Lent, Screwtape and Libya

Several months ago I mentioned we'd be discussing C. S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters here during Lent. Now is a good time—acts of warfare are ongoing in Libya—and in Screwtape Lewis confronts readers with an underlying question: what importance is to be given to the inner spiritual life, the discipline and hope of saving one's own soul, versus the call to Gospel justice in practicing the beatitudes and righting the wrongs of the world?

Written by Lewis shortly after bombs began falling on Britain after 1939, Screwtape can be viewed through two different lenses, each offering ideas about how to face outside forces of destruction. A first view is a description of the book itself. It is a series of letters between two devils, a younger devil assigned to tempt a particular man who is living in England during the War, and an older devil who is “supervising” the younger one, in a manner to an experienced physician supervising an intern. The names of these two malevolent spirits indicate Lewis’s disdain. The young devil is Wormwood—bringing images to mind of nasty creatures that bore into and destroy the once-alive material of which houses, furniture and even works of art are constructed. The senior devil’s name, Screwtape, brings to mind a twisted tape measure, one that is useless and even worse, one that will ruin the best architect’s plans.

In his correspondence Wormwood indicatess glee at the great war going on, as it is an opportunity for rapes, property destruction and senseless killings of all kinds. This brings rapid rebuke from Screwtape, who informs Wormwood that very many souls are brought to Heaven during times of War because of fulfilled duty, heroism and sacrifice. Screwtape suggests inciting quarrels between people, encouraging pride and judgementalism, and encourages getting people to take strong political views concerning the war—positions that will incite disagreement and even hatred toward other Christians. (Will the battles in Libya become a force to make Christians angry at or even hate each other? It will be interesting to see how this will play out.)

The second lens of interpretation discovers themes of Lewis’s spirituality. He conveys these to his readers in six guidelines. First, the struggle for eternal salvation is the greatest moral task, and cautions that great Earthly problems, even the worst wars, can divert a person from their primary task. In framing our journey on Earth in this manner, he can be counted among those who opt toward the more “supernatural” aspects of the Christian faith. Second, encourage divisions within Christianity itself, using theological and political statements as wedges to polarize the faithful against each other. He refers several times in Screwtape to the conflict and enmity between pacifists and those adhering to just-war theories, pointing out that each side becomes so certain of their righteousness that this issue becomes more important than what we ask for each time we say the Lord's Prayer.
 
Lewis’s third, fourth, and fifth themes form a trilogy, one concerned with psychological matters. The devil should keep a person’s mind focused on inner life and feelings (to promote self-absorption and selfishness), ignore today and worry about the future, and discourage a person from seeking simple God-given pleasures. Lewis was no fan of Freud, although he grudgingly suggested psychoanalysis could help extremely troubled people, and suffered no foolishness concerning lengthy discussions about religious and spiritual feelings. His focus was the opposite of William James: not to delve into what people “experienced and felt” but rather to stir them to Christian activity. There is an Ignatian streak in Lewis’s thought where he encourages us to live each day to the fullest, to be concerned about only each day’s bread, and to remember those lilies of the field that sway so beautiful and remain so protected. Simple pleasures—taking a walk, tea-time or coffee break, reading or re-reading a book, having a pint in a pub—were staples in Lewis’s life and he encouraged others to find activities like this. And like Ignatius, for him gratitude was a cardinal virtue.

The sixth major theme of Screwtape Letters may be the most timely, as bombs fall in Libya this Lent. Screwtape envisioned a major part of the Devil’s workload as encouraging Christians to judge and condemn the enemies of others. This, of course, is not a teaching of Christ. Since much of Christian advocacy and social justice work involves confronting injustices—either systemic ones or those actively caused by others—how can standing up to, confronting, and yes—even judging—the enemies of others be a bad thing? For Lewis, the reason is that this builds up a person’s sense of pride and being smarter than others or "being right"—attitudes leading to incivility and anger. Some have suggested that because of these attitudes, Lewis was too passive. Dietrich Bonhoffer, Thomas Merton, and others—including Jesuits too many to name—took a much different approach when confronted with systemic evil.

Screwtape Letters has always made me question the balance in my own life between working to change the world versus changing myself and leading a Christian life in the "small" matters that come up each day. I find that too many times that the former starts to obscure the latter, and that when this starts to happen C.S. Lewis provides a helpful spiritual antidote.

Advertisement

I hope to hear your thoughts, and most of all, hope that the Lenten season is bringing you spiritual nourishment.

William Van Ornum

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Bill Collier
7 years 4 months ago
On the Lewis/Freud issue, there's an interesting book by Armand Nicholi that uses the writings of both men as the basis for a fictional "debate" between them. The book's title reveals the scope of the debate- "The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex, and the Meaning of Life." Of course, this book will have to wait until after discussion of "The Screwtape Letters" has been completed. ;) 
we vnornm
7 years 3 months ago
Marie,

A very sad state of affairs that you have written about. It must be very volatile if the police need to be present during the saying of the Rosary. When violence occurs somewhere, sadly the memories of it can tarnish whatever good feelings an environment might normally invoke in visitors. For this prayer can be a cleansing antidote.Thanks for the information and the links.  best, bill
we vnornm
7 years 4 months ago
Dear Bill,

It took me several readings (over decades) to even start to grasp the many meanings of the book. (This is true for me with Lewis's other books as well.) The gradual road he talks about is truly a scary one-a path that one seems to fall upon inadvertently. best, bill 
Bill Collier
7 years 4 months ago
This is one of my favorite books, and you've done a great job, Bill, laying out its themes. Darkly satirical and deadly serious by turns, every re-read reveals new insights and affirmation of Lewis's genius. No doubt like most people on their first experience with the book, it took me some time to get used to the reverse theology and twisted perspective-e.g., God as the ''Enemy'' and Satan as ''Our Father.'' The book is also full of memorable maxims; one of my favorite bits of advice that Screwtape imparts to neophyte (and nephew) devil Wormwood is that ''the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.'' How true that is!
Robert Homan
7 years 4 months ago
Very nice piece, thank you. 

Anyone who enjoyed this might be interested in these pieces by Heather King. The first is billiant, I think, as it explores the boundaries between an inner witness and life and politics:

http://shirtofflame.blogspot.com/2011/02/why-i-avoid-both-catholic-left-and.html 

(there is also a very lively comment thread on that one)

Her newest one delves more into politics and voting:

http://shirtofflame.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-i-used-not-to-vote-and-am-now-going.html#comments

If you haven't read her before I highly recommend it. There are some highlighted articles on the right side which are all great. 
we vnornm
7 years 4 months ago
Robert,

I made q quick visit to shirtofflame; I'm going to go back later and read it carefully and make some comments. Thanks! bill 
Alyssa Cariani
7 years 4 months ago
Dr. Van Ornum, you've made me want to go out and buy this book. it sounds fascinating!
I love when pieces of literature are timeless and can be applied to situations years after they were written.
America seems to find itself in tricky situations quite consistently. Like Christians, how can we as a country balance social justice with proper action? Honestly, I just do not know.
I always find myself so torn when asked about my opinions on America's involvement in Iraq. While the Iraqi people (and now the Libyan people) were suffering so greatly, why did we choose those countries to support and not others? For example, why haven't we attacked Sudan as a result of the murders of the hundreds of thousands of innocent people? I know we cannot solve all of the world's issues, but it seems to me like often times the US isn't acting solely with the interest of social justice in mind, which is what I've gathered Lewis warned us about.
we vnornm
7 years 4 months ago
Alyssa,

Yes, by all means get the book...maybe Borders has it for a good price in their "going out of business sale"...One does indeed wonder why some places on the globe have resulted in "intervention" while others have been left alone. I think if you do some searches in the AMERICA archives you might find many good articles that bring to our awareness places in the world where there is a need for some kind of mature and civilized help from the nations who have been given more resources, stability, etc.  Glad that you are thinking about this, and hope that you and others in your generation will make this an ongoing focus.

Tim Reidy's regular postings from Miranda Global offer many insights:
http://americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&entry_id=4037

best, bill
Crystal Watson
7 years 4 months ago
I haven't read the book since I was a teenager so I've forgotten a lot of the details.  I wasn't a Christian then but a Christian friend had given me a bunch of CS Lewis books to read and  I remember being really disturbed by the idea that the devil existed and was working to doom everyone.  Now that I'm interested in Ignatian spirituality, I have some of the same anxieties about Ignatius' idea that the "bad spirit" is trying to influence us.  I'm not sure what I really believe about this subject.  An interesting book I got a while ago ...Spirit of Light or Darkness? by Jules Toner SJ  ... http://www.jesuitsources.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=3&products_id=44
we vnornm
7 years 4 months ago
Crystal,

You've made me want to get the book Spirit of Light or Darkness. I use the case study method alot in teaching. It's also good to see a publisher devoted to Jesuit spirituality. It can be disconcerting to start delving into "bad spirits". One can either view Lewis's portrayal of "devils" as real beings (He was a "supernaturalist" and did believe in the reality of New Testament miracles as well as in different "levels" of angelic and diabolical beings who are real but can't ordinarily be perceived through human perception) or metaphorically. But sometimes when a subject like "demons" pushes any uncomfortable emotional, spiritual, or intellectual button it may just be better to avoid the topic as the goal of "inspirational" reading is, well..to be inspired and not to be caught into doubt or weariness.

There's also lots of irony in Screwtape letters and the two devils depicted there came across to me as bumbling and ineffectual. And not a soul is lost to them in the end. So it ends well. bill
7 years 4 months ago
Last yr I dusted of my old copy of the book and reread it and will reread it again with your guidance.  I wonder if old Screwtape has the 7 capital sins in the back of his mind ?  Pride, Covetousness, Lust, Anger, Gluttony, Envy and Sloth-the sources of many other sins.  And is teaching Wormword and others how to insidiously present temptations to these sins with the plan that they will lead to further sinfulness.

I have a definition of the sin of Anger that may help when we are discerning what is rightfully social justice and morality of military interventions. Wrath is an emotion which is not in itself wrong but which when it is not controlled by reason or hardens into resentment and hate, becomes one of the 7 capital sins.  Anger is a desire for revenge.  To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit, but it is praiseworthhy to impose restitution to correct vices and maintain justice.  The antidote to wrath is to alwahys find a way to make peace with ourselves first, with others, with persons suffering under unfair conditions.  Seek after peace and pursue it.  ''If you have a dispute with someone, make peace with him before the sun goes down''.  (thanks to a Benedictine brother!)


The gradual road that CS writes about doesn't really apply when one is in the 70's and has a life-threatening illness.  Peace of self, with others and primarily with God is a task of the present.  For the first time in my life, while on retreat at the Benedictine Abbey, I wept while in Confession.  I so terribly want to attain that peace.  I'm relying on Christ's promise to the Meek as I am among the meekest of the meek.  I can fight ferociously for my children, clients and other vulnerable people but when it comes to myself I don't seem to have the foggiest idea of how to fight for myself.  This doesn't come from virtue but is a result of untreated childhood molest, which set me up for a horrible emotionally abusive experience in therapy with an unscrupulous psychologist.  At that time, treatment of abuse was in its infancy.  Now, the abused person is helped to confront the abuser.  Then, the woman psychologist saw and reamed out the abuser on her own.  After I left his ''therapy'' I had no further contact with him, ever.  That was over 25 yrs ago.  The result of such abuse is excrutiatinly painful loss of trust and this hampers relationship with God and others throughout life.  With the grace of God I was able to be an excellent social worker with women and children who had been abused.  That is a good example of God's providence and grace.  And I had a wonderful father who loved me unconditionally and lifelong supportive sister and friends.  God does provide.  I love to call God, ''ABBA''.
we vnornm
7 years 4 months ago
Janice,

Thanks for the distinction between wrath and anger; it is one that I had not thought about and it is one that has great practical application. Your last two sentences are an inspiration to anyone reading. best, bill
we vnornm
7 years 4 months ago
David,

I was always impressed that Lewis was well-read on Freud as well as on psychoanalysis.

Yet the same can't be said of Freud regarding religion. Lewis also ciriticized Freud for not knowing much about early myths and literature (of which Lewis knew a great deal).

It would be fair to say that Lewis could summzrize Freud's writings very well; I don't think Freud would have been able to do so regarding Lewis (or on many topics having to deal with religion.)

This is one of the many reasons I think highly of Lewis. He also understood "true" science, and did not see psychoanalysis as falling within this domain.

best, bill
Christine Castellana
7 years 4 months ago
I wish I had time to read this  now, but I'll have to add it to my List of books to read over the summer!

Do you recommend any other novels that one should read that explores such themes?

we vnornm
7 years 3 months ago
Christine...In an other of his books, Out of the Silent Plant, finished in 1938, there is a much different call to righteousness, one with a definite call to action in the face of terrors encountered.  The book’s central character, Dr. Ransom, finds himself kidnapped and taken on a spaceship to another planet, where he is immersed in seas and rivers of unimaginable beauty, and “before anything else he learned that the planet Malacandra was beautiful.” There is no time to contemplate this beauty, no peaceful interval to gather his thoughts and prayers or to enjoy the day through a solitary walk, for Ransom is ensconced in unfamiliar situations where he must use every power of his intelligence and ethical self to determine the right course of action as the cruel actions of the two bent men whom he has accompanied start to cause reverberating evil everywhere. Ransom must make decision after decision based on the best information he can gather, guided by his own informed moral compass:  a task similar to our own today was we try to rebuild malformed social systems, reaffirm broken global brotherhoods, and recast warped technologies and industries into the service of peace. bvo
we vnornm
7 years 3 months ago
Dear Bill,

Thanks for mentioning Nicholi's book. He brings expert medical and scientific background as an M.D. at Harvard. I found the end of the book-dealing with the different ways in which Lewis and Freud each faced death-very telling about each of their respective personalities. Yes, a good book to discuss here sometimes. Thanks. bill
we vnornm
7 years 3 months ago
David,

I have always been intrigued by the similarites and differences between Lewis and Merton. Although they each wrote during the same two decades, I don't think I've ever found a place where one of them cited the other. Of course in their core beliefs and devotions they are very similar, but at times Merton may have become "extroverted" in declaring some of his views ("Confessions of a Guilty Bystander" is one place where this occurs.) Merton in his small retreats preached social justice and action whereas Lewis in his weekly meetings with the Inklings dissected literature and writings and shared a glass of ale. Sadly there seems to have been an emotional incompleteness to each of them and great disappointment in love. Since high school I have always read them side by side and I wonder what might have occurred had they ever met! bill
Marie Rehbein
7 years 3 months ago
We could change the title to "Lent, Screwtape, and Las Cruces" based on the comments associated with the following article in my local newspaper:

http://www.lcsun-news.com/ci_17633106?IADID=Search-www.lcsun-news.com-www.lcsun-news.com

(comments are at: http://www.topix.net/forum/source/las-cruces-sun-news/TOEUQ53E583TUDFPH)

In particular, I would point out those entries where gang members comment that God forgives them for murdering each other and all the other criminal things they do, including what they did at the church during the rosary the night before the funeral.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying the very nice weather while my kids are on Spring Break.  We bought petunias yesterday for the planters on the deck.  My youngest daughter wants me to take her to the tennis courts and to the new indoor pool facility today (the outdoor pools are still closed).  On Saturday, we had a hard time deciding whether to get Japanese, Indian, New Mexican, or Greek food - we picked Greek.

On the other hand, it turns out that every gang altercation, most involving guns, have occurred at locations that I had from my first visit found very uncomfortable and avoided as much as possible because they felt evil.  Whenever I did have occasion to pass through these quite average looking areas, I would pray.  I feel that I have learned why I was doing that.  
Janice Feng
7 years 3 months ago
I have not read the book, but from what was written in this posting, I feel that Lewis was misunderstood about his thoughts on staying away from judgment of other Christians. Many times Christians in differing denominations(and just Christians in general) tend to judge and criticize others. They believe that their way and beliefs are the "true" way and by doing so they create a fence around themselves. I believe that Lewis is trying to have readers/Christians remember that we all make up the church of Christ. We are supposed to be a family, caring and loving for one another as if we were family. Family members can tell each other when they are doing something wrong because it is usually out of want for them to grow to be better people. We are not to judge or place ourselves as superior to other Christians or denominations, but we are to help one another grow, especially if someone has clearly strayed from what God asks. I believe Lewis is speaking to Christians to remember to love one another rather than rage war.
we vnornm
7 years 3 months ago
Janice,

You've hit on one of the key themes in Lewis-that Christians should not judge each other but should spend more time each day reviewing their own behaviors and presenting these to God.

On the question of "waging war"....Lewis was not a pacifist and in his wiritngs noted tht evn war could be a situation that allows people to display courage and self-sacrifice. His field of study and Cambridge and Oxford was English Literature where he studied and taught about some of the epic poems and writings-which often feature war as a theme. He was an intersting man, worth learning more about. I've always enjoyed his books. bvo
we vnornm
7 years 3 months ago
David,

You've brought out an important point...some (much of??) the anger in the Church may come about due to frustration that the Church does not supply our needs for family (or for "community", in then theological language of today). Maybe it did so in the past, in halcyon and bygone days? Will it ever again? Something to think about, write about. Tx for the link to Janice. I'm still using paper. bill
Katrina Ferrer
7 years 3 months ago
Taking The Screwtape Letters into a more modern application requires us to take it much further beyond the conflict in Lybia. The most important of C.S. Lewis's tenants is securing salvation for one's self. The Christian soul today is besieged by so many very real and modern evils: conflict in Lybia; countrymen and women in conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, and all of the worst places on earth; tsunami's causing death and destruction in the Pacific; economic unrest at home; and the list is literally endless. Lent offers the soul peace from all of this by putting humility into practice. It is an extra serving of Wheaties for the entrenched soul that needs every bit of strength to battle the swirling world of conflict that is our most vicious reality. Not that it needs to be as solemn as death, but just a step outside of our routine every day-like Lewis's enjoyment of the little things that carry him steady inches closer to God.
we vnornm
7 years 3 months ago
David,

Thanks for another pointer toward this passage, which in itself might lead to many essays.

Just as some scientists have deduced the existence of God through the beauty and order of the universe, perhaps we might deduce the Devil's existence through all the divisions in the Church?   [:-)/:-(]

Lewis is making a powerful statement in suggesting  more pupils and less critics are needed.

And the phrase "a taster or connoisseur of churches?" This kind of darkly ironic phrase gets me laughing.

amdg, bill
we vnornm
7 years 3 months ago
David,

I will make sure I check back on this one to see if you make more comments. In paragraph #2 you are starting to sound like a psychoanalyst-I believe the term they have invented for what you describe so clearly is "projective identification." :-) bill
Erin Graetzer
7 years 3 months ago
    The idea of Christianity is needed in the world all the time, not just during Lent. This doesn't mean that I'm advocating to make the world an enitely Christian place. All I'm implying is that the Christian value system should be taken more seriously. As you said Dr. VanOrnum, is the important thing to change the world or to change ourselves? I think you will be able to do both if you start small. It's similar to the "pay it foward" belief. If you can change yourself to have a deeper more meaningful value system then, perhaps the world around you will follow your lead. Someone will take great apprecitaion in what you have done  for them and pass it on to someone else.
    When we see all this conflict in the world we sometimes question God. How can there be a God or all this talk of peace on earth when war surrounds us? The answer is that we have free will. The Golden Rule "do unto others as you would have done to you" should really be practiced by all people. Unfortunately, the world doesn't follow this rule and in our society everyone is out for themselves. Lent is the time where we will have the opportunity to make this great vision come true.
Stephanie Waring
7 years 3 months ago
Although I have not yet read this book, I have gotten a good sense of the ideas behind it. I am actually very eager to read it now that I have read so much about it. It is definitely very difficult to find the "balance in my own life between working to change the world versus changing myself and leading a Christian life in the "small" matters that come up each day", as you stated in your article, Dr. Van Ornum.  I feel that in order to try and stay balanced, one has to do, (as best as they can), what they feel is right for themselves while at the same time the overall good for others, such as family and friends around them.  Leading a Christian life definitely takes up time with everyone's busy schedules, but it shouldn't be a job; it should be something that an individual wants to believe in and pursue in order to keep them on their toes leading a happy, successful, and honest life. When taking on a religious role, one shouldn't feel obligated, rather they should feel good attending Church or mass, whatever it may be. In order to lead a Christian life, I don't think it is necessary to attend Church every Sunday, but instead attend as often as you feel necessary and pray each and every night, and talk to God to keep him connected in your life.
The six guidelines within Lewis' own spirituality are important ones indeed, but I cannot myself say I agree with him.  "The struggle for eternal salvation is the greatest moral task, and cautions that great Earthly problems, even the worst wars, can divert a person from their primary task", is definitely something I agree strongly with. I feel that the greatest moral task is to do good and steer away from doing what is "wrong" or "bad".  It is very true that many people are caught up in everyday tasks that they find themselves slacking on being the best person they could be. Another question asked in the article, "will the battles in Libya become a force to make Christians angry at or even hate each other?" I don't believe that Christians will necessarily hate each other because of the issues that are occurring in Libya, but I do feel that each individual is definitely entitled to their own opinion on the situation. It is definitely sad that there are battles going on all over the world today, but the only thing we could do as good Christians and believers in our faith is hope that everything works out for the better in the end, and that justice prevails quickly.
Daniela Pereira
7 years 3 months ago
I have recently begun reading this book, and after reading the summary, it gets me excited to really get into the book. From what I have gathered, it seems as though C.J Lewis is using his novel in order to open up the eyes of both the reader and even come Christians. He is attempting to change the perspective of life by switching the roles of God and the Devil by “manipulating” a particular person in the book known as the “patient.” It may be viewed the reason this role confusion exists, is because people judge and make decisions about other people and their actions without really knowing who they are as people. Lewis explains one of the guidelines in the book as the following: “The devil should keep a person’s mind focused on inner life and feelings (to promote self-absorption and selfishness), ignore today and worry about the future, and discourage a person from seeking simple God-given pleasures.”
There is some truth to this statement, yet at the same time I feel it is wrong. I believe in order for a person to grow and make the “right” choices in life he or she needs to understand their wants, needs and desires. A person needs to be comfortable with themself before they can go about making judgments or accusations about others (and even then the judgments can be wrong). This may result in the person acting selfishly. If a person is self-doubting, it may be difficult to know what “right” and “wrong” is. They may not be able to clearly understand actions in a righteous manner. I believe our internal struggles affect our actions, and if they are not settled, doubt arises; which occurs in The Screwtape Letters to the patient. Therefore, being able to understand our desires and needs is essential in living a happy and satisfying life
Casey McGowan
7 years 3 months ago
Looking at Lewis' message from an even broader context, it seems that all people regardless of religion need to take time to appreciate the little things in life. Although I have not read the book, I gather that he believed strongly in tolerance and unity. In a world with so many conflicts and disasters, I think it is even more important to take a step back and appreciate what we do have. As Katrina pointed out "conflict in Lybia; countrymen and women in conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, and all of the worst places on earth; tsunami's causing death and destruction in the Pacific; economic unrest at home" are just some of the conflicts afflicting the global population. There is no easy solution for any of these issues, but it is clear that Lewis would not approve of judging others as the answer.
Elizabeth Batchelor
7 years 3 months ago
     Screwtape Lewis brings up a good topic during Lent of working to change the world versus changing myself. Lent as a Christian involves a time of penitence through the commemoration of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness. This is like how Screwtape is sees as the metaphor that Wormwood should look up too. Then how Freud a psychoanalysis was brought in with his theory of early experience and conflict in children development. 
        Lewis has provided six guidelines to follow in developing spirituality. First, the struggle for eternal salvation is the greatest moral task. In our society this would be to place the understanding or the laws of nature in the best way for society. Second encourage division within Christianity itself , using theological and political statement as wedges to polarize the faithful against each other. To have the knowledge that in our society even the wrongs can be forgiven.  Third, fourth , and fifth themes form a trilogy, one concerned with psychological matters. That everyday is a new beginning and ignore what the wrongs you have done today and focus on the future and not to commit a wrong path from the beginning. Sixth is to encourage Christians to judge and condemn the enemies of others. This is having the courage to no your wrongs from your rights.
jackie p
7 years 3 months ago
What is going on in Lybia right now is very controversial in that there are many different opinions on whether the U.S. and its allies should be involved there at all.  On the one hand, we are trying to stop a ruthless leader from using his military forces to kill his own people because they want a change in government.  On the other hand, some think its none of our business or that it will be another Iraq, or it is too many wars etc.  These different opinions can cause divisions and quarrels between people who will become more focused on proving their point than on the war itself.  They can become judgmental of their opponents, even hate them, and more concerned with being "right."  Thinking my way is the best way, being proud of them.  

In Lewis' point of view, this leads us into sin and hell.  In his view, it is more important to tend to your own soul, thereby creating peace and harmony all around you.  Just think, if we all did that, there would be no wars anyway.  I think there is a delicate balance between putting your main focus on saving your own soul (Lewis) and righting the wrongs of the world.  Of course, they are both important.  I still do not have much of an opinion on going into the war in Iraq because I do not completely understand it; however, I did wonder how we could let Saadam kill more of his own people.   Then there was a lot of controversy towards Bush for doing it and said we never should have gone because there were no weapons of mass destruction.  I think Screwtape reminds us to not become too obsessed with things of the world which we cant do anything about anyway and forget what we can do something about - making ourselves better. 
Lauren Esposito
7 years 3 months ago
          The question posed at the beginning of the article is very deep.  I read it over and over again and have yet to develop a personal meaning of it. Outside forces of destruction?  It seems that these days everything can be considered a force of destruction; considering our recent attacks on Lybia.  The thought process behind Lewis’s work is astonishing.  The connections and corrupt way of thinking actually makes sense. After reading the first paragraph, I began to make ties into the Lenten season.  During Lent, we are preparing for the arrival of baby Jesus.  We prepare by making sacrifices and completing good deeds.  To some this may be a struggle, but is it a struggle that occurs within us or against us? 
Lauren Palmiere
7 years 3 months ago
Everyday people must deal with outside forces of destruction. These forces try and persuade people to perform evil acts. C.S. Lewis offers ways to face these outside forces in his book. Although I have not read this book it seems to be extremely interesting.
The book discusses the issues that arise from war. The devils in the story promote war to the people because it will lead to many deaths and people to go against each other. War is constantly occurring throughout the world today and it is so sad. It is horrible to see people fighting one another over issues that could be resolved through conversations. If people were more willing to compromise, war would not occur. I think that war promotes the evilness of people to come out just like the devils want. War also allows heroes to be shown, but for bad reasons.
Lewis also explains how war causes people to diverge from their main purpose on earth. Wars promote evil and hatred that is not what living is about. Lewis hopes that spirituality will lead people to stop fighting because it is unnecessary. The devil in the story also tells people to condemn the people that are against Christianity. Today around the world, others scold people if they believe in a different religion. I think that this is unfair because people are allowed to believe what they want as long as they are not hurting others. People should not judge others for what they believe in. I think that it is completely wrong for people to start wars because others believe differently then them.
This article was very interesting and it made me think about the inner workings of war. I hope that people forget the devil that is leading them to perform evil acts. This article and book can allow people to see the evil they experience in their everyday lives and hopefully it will make them want to change it. 
Desiree Desaulniers
7 years 3 months ago
After reading this week’s postings, I noticed an ongoing theme prevalent in both articles: how experiences affect our inner-self and our journey in life. In the first posting, Lent, Screwtape and Libya, the focus on the two characters, Wormwood and Screwtape, helps to exemplify the difficulty between balancing making changes that affect the world versus making changes to help oneself only. An interesting point to bring up after hearing about the ongoing events taking place in Libya, I began to think about how our path in life is truly dependent on the choices we make. Should people make changes in order to only please themselves? Or should people make changes that could affect the lives of many in the future? Although I am not a practicing Christian, I follow the philosophy of Thomas Jefferson that as Americans, we should protect the liberty of those in the future, because if we do not, we are not moral and sincere in our desire to protect society from harm.
            In the second article, Orphans All (Mark Twain), the focus on separation and children and the effects that it can have on one’s life also brings up how experiences affect our inner-self. Children born into a situation where they experience separation and loss can at times lead to mental health conditions. Growing up without the nurturing of one’s parents seems like an impossible situation, and yet many children do it every day. I do believe that there is a connection between separation/loss with mental conditions. The way the brain evolves is very dependent on the experiences one has in early childhood.
Rachel Flaherty
7 years 3 months ago
This blog made me question the “two different lenses” that the book The Screwtape Letters can be viewed through.  Although I have not personally read the book, this blog gave me good insight to its main points.  The first viewpoint brings up the fact that many people are sent to Heaven during war due to their acts of heroism.  This made me question the idea: Do we have to be in a state of war or other tragedy for someone to become a hero? It seems that heroes mostly emerge when something terrible is going on in the world, such as war.  People are recognized for stepping up when tragedies are occurring, but why not step up without tragedy? More people should perform acts of heroism and fulfill their duties to the world when we are in a state of peacefulness in society.  War or other tragedies should not have to break out in order for people to become heroes.

The other way to interpret the book was through the author’s spirituality.  One part of his spirituality brings up the fact that often times, Christians are pinned against each other.  People that claim of the same religion and to be so faithful and spiritual find themselves arguing and fighting with one another.  The true spirit of Christianity does not encourage conflict among its followers.  The smaller issues that people tend to argue over should not be dwelled upon, rather the big picture should be looked at.  Christians should remain united under their savior, and stick together through times of difficulty instead of becoming divided.  
Julie Owens
7 years 3 months ago
            Even though I have never personally read or previously heard of this book before, I think that if I or someone were to read this, it can let the reader really think about what is important in life by seeing how messed up Screwtape and Wormwood are with their view on life and what is truly important. Where the devil thinks that selfishness and self absorption are important to focus on, and to ignore today and worry about the future, and to discourage a person from seeking simple pleasures, the reader can read this and realize that it is the exact opposite of what is important. I believe that it is extremely important to help others; to worry about what is going on today as well as what the affects could be in the future; and to enjoy the simple pleasures that come our way. I agree that it is important to try to keep a balance between trying to help others and trying to help ourselves in life. People seem to forget that the little things matter, and that while helping others we can receive the sense of gratification as well. 
Angeline Nielsen
7 years 3 months ago
Julie (#40) You are very right in stating that people don't help others.  When I am driving and I see someone trying to merge, many people move up and hug the car in front of them to not allow the car in.  People don't wave and let others in many times, even if they are sitting at a light and won't be moving for a while.  The selfishness is astounding.  People cut others off to get parking spaces, and don't stand on the subway to let an elderly woman sit.  So many times I hold the door for people entering a building and they act like they don't even notice or appreciate it, like it is expected.  Even though I get frustrated with the arrogance and selfishness of others, I will still continue to do the right thing.

I always refer to Las Vegas as the Sodom and Gomorrah of today.  People indulging in selfish behavior and sins.  The world has changed and always will.  Unfortunately with creations like cell phones with text messaging and the computer (ironic) people have become detached from real social interaction, and therefore don't know or don't care to treat people like people.
Stacey Alley
7 years 3 months ago
                Although I have note read this book, at least not yet, the names of the main characters, ‘Wormwood’ and ‘Screwtape’ really caught my attention, surely as they were intended to. Wormwood, trying to deteriorate our love for God as a worm would destroy a piece of wood, and Screwtape tangling God’s, the mater architect’s, tape measure in an attempt to ruin God’s plans for us all- to be saved.
                The Devil, as portrayed through Screwtape and Wormwood, constantly tries to trap us. He tries to distract us from our mission of following God’s word. The first step, I believe, to prohibiting the Devil from controlling us is realizing that he can. During most of our day to day lives we get so focused on  ourselves, and our wants, needs and desires. Our id dominates. However, realizing that this is possible allows us to make a conscious effort in thinking about how our wants, needs, and desires can greatly influence, sometimes negatively, the wants, needs and desires of others. Only when we stop thinking about ourselves, can we think about others and what is best for all of us as a whole, and in the end better the world.
Patrick O'connor
7 years 3 months ago
I have always tried narrowing my focus on the small personal battles in life. It seems senseless to try to change the world because people will always oppose change. I agree with the response that changing the world obscures personal change because people will never all agree. Making the world uniform would force people to act against their own beliefs.    
Diana Dimartino
7 years 3 months ago
I personally find the theme of this book to be fascinating, and believe it can be analyzed and appreciated by any religious view. While there are sure to be many subplots within it, it got me thinking about the idea of heaven and hell, in relation to events such as those in Libya. I’m sure C.S. Lewis had similar qualms, as he wrote it shortly after Britain was being bombed in 1939.
For one thing, the devils in the story were in full support of humans performing negative actions against each other. This brings up a new point however; is it the actions or the underlying morals that makes someone a truly evil person? In other words, is someone who acts although they know something is wrong really the same as someone who gets personal satisfaction from being cruel? In the even larger picture, this can become a debate over whether goodness can be taught, or if each of us is destined for good or evil. I personally believe that while everyone makes mistakes, no one is born hardhearted. If only we could find a way to teach morals to all, that would prevent situations such as those between Christians in Libya. 

Advertisement

The latest from america

In “Sorry to Bother You,” the system’s greatest threat—literal ownership of your time and person—is also its promise of relief.
Eve TushnetJuly 17, 2018
St. Michael Cathedral in Tha Rae, Thailand (iStock photo)
During the cave crisis, at the Cathedral of Saint Michael in Thare, a small village located along Nonghan Lake in northeastern Thailand’s Isaan region, Catholics offered Mass and asked for the intervention of St. Michael the Archangel to protect the young men.
The Catholic Church has renewed efforts to fight racism in the U.S., but Black Lives Matter deserves credit for keeping our attention on racial justice.
Olga SeguraJuly 17, 2018
What can the church do to help repent for the sins of leaders like Cardinal McCarrick and all those who turned a blind eye to his wrongdoing?
The EditorsJuly 17, 2018