This week, we are reading through and discussing letters 5-8 of C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters.
Letter 5: World War II
Lewis published his work in 1942. In this letter, we read of Screwtape’s perspective on the outbreak of WWII. Wormwood is excited about the outbreak of war and all of the destruction and evil that war brings. Screwtape, however, counsels Wormwood to temper his excitement. Screwtape admits that war is entertaining because of the immense human suffering that it brings, but he wants Wormwood to keep his sights on the overall goal of separating the Patient from the Enemy (God).
Screwtape warns Wormwood that war is not necessarily good for business. War makes people intimately aware of their mortality and thereby makes them prepare for their death. Screwtape would prefer nursing homes over foxholes since in the former death is never explicitly mentioned. Additionally, war makes humans believe in and be willing to die for causes beyond themselves, which gets very close to exactly what the Enemy (God) desires. And the suffering war brings too often makes people turn to the Enemy (God) for solace. For the demonic, war is good but also dangerous.
As we read through this chapter, remember Joseph’s statement to his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.” Gen. 50:20. Reflect on how war, suffering, or any other evil in human society can often be a means of turning people towards God. Also, reflect on how the modern world’s concealment of death and suffering can prevent us from turning fully towards God.
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.Romans 5:3-5
Letter 6: WWII – Further Thoughts
In this letter, Screwtape continues his discussion of how the War can benefit Wormwood’s attack on the Patient. First, Wormwood needs to keep the Patient uncertain about the future because the Patient could be drafted. This way, the Patient is only thinking about what could happen to himself, and he fails to think about being of service to others. Also, War brings fear, and fear is an ally. The Patient must be afraid and focused on his fear itself. The fear of fear can be quite distracting.
War also encourages hatred, particularly of the unknown and of unknown people. The Patient will come to hate Germans but not any one particular German as such. This hatred, however, provides a splendid opening for Wormwood to exploit. The Patient’s hatred having been first directed to the unknown, can be redirected to the well-known. Wormwood should seek to begin to direct the Patient’s malice to those he can actually see – his neighbors.
As we read through this chapter, think about how suspense, anxiety, and the unknown can barricade a person’s mind against God. Also, think through how fear can easily have the same effect of pushing God away. Lewis writes of three concentric circles of the mind: innermost, intellectual, and fantasy. How does Screwtape advise Wormwood to use these circles to separate the good and the bad in the Patient? Why does the demon think it important that all virtue be in the outermost circle?
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philipians 4:6-7
We are back in person for our studies. If you are planning to join us, please let us know. Dinner is at 6:30 with the discussion at 7:30.