Monday, November 12, 2012

Dear Screwtape, Chapter XIV: The Gospel of Self-as-Steam

Dear Reader,

You may read Chapter XIV of The Screwtape Letters here.

Dear Screwtape, Chapter XIV

My Dear Screwtape,

Let us congratulate ourselves on a stunning success. Except for our triumph in convincing humans that God and grace are neither holy nor free, no weapon formed, nor strategy conceived and executed, has prospered so fructiferously in this withering garden Earth than our attack upon humility. Genuine humility, which you properly define as that “self-forgetfulness” in which man turns his “attention away from self to Him, and to the man’s neighbours,” is truly a fading savoir faire. We have all but destroyed this hazardous technique of selflessness whereby defectors once moved among their fellows with an unconsciously elegant and graceful ease. In fact, I am pleased to announce that now we have inaugurated a new policy which the humans practice almost universally, and which even some true defectors have embraced as the Gospel itself: SELF-Esteem (in Hell we call it “SELF-as-Steam”).

We have propagated this new Gospel of SELF-as-Steam via the following means: theological perversion and psychological conversion. From a theological perspective, the Gospel of SELF-as-Steam was a natural step in the de-evolutionary regression from seminaries to cemeteries, pulpits to puppets, penitents to performers. The natural inclination of the human heart to want a religion which worships and serves the Creature more than the creator has been our most helpful ally in this degenerative process. Not only have we succeeded in sabotaging the foundations of those already weak religious edifices whose theology was historically anthropocentric, we have also inflicted significant damage upon those more granite-based theocentric religions which once so furiously and maliciously contended for SELF-denial, the antithesis of SELF-as-Steam and the essence of the Enemy’s recruitment policy. 

Millimeter by millimeter, we have slowly eroded the church’s foundation by a subtle and gradual shift in their thinking, hardly noticeable, so that now their minds have refocused almost completely. Oh, yes, the rhetoric of theocentricism still reverberates softly among the old cedar rafters of most cathedrals, but this is only a courteous echo of the past, now secondary to the more soft and persuasive tones of “practical theology,” which really means a theology primarily man-directed and man-concerned, the “how to” and “I can” approach. And nowhere has this shift been more noticeable than in the church’s transition from a theologian-centered to a therapist-centered religion. 

We have accomplished this theologian-to-therapist mutation by the theological shift I mentioned above. And there is here, my dear Uncle, an important concept about which the humans are much confused. Contrary to what those who think themselves competent to counsel might say, it is the church, not the home, which should be the humans’ first priority, for the church is the pillar and ground of truth, and is built upon the foundation of the apostles’ and prophets’ theology, which, in turn, becomes the foundation upon which rest both the home and heart. Don’t you remember the Enemy’s domestic plan for His commonwealth? Humans, He said, can build solid homes with the brick and mortar of hearing and doing His words; that is, a theological foundation undergirds the sociological superstructure of the home and the psychological superstructure of the heart. Remember this lesson, Screwtape, because it teaches us to be termites, not wasps and spiders, and to work from the bottom up and the inside out. After all, if the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do? But this is not to say that we should not wield our stingers or weave our webs.

To the contrary, our strategy to undermine the theology of the church has been enhanced by successful and repeated pillaging of the home and heart. We have buffeted these strongholds of the Enemy with perpetual blows such as divorce, drugs, and the affluence followed hard by greed and financial straits. This constant pummeling has introduced a kind of inferiority complex among many patients which, in turn, has brought them to a state of SELF-pity accompanied by mental and emotional stress and even despair. Therefore, deliverance from this psychological dilemma has become a central human concern, especially for those with a religious bent, and thus our signal to procure a myriad of false conversions.

This is a subtle move on our part, as it distorts the motive for which a patient searches for a religious solution to his problems; rather than deliverance from sin, the motivation for much modern religion is the deliverance of SELF from adversity, especially if it involves deliverance to some kind of prosperity. This, in turn, has created in the church a need for professionals who know how to focus upon the SELF, its modern burdens, and the latest medical prescription or psycho-therapeutic placebo for deliverance from these “evils”. Thus now we have a SELF-centered church, where the answers are found no longer with pastor-theologians but with psycho-therapists, and where “repentance” now means “recovery” and the Gospel of Self-as-Steam supplants the Gospel of self-denial. 


Your affectionate nephew,


P.S. Oh, by the way, let us continue to influence pastors to spend their valuable time reading the latest books on counseling and psychology, and consuming hours and hours in counseling sessions, as opposed to the more difficult tasks of probing the mysteries of the Enemy in their studies, preparing messages instead of sermons, and praying for the spontaneous and radical conversion of their hearers (If pastors ever return to this out-of-date but dangerous technique, we could have serious problems).

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