feast.
Your affectionate uncle,