Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dear Screwtape, XXIV: Pride


Dear Friend, you can read Chapter XXIV of The Screwtape Letters here.

Dear Screwtape, XXIV

My Dear Screwtape,
    Your strategy to attack our patient through Pride is definitely an approach we can pursue with some conditional hope of limited mastery. As you know, Pride defines us both philosophically and historically and we have both an adroit understanding of its strategic capability and a sterling record of successful exploits using it as a most effective weapon. In fact, our Father Below concocted the whole damned thing.
    A splendid pattern of perfection himself, Lord Lucifer epitomized the blazing radiance of Heaven with a beauty and wisdom unparalleled by any creature. His dazzling raiment glistened with heaven’s brightest jewels - ruby, topaz, emerald, onyx, jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and beryl - mounted in settings of purest gold. But Pride’s infernal passion melted these gems into a lava-like, rivulose stream of self-consuming lust. Cold-blooded, alien passions then transformed his adornments into rock-hard, reptilian scales, beautiful in color and pattern, yet poisonous with Hell’s deadliest venom.
    Indeed, Pride is like a lovely Hydra, poised to strike with deadly accuracy against audacious Herculean braggarts. Its least subtle but most frequently poised head, Possessive Pride, fosters childlike selfishness through a false sense of ownership of things, particularly if the bitten fool thinks that his things are bigger and better than someone else’s things. A more potent and deadly head, Performative Pride, bites most often at those who substitute the arrogance of accomplishments for the humbler self-respect born of quiet confidence; entrepreneurs and successful white-collar types are especially vulnerable to this poison. Lightning-quick Mental Pride strikes those high-minded intellectuals who are given to a sort of cerebral snobbery flaunted through a puffy, erudite ego and inflated conversational tone; professors, theologians (real and pretended), and dilettantes are our prey here. Another kind of Pride enchants the Beautiful and Strong: Physical Pride. Its serpentine sway charms them into a narcissistic self-appreciation of their bodily or facial aspect, an ego worship whose symptoms include too many trips to the mirror and the wearing of ostentatious or sparse clothing; vain youths and insecure or overconfident forty-ish types most frequently fall prey to this kind of mesmerism. But the most entrancing and deadly head of all, “Spiritual Pride,” we reserve for prized victims, the religiously deceived. The fangs of Spiritual Pride spew forth a venom deadly to those deluded by a self-deceiving consciousness of their superior spirituality. Numerous contemporary false prophets have succumbed to this succubus, and many of their followers as well. Now it is this latter kind of Pride which you think we can inject into my patient through what you perceive as a “chink” in his girlfriend’s armor, this Spiritual Pride. But let us observe a couple of cautions.
    First, you correctly assume that my patient’s youth makes him more vulnerable to Spiritual Pride. This is a tendency among His newborn of which the Enemy is keenly aware and therefore forbids them any authoritative voice in His Church. Also, the Enemy uses unfair means to thwart our efforts to exploit this prideful tendency of young converts. For instance, if we exploit this vulnerability as you suggest, be prepared for a number of counterattacks from the Enemy, such as the incisive penetration of His sword and Spirit directly into the patient to surgically remove the prideful thoughts we engender. And watch out for Providential meddling that chastises the younger patient with adverse circumstances that are certain to bring him into a repulsive state of humility and grief-stricken repentance. Even if we attain a greater degree of success with a true Christian, be prepared for the Enemy’s most spiteful tactic against Pride. Sometimes He allows Pride to swell in His children to the extent that they stumble, fall under its weight, and are crushed by it; then, contradictory to all logic and contrary to our wills, the Enemy takes Pride off their backs, dusts them off, and puts them back on the same old path but with a quickened awareness of our devices and sin’s prices. We cannot possibly win under such unfair and uneven conditions; triumph in minor skirmishes is all we can hope for where real Christians are involved. Irrevocable, absolute triumph await us only in the arena of counterfeit Christians and out-and-out reprobates. 
    One other thing before I sign off. Let us not deceive ourselves into believing we can exploit “erotic enchantment” as a means to spiritual pride. A patient’s romantic involvement with a Christian represents real danger to us. The eroticism born of Christian love is one of the more potent weapons in the Enemy’s arsenal; it has a way of elevating patients into a sphere of ecstasy which replicates within its amplitude the Enemy’s own passion for His Bride, a sphere into which we dare not ascend.        

Your affectionate nephew,

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