As readers of A Pilgrim in Narnia will know, I enjoy knocking about archives. Not long ago, I made a chilling discovery: what appears to be an audio recording of an internal gathering of strategically placed demons. Needless to say, the audio was garbled, most probably encrypted. Using the resources at hand, our team was able to stabilize the recording and determine its contents.
The result was shocking. The degree to which the antispiritual descendants of Screwtape have focused their strategy should give us all room for pause. While we were at first tempted to keep this disturbing material quiet, for fear that it might cause more harm than good, it soon became obvious to us all that we cannot at this point be ignorant of the Lowerarchy’s foresight. Within the larger battle, the day is late.
Today is the 75th anniversary of the moment C.S. Lewis was courageous enough to share the first Screwtape letter, translated by his friend, the philologist Dr. Elwin Ransom. Inspired by the moment, our team decided that we must follow in his steps and release the tape, along with a transcript. Perhaps this might also put the rumours to rest.
The scene is in Hell at the annual dinner for graduates of the Tempters’ Training College specialty corps—an elite unit trained to tempt church leaders. President Slanderfist has just toasted the health of the graduates. Letchcraft, a very experienced devil and senior tempter, rises to offer his advice to the graduates.
President Slanderfist, Dean Crankbreath, Professor Slimtrumpet, Insignificant Underlings, Minor Imps, Shadies and Gentledevils, Fiends of the Demonic Horde:
It is an especial pleasure to be with these aspiring tempters of that most significant class of human vermin: the church leader.
All hell delights in the destruction of any human soul; that heaven weeps while we rejoice only makes our joy more complete.
Hell’s chalice is filled and overflowing with the great evil humanity pours out upon each other day after day. Not since my earliest days of service to Our Father Below have we lived in such wondrous abundance.
Our latest researches, however, have assured how singularly valuable it is for our elite forces to narrow in on the man or… hell forbid… the woman at the top.
Strike the shepherd and the sheep scatter.
Remove the head and the body bleeds out.
For generations, the greatest minds in the laboratories of hell have exercised the boundless energy of damnation to discover the weaknesses of the clergy class. No doubt your venerable President Slanderfist has you well on your way in the most successful temptations to church leaders: alcohol, sex, and money.
These mindless worms that grip eager fingers around a pulpit are so singularly predictable that it does not matter whether you push for excess or prohibition. Too much money or too little—both are traps for the church leader. Lust and revulsion are both useful tools, applied as they are to the right patient. We are as successful with the teetotaler as we are with the lush. If I cannot have the blubbering alcoholic, give me the self-righteous prig.
It will work every time.
This heads-I-win-tails-you-lose strategy is especially effective for those who claim to speak for the Enemy, these tepid human vermin who have the audacity to lead a generation of sheep who have no idea how to follow.
I, myself, prefer the leader who does not drink, smoke, dance, play cards, watch TV, or buy milk from those who do. The alcoholic knows he’s in trouble; the Pharisee never sees it coming.
On the wearisome and puzzling subject of sex I must say a word. Why the Enemy chose to debase the divine purity of creation by investing such a mundane, base act as sexual congress with spiritual meaning, even I cannot fathom. Regardless of our own boredom with the task of sexual temptation—do not envy your fellow tempters in the advertising and entertainment sectors—we must take this singular advantage. Humans are a hybrid make, body and spirit, animal and image of the Enemy. After decades of work we have made the human creatures in your region forget this very fact. For most, the idea that sex is anything more than a muscle spasm is now beyond even the wildest imaginations. We have that game well in hand.
As you know, my illustrious career was built upon my fame as tempter of the Televangelists. Oh, what an era that was. The stages filled with lights and smoke, television cameras, money rolling in to “ministry” coffers like springtime floods, all bathed in a syrupy, warm glow of spirituality…. Ahh…. It was like those narrow-eyed preachers with marble teeth and manufactured hairpieces were anxious to jump into our very hands.
But don’t be fooled. My greatest accomplishment was not that these alligator-shoed hypocrites wandered into one another’s beds—and pocketbooks. No, my greatest work was in cooperation with the philological arm. What we have done with words like “purity” and “chastity”—now that was a feat! That word, “chaste,” which terrified even the most experienced tempter, has now been reduced to the idea of virginity. So now your patients can host a Chastity Ball with young people in tight, expensive clothing wearing Purity Rings who have all taken Abstinence Pledges on an iPhone app, and no one has ever bothered to ask what the Enemy really means when he expects them to be chaste or pure.
Two in three will break this pledge and we’ve got them—not in the sin, mind you! We can never win in that game.
That the Enemy has taken on flesh so that sin has no material reality is something the humans can never really believe. Most of our gains in sexual sin comes not in the sin but in the guilt. In either case, for us it is all gain.
The twice-bitten meal is all the tastier.
And for those who do find their way to the, ugh, marriage bed, we have so degraded sex under the guise of chastity that the human mind is unable to believe that it is the gift the Enemy has really promised them. You’ll want to lean pretty hard here. As the mantra of “purity” continues to flash through their muddled brains, sow confusion, guilt, self-consciousness, and, above all, division. Even in marriage you can turn that which unites the humans as a single being into that which divides them.
Why invest in one-night stands when you can have long, weary, sexless, loveless marriages, where the home is a prison and the bed is no more than a place to see how Johnny’s soccer tournament went and time to scan social media on handheld phones, more interested in the imaginary people online than the real person beside them?
But… are we a little hasty in trying to reach for the low hanging fruit of sex, drugs, and rock and roll?
Are each of these temptations not dangers in their own right?
The pastor who has learned to live with humble confidence in poverty—and our work with church boards has made them poor enough!—this humility is as terrifying to the legions of hell as the greatest saint of history.
And lust, as hopeful as it can be for us to utilize, can always degrade into love.
And love, however won, leaves the patient almost untouchable by our greatest weapons. Even I, with an untainted resume of destruction and violence, a history so terrifying that it is printed in the annals of the greatest libraries of the Lowerarchy, even I am rendered helpless by even the lingering stench of love.
No my dear fiends, we must go to the heart of the matter.
Each of these temptations are, in one form or another, matters of the stomach.
Greed is the grain that feeds the pastor’s mill.
True, it is always amusing to revel in the glory of a sex scandal or to drink from the cup of corruption. But remember your charge.
By the way some of you young devils drool at the prospect of a victim’s spiritual death you would think that this grand edifice of torture and rebellion was set in place at the beginning of space-time for your own demonic satisfaction. It matters little how your man or woman finds their way to these unhallowed halls; … it only matters that they come.
While the blitzkrieg of the fallen pastor is great fun—oh I could tell you a story or two!—how much better the death of a thousand cuts—the slow, inch-by-inch march of Sunday to Sunday, funeral to funeral, the drudgery of countless board meetings and a hundred senseless theological queries, the dreaded counseling of Mrs. Landry’s boils and Mr. Canter’s noisy neighbours, the endless study of dusty books for stringent ideas when even the most faithful hearts will no longer be warmed? how much better the slow fade from image of God to machine of flesh, from Wary Shepherd to toothless wolf?
In the flash of a great fall you amaze the shepherd and shock the flock. Instead, think of the pastor who has lost his or her faith and yet continues to fill the… ugh… “the holy pulpit, that sacred space of worship and truth” with the hollow knock of doctrinal precision, the hypocritical chanting of meaningless words, a man decaying before their very eyes—no! even better, a dead man in the pulpit whose fetid flesh drips from creaky bones and stains the very pages from which he preaches?
If you play your cards right, the church down the street will be the last place on earth where a curious soul might meet the Enemy as He has designed: not just words but Word in Flesh, truth wrapped in authentic human struggle. So you must know your patient’s stomach.
You may think that starvation will break the leader. It is true that in lean times, when passion and hope both come to a sharp point, then you can set siege to a preacher’s body and soul by starving him out. But in the age of excess you must press the advantage by feeding the fattened calf.
You must feed their pride until even greatest compliment leaves them weary.
You must place them at the centre of attention until they wince at the sound of their own names called out in public. You must have them pour out their entire selves for others until the quiet hum of a vibrating phone moves them to tears.
If we cannot stop the heart then we must clog the arteries!
Obese spirits is what we want.
We cannot stop good things from coming to these flesh-ridden wretches. The Enemy loves to give good things to His children, forgiving sins beyond the sinner’s imagination and pouring out gifts in every living moment.
Ugh, it would make you vomit.
So we must press our advantage.
We need to create leaders who stuff their souls with good things until they cannot tell pleasure from pain.
When we turn their joy into sorrow, their dancing into mourning, then they are only one step from apathy!
And apathy, oh, apathy, yes, that state the human lives day to day without passion or hope—that human is already living here in hell.
When he gets here and lays his tired eyes on the austere furniture of damnation, we may find that he does not even know the difference between the church office and the pits of hell.
Now, all of this is assuming that your patient is a great man. Our work with special agents among the elder teams and presbyteries of your region to debase almost every aspect of ministry and to harass even the most patient pastor has almost entirely ensured that great leaders will stay clear of almost any church leadership position. These great leaders have set down seminary brochures and are now scattered among schools and businesses and governments—placed in positions where they can do great damage for the Enemy’s side, but where they are cut off from that gentle nudge toward the shepherd’s crook. We have so demoralized church leadership teams that most bright stars shine elsewhere.
But can you see how that strategy leaves us vulnerable? For the poor soul who wanders into the college recruitment office, for that timid creature who raises a hand to volunteer in the church pew—who must that person be?
Strip away the public esteem and financial comfort, sap away the energy of supported masses and the power of a public voice, tear away the crowded parking lots and the seas of hands raised in prayer—and what do you have?
More powerful than the greatest of great ones are the simple, strong, single-minded pastors who speak the truth when no one is listening, who lift the chin of the lowly, and who set their anchor on Another Shore.
I know you. In your dreams you have wanted an Alexander, a Hitler, a Stalin or Chairman Mao—you have wanted to feast on such resonant evil that its very aroma fuels entire universes of torture.
But, for all the evil that these great ones have manifested, the Gates of Hell—though eternal in dignity and strength—are never shaken more than when the man or woman of God, falls to their knees, and grips the altar with complete dependence—not dependence upon clever programs, creative advertising, personal charisma, or the strength of tradition—all toys we play with—but dependence upon the ever-present and unseen Terror of the Heavens.
That, dear fiends—that thought alone chills the hottest corridors of hell.
All our other strategies are already in place to isolate and ultimately destroy the church leader. Doctrinal disputes, denominational loyalties, political platforms, magazine subscriptions, family commitments, and even food allergies or office politics can be used to slice your patients away from those who know most what they are up against.
Yet, you young tempters must be ever vigilant. The Enemy, uncouth and desperate as He is, takes every opportunity to stand at their ear, reminding them in every human voice, in every shading tree and blooming flower and providential breath that His love is in all and through all.
If ever your patient suspects that the main object of their leadership is to set themselves aside—to put away personal ambitions and constant fears and even the guilt and pride of sin—if they ever catch on to the Enemy’s plan to redeem all of creation not through strength but through weakness, then we are finished.
You have heard the rumours, whispered behind the backs of your betters, and the threat is there: the flames of the Enemy’s love threaten to sweep through the boundaries of hell itself.
It is enough to make a devil shudder.
Every ounce of our energies must prepare against that day!
… And if you fail?
Well, you know the consequences of failure.
You have already feasted upon them in tonight’s menu.
…. But let us not end on a note of dread—lest it be the dread that our presence instills in the hearts of man.
Can you not see the day, Gentledevils, when that miserific vision is fulfilled? when even the heavens bow their knees to Our Father Below, and all the universe is ground into the dust of dire hatred? when the last light of the Enemy is extinguished and that great Pretender is put to rest? when finally this senseless experiment of humanity is shown for the farce it most certainly is?
Can you imagine that day with me?
Now, Shadies and Gentledevils, please raise your glasses with me to salute President Slanderfist and the class of 2015.
May you ever feed the fires of fear and doubt!