Wednesday, December 22, 2010
This Christmas season, I wanted to patch up one of the many holes in my reading and picked up a copy of The Screwtape Letters (for New York readers, there's a theater performance of it in town that I've heard some good things about, but please weigh in if you've caught it). The book is clever and very enjoyable, and I thought it might be fun to share some passages over the next few weeks with the MOJ community for comment, discussion, remonstration, silently satisfied rumination, etc.
Here's a passage from the second letter. Screwtape, a highly placed demon, is describing to his nephew, the novice demon Wormwood, the best way to prey on the sensibilities of the recent Christian convert -- to direct him back to the devil's fold:
Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every endeavour. It occurs when the boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by Stories From the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek. It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing.
I was reminded of the statement (I can't remember where) that for the convert, the first experience of Christianity is like the first experience of the Post Office. How marvelous!! One's mail is picked up and is actually (by some sorcerer's magic?...no...but how, then?) delivered in timely fashion all over the world? Not to be believed! For the ordinary church goer, by contrast, the Post Office performs its regular, necessary and vital labor, just as it ever has and ever will.