(Note: During World War II, C.S. Lewis unearthed The Screwtape Letters: notes written by a master demon to his apprentice nephew, in which the former offers advice for tempting human beings under the latter’s watch. With apologies to Mr. Lewis, and with the fervent hope that he believes from Heaven that imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, I offer the following. — Jay)
My Dear Wormwood,
I have received your recent missive in which you bemoan the dismal state of your patients, who are parents of children attending that school dedicated to the Enemy’s work in the East Texas sector. You mourn their attempts at training their children to “act right”, meaning to act and behave in a certain manner that would please the Enemy.
Nephew, sometimes your naïveté is so profound as to be endearing. Isn’t old Slobgob teaching anything at the Training College these days? If so, you would surely know that, when handled correctly, moralism is one of our greatest tools for marching humans from the Enemy’s embrace into the waiting arms of Our Father Below.
Humans are already predisposed to moralism by how the Enemy creates them. He has woven into the world and into their hearts certain laws or norms that govern their dealings with each other; what he calls morals. We, of course, believe it is just a matter of time before we turn these laws right on their heads, but for now we have managed only to distort them in the minds of our patients.
You can rest assured they will teach them to their children. If you work subtly and well, however, you can convince the parents that the most important goal is to teach their children to act that certain way, that their offspring’s behavior is quintessential to healthy living. Allow them to feel great pride and self-satisfaction when others tell them how well-behaved their children are, and to be offended and embarrassed when they behave badly. Before long, they will have taught and modeled for their children that the clearest path to their parents’ approval is through good, moral actions, or even earthly success. When that happens, we have the little vermin right where we want them. It is a laughably easy matter for them to then take the next cognitive, fatal step: that the Enemy’s approval is also contingent on their good behavior or success. Our Father’s house is filled with many people who were “raised right,” who “acted right,” and who “did good things” throughout their time on earth.
Now, for a few cautionary notes: whatever you do, do not allow them to realize or to teach their children that what the Enemy truly desires is not their strict adherence to his mores, but their very beings; not a more palatable facsimile of their corrupt selves, but a completely remade heart. Keep them from acting upon the fact that the only way they can meet the Enemy’s approval is through the work of His cursed Son on the cross. Do not allow your patients to model to their children that their love is conditioned neither on good nor bad behavior, or achievement, but that the Enemy’s ultimate approval comes from recognizing the Son and trusting in Him. If you let them go there, you will have lost them forever. They will see the Enemy’s real purpose: that acting pursuant to His character is the outpouring of the new heart He gives them, rather than the manner by which He keeps score.
I wish you the best. You know there is but one consequence of failure, and I am famished.
Your affectionate uncle,