Wormwood: Make Him Church Shop

Screwtape Letters I love this section of Screwtape Letters where Screwtape, the older demon, gives his young demon-nephew Wormwood some tips on duping “churchgoing” Christians.  Screwtape says that if Wormwood can’t get a certain Christian to skip church altogether, the next best thing is to get him to church shop/hop, in a cynical and critical way, never opening up to receiving nourishment from preaching.

“My Dear Wormwood:”

“You mentioned casually in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and only one, since he was converted, and that he is not wholly pleased with it.  May I ask what you are about?  Why have I no report on the causes of his fidelity to the parish church?  Do you realize that unless it is due to indifference it is a very bad thing?  Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.”

“The reasons are obvious.  In the first place the parochial organization should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires.  The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction.”

“In the second place, the search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil.  What he wants of the layman in church is an attitude which may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful, but which is wholly uncritical in the sense that it does not appraise – does not waste time in thinking about what it rejects, but lays itself open in uncommenting, humble receptivity to any nourishment that is going.  …This attitude, especially during sermons, creates the condition (most hostile to our whole policy) in which platitudes can become really audible to a human soul.  There is hardly any sermon, or any book, which may not be dangerous to us if it is received in this temper.”

“So pray bestir yourself and send this fool the round of the neighboring churches as soon as possible.”

C. S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, chapter XVI.

shane lems

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