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Screwtape liturgy

200px-thescrewtapelettersIn preparing for a blog post I was re-reading some of CS Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters in which a senior devil called Screwtape is writing to his nephew, a junior devil named Wormwood, giving him advice on how to entrap a human called “the Patient.” In my reading I noticed again this passage (from letter XVI) as relevant today as 67 years ago when first published:

I warned you before that if your patient can’t be kept out of the Church, he ought at least to be violently attached to some party
within it. I don’t mean on really doctrinal issues; about those, the more lukewarm he is the better. And it isn’t the doctrines on which we chiefly depend for producing malice. The real fun is working up hatred between those who say “mass” and those who say “holy communion” when neither party could possibly state the difference between, say, Hooker’s doctrine and Thomas Aquinas’, in any
form which would hold water for five minutes. And all the purely indifferent things-candles and clothes and what not-are an admirable ground for our activities. We have quite removed from men’s minds what that pestilent fellow Paul used to teach about food and other unessentials-namely, that the human without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples. You would
think they could not fail to see the application. You would expect to find the “low” churchman genuflecting and crossing himself lest the weak conscience of his “high” brother should be moved to irreverence, and the “high” one refraining from these exercises lest he should betray his “low” brother into idolatry. And so it would have been but for our ceaseless labour. Without that the variety of usage within the Church of England might have become a positive hotbed of charity and humility,
Your affectionate uncle

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2 thoughts on “Screwtape liturgy”

  1. Very true! One has only to look at the hatred and malice generated by General Convention and General Synod at the moment! That’s without considering the animosity between the denominations and those who adhere to different translations of the Bible or editions of Prayerbook or Missal.
    I don’t know why the lower-church people seem more aggressive in criticising candles and incense, but it seems to parallel the desire for “casual wear” in fashion clothing!

  2. Too true. We fight about so many things and really lose our focus on what really matters – namely, sharing the great good news that God is Love and is madly in love with all of us.

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