Wormwood and Screwtape

In a recent Chapel, several of our seniors spoke on their reflections of C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. In the book, Lewis gives his readers a series of lessons in the importance of taking an intentional role in one’s Christian faith by portraying a typical human life, with all its temptations and failings, seen from devils' perspective. Screwtape holds an administrative post in the bureaucracy ("Lowerarchy") of Hell, and acts as a mentor to his nephew Wormwood, an inexperienced (and incompetent) tempter. In the thirty-one letters which constitute the book, Screwtape gives Wormwood detailed advice on various methods of undermining faith and of promoting sin in "the Patient," interspersed with observations on human nature and on Christian doctrine. In Screwtape's advice, individual benefit and greed are seen as the greatest good, and neither demon can comprehend God's love for man or acknowledge human virtue.

Here are some notable quotes from CS Lewis, followed by reflections from some of our seniors:

It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

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.”
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’ The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.

From the Preface
C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Sam Garza spoke on the concept of living one's life to the fullest, an idea presented in C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. Sam encouraged students not to procrastinate, but to instead go out into the world and pursue their interests. In addition, Sam emphasized the finite nature of life through a particularly moving quote from Sylvia Plath's novel The Bell Jar:
I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantine and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Jacob Huser spoke on the importance of acknowledging our sins and keeping a strong connection with Christ. He talked about how shocked he was to read in the Screwtape Letters that demons are happy a man is still going to church, because it allows him to believe he is safe from Satan’s grip. One may fall into the trap of the routine of going to church and going to school Chapel on Wednesday and believe that is enough to keep our relationship with God. As Christians we must make an intentional effort in our lives to maintain a strong relationship with Christ. We may believe that our little sins mean nothing but small sins can allow Satan to wiggle his way into our lives. We must recognize our sin before we slowly slip from the safety of God’s love.

In Abe Hinterlach’s compelling chapel speech, he read a passage from C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters regarding worry and urged the audience to take it to heart. He challenged the audience to trust in God with their worries and lay aside their anxiety. Quoting Corrie Ten Boom , Abe said “Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

If you haven’t read Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, (or any of his other works for that matter), let me encourage you to do so and may we all encourage one another in comprehending God’s love for us and the human virtues that are a result.

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