Monday, July 9, 2007

Screwtape and the Office of Holy Ministry

Almost immediately after Pastor Thomas Zimmerman of Concordia Theological Seminary preached at our church last week about a very discouraged Elijah, as described in 1 Kings 19, I came into possession of a very strange letter written by someone called Screwtape to a junior devil by the name of Wormwood.

Perhaps this intercepted letter might provide us some helpful intelligence on how the devil attempts to discourage pastors, much like Elijah was tempted after his big day at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-46).

And so, I pass this odd correspondence along to you for your consideration:
My dear Wormwood:

I am beginning to suspect that you do not realize the significance of your present assignment, for he has been set apart by the Enemy for a particularly dangerous purpose, and his case, therefore, demands our special attention.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of paying particular attention to those vermin, like your present patient, that the Enemy foolishly chooses as His miserable instruments, those called 'pastors' within His ranks, for they continue to do so much regretable damage to our glorious cause. It really is quite aggravating, for after all, it is only the Enemy's unfair advantage over us that makes these ridiculous specimens so dangerous in His hands.

And all the Enemy does is smile down at them, as they stumble through their ridiculous duties, parroting whatever He tells them. I will not even mention the absurd way that He carries on about those detestable multitudes that are lost to us through these loathsome servants of His. And then there are the ridiculous, repugnant ways that He uses these pastors, first that abhorrent Voice and then -- and this is almost too revolting to mention -- that water, bread, and wine, which are somehow joined with that, again, that infuriating Voice! Oh, Wormwood, to be undone by that which is so common, illogical, and unspiritual, all the while with that irritating smile beaming down upon them all. One would think that the Enemy actually likes the miserable creatures.

Do not suppose that the Enemy's very different smiles and infuriating laughter that He directs at us mean that this ridiculous magic show is merely a bad joke, for we must consider the grave results that it has rendered against us for nearly 2,000 years. We can be certain that Our Father Below, a true spirit of spirits, would never bear the indignity of working with either these ridiculous creatures who have, like dogs, collars around their necks, or the very vulgar matter that they distribute with their grubby little hands. Such matters can infuriate even the most experienced of tempters.

Such continued indignities certainly demand our redoubled efforts, Wormwood, so let me point out a few fundamental tactics that have proved useful with these vile creatures. These are tricks of our own that have worked particularly well for apprentice tempters like yourself, simple techniques that we initially tried with that crude showoff Elijah, who unfortunately eluded us after that regrettable setback at Mount Carmel. We have now employed these same tactics in other cases with great success for centuries, thus rendering many of these set-apart servants of the Enemy completely useless to Him, and consequently, delivering innumerably more of these two-footed beasts safely into the eager hands of Our Father Below:
“Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.’" (1 Kings 19:1-2)

First and foremost, Wormwood, you must avoid frontal assaults. You must work in secret, preferably behind the facade of the thoroughly amusing piousness that so many of our people in the Enemy's camp wear with pride. Try to find some domineering wives and hen-pecked husbands, like the Ahab and Jezebel that even now, our master continues to relish below. There are thousands of these useful specimens within the Enemy's camp, and if you really wish to truly enjoy your patient, then by all means find yourself such a couple with an abundance of that most helpful and amusing of our virtues: niceness. Even I smile to think of the deeds done for Our Father Below in the name of the Enemy.

“And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree...” (1 Kings 19:3-4a)

Secondly, isolate the scoundrels. By all means, keep your patient away from other Christians, especially those who are also set apart by the Enemy as stewards of his box of tricks. Keep him far from all those in the Enemy's camp who might ask him questions that would make your patient begin to think about what they call 'truth'. Remember how the Enemy asked that showoff at Carmel such unfortunate questions: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

You must also remember that Light and the lucidity that the Enemy's mere whispers can bring to your patient must be continually guarded against. Keep your patient alone and focused on the difficulties that surround him, and by all means, get him to believe that such debilitating solitude is a part of his calling.

Keep those who would hinder or even undo our work by, as the Enemy puts it, 'loving' your patient, far, far from him. Secret ballots in voters' assemblies, backroom elder meetings, late-night phone calls 'out of concern', or nasty petitions drawn up in conventicles -- all of these things can and should be utilized, for they all help to isolate your patient 'for his own good' and for the supposed good of the Enemy's camp. In short, keep your patient and his charges in dark confusion or chaos. And Wormwood, it is so very delicious to get the little beasts to actually think that they are being 'bold' or 'compassionate' or 'prudent' in doing these things! Keeping everyone in the dark like this while feeding their little egos will further our cause in countless ways and increase your own amusement immeasurably!

But by all means, beware of the Light that comes whenever the Enemy gets his little beasts to think and discuss all matters openly and in submission to his infuriating Voice, for then, Wormwood, all is lost. This situation should be your greatest fear, for the Light that the Enemy then brings to bear upon our purposes can foil all of our best efforts! Therefore, isolate, isolate, isolate!

"He lay down and slept under a juniper tree; and behold, there was an angel touching him, and he said to him, ‘Arise, eat.’ Then he looked and behold, there was at his head a bread cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank and lay down again." (1 Kings 19:4)

You must also learn to use your patient's fatigue. Be sure to work on him when he is most weary, perhaps on Mondays or after particularly nasty church council or congregational meetings. Our near success with that showoff at Mount Carmel illustrates how effectively fatigue can be used against the Enemy's servants; it is at these times that you will most often succeed in getting your patient to dwell upon himself and his present difficulties, rather than that Hedonist who called him, who is likely to simply offer the beast good food and sound sleep. Above all, Wormwood, use your patient's fatigue and troubles to keep his mind in turmoil and away from that other Mountain that we dare not even mention. Timing is everything, so be sure to move against your patient when he is most weak and tired.

"And he requested for himself that he might die, and said, 'It is enough; now, O LORD, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers!'" (1 Kings 19:4b)

Finally, you must utilize this isolation and fatigue to accomplish that most important, and frankly, most deliciously satisfying accomplishment of all: False belief! You will find that in your patient's times of loneliness and weakness, that he will believe just about anything. Even I smile as I fondly recall how we got that showoff at Carmel to whine about not being better than his fathers. As long as you can point your patient to himself and his troubles, instead of that other Mount that we do not name, then you will most likely succeed with him.
Now let me give you one final warning. As we saw after Mount Carmel, all of our best efforts can fail with one whisper of the Enemy. The show off! Therefore, we can never rest. Never assume that your patient is safely won, for even our best of servants, like that miserable traitor Saul, is evidence enough of the Enemy's unfair advantage over us. He is always so undignified, so unethical, and so scandalously unspiritual! Remember: secrecy, isolation, fatigue, and false belief!

I need not mention what penalties will undoubtedly await you, if any future incompetence allows your patient to once again escape into that disgusting Light, that which even Our Father Below dare not look upon.

Your affectionate uncle,


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