“Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed true even from his own angle.” (C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters)
It has been nearly 70 years since C.S. Lewis made public a mysterious correspondence that became known as The Screwtape Letters. The “letters” contained advice, instructions, and warnings from a senior demon to a junior demon about the handling of an earthling in his “care.”
As disclosed in the last of the letters, Wormwood, the pupil, failed his commission. He has never been heard from again. It has been noted that his disappearance had some connection with a ravenous meal Screwtape, the tutor, enjoyed sometime shortly thereafter.
Recently, new correspondence has come to light that bears eerie similarity. With moist palms and brow, I share it with you now . . .
Up to this point, you have played your man well. Although he professes Christianity, you have kept him from thinking his attachment has any claim on him beyond the sanctuary walls that insulate him from that coarse manner of folk he tries all week to avoid.
This is just the sort of Christian we want. The man whose faith is “smells and bells,” who adores his pastor for his soothing homilies and pastoral touch, and who can listen to years of preaching about loving his neighbor, without it ever occurring to him that he has been slowly killing his coworker with his gossiping tongue. And, oh, what a delightful dagger it is!
Thanks to the hard work of master deceivers, this type has won us legions who would have slipped through our clutches had they not been skillfully handled to judge the message not by its truth content, but by the actions of the messengers. My, hasn’t hypocrisy served us well? But, now, if you are not careful, all the work you’ve invested in him will come to naught.
In your last letter, you reported that this fellow has been gripped by that blasted photograph. How does it keep surfacing? I understand that the sight of the tiny hand reaching out of its mother’s womb to squeeze the surgeon’s finger caused him, for the first time in his life, to give serious attention to the business of abortion; which, as you know, has been quite helpful to our ends. This could have dire consequences if you don’t remove this splinter from his conscience, and quickly!
Up until now, legality and popular acceptance have created a moral fog that has kept him from questioning the status quo. Be sure to steer his mind away from things like slavery, eugenics, and “Jim Crow,” which were, at one time, also legal and popularly accepted. Above all, keep the fog thick.
As that tender morsel, er, tenderfoot, Wormwood was advised some time back, muddle his thinking with jargon. Framing the debate with that ingenious gibberish of “choice” has been wildly successful. Among beings conditioned to fancy personal freedom as an absolute right, who would dare imagine, much less argue, that choice is not a good thing?
Of course, our advantage here depends on our ability to simultaneously suppress our Adversary’s call to virtue. Specifically, that rather hideous propaganda of His that people should delay, or (gasp!) deny, their gratification for the well-being of others, especially the weak and powerless.
Speaking of virtue, you can actually press that into our service. I know it sounds crazy to diabolical ears, but the Golden Rule has proven quite useful to our purposes, especially with the hellishly exquisite concoction of the “social gospel.”
With creative cunning, we have corrupted “loving neighbor as self” into “sparing my neighbor from any discomfort I would want to be spared from.” Since I would want my daughter spared from the “punishment”—as one of their statesmen have called it—of an unplanned pregnancy, I will not deny my neighbor’s daughter the same relief.
This is the perfect time to bring to his memory the girl from his high school who was raped by street thugs. Unfortunately, the act didn’t result in a pregnancy, but you can use it to play on his compassion.
The line of thinking you want to exploit is that it would be uncompassionate, even cruel, for such a woman to be further victimized by carrying the child to term. This is delicate; you must not let him reflect too deeply here. Since, to our regret, he firmly believes that the taking of innocent life is wrong, he could, if you are not careful, realize that it doesn’t become less wrong just because it would ease the mother’s hardship. It’s that poppycock of “two wrongs don’t make a right.”
If, by your insidious devices, your man becomes convinced that abortion is justified for the difficult circumstance of rape, or for that matter, incest or the mother’s health (Oh, how we have been able to expand that to include any imagined or claimed distress!), it will have two wonderful effects: First, as he accepts such things as too big for his God to handle, his faith will begin to waver even in the smaller things. Seldom do they recall that He never promised them freedom from hardship, only strength to bear up under it.
Second, it is but a small leap from what might be legitimate exceptions to a general rule. As one of the Adversary’s own, Pascal, once said, “[You] make a rule of exception . . . from this exception you make a rule without exception, so that you do not even want the rule to be exceptional.” How true, how true! Just think, by slipping a few exceptions under their moral radar, they have been led to believe that unrestricted abortion should be an absolute right protected by the law of the land. And, mind you, all because of ever-so-small tweaks to principles so highly prized by Him. There is no victory that tastes sweeter!
And don’t forget, as in all things, and especially here, science is not our ally. Until recently we’ve been able to hoodwink many into believing that the “procedure” only involves a “clump of cells” or “mass of tissue.” This worked smashingly well with the clamor for personal autonomy, expressed most passionately with the “It’s MY body!” battle cry—as if anything, much less their bodies, is truly theirs. Everything—their minds, souls, and bodies—are either His or Ours. Such benighted creatures, humans!
But once their scientists discovered that a genetically complete (and distinct!) human being exists at the moment of conception, we’ve had to re-frame the debate around “personhood.” Only a “person,” possessing things like self-awareness, rational ability and self-determination, deserves legal protections. Amazing, how quickly they’ve latched on to that one!
But don’t push this too far too fast. Driving your man toward the logical ends of infanticide and euthanasia could awaken him to a most unwelcome conclusion. If you are patient in bringing him along, his initial objections to those practices (and more!) will lose their moral force. Nudge him ever so delicately. If he is the type who takes pride in his intellectual integrity this will be much easier than you think. Patience, Swillpit, patience.
Another ruse that has been infernally useful is sloganeering—especially the ever popular, “You can’t legislate morality!” Much to our shame, one of their officials cleverly twisted that into the moral cover of “I am personally opposed, but will not impose my morals on others.” Shame because, given its wide currency, we should have thought of that one. Nevertheless, don’t allow your man time for critical examination; for without ever-vigilant redirection on your part, he may quickly realize that every law is the attempt of someone (especially those who are “personally opposed”!) to impose their moral vision on others.
You will notice, Swillpit, that this is closely related to another twist on the “Golden Rule” we’ve worked hard to instill in him. Since his natural condition inclines him to take offense when someone criticizes, or corrects, one of his choices, he’ll not—out of “Christian” love—criticize one of theirs. Sometimes I get downright giddy when I think of how well we’ve been able to pull off this kind of thing. But enough rhapsodizing!
Always remember, as in everything else, abortion does our cause no good unless it delivers souls to the nether banquet. As much as we delight in the deaths of their little guppies, our real celebration is in the multitudes of caretakers and decision makers who have descended into our welcoming arms.
If all our work succeeds only in the death of a grub, for which the mother later feels remorse and seeks forgiveness from our Adversary, we have failed miserably. What we strive for is the woman who feels guilty, and so overcome by the deed that she is convinced she is beyond forgiveness, and atones for her “sin” by promiscuity or (and this is pure ecstasy, Swillpit!) another abortion until, benumbed by her penance, she has lost all capacity for love and meaningful relationships, only to be isolated from everything and everyone, especially Him.
While, to our displeasure, not all of her kind arrive in our dining halls, our real gain is the ripples of brokenness that abortion creates in the fabric of their society. Brokenness that strengthens our gravitational pull, drawing multitudes of souls, inexorably, down a life-long vortex of self-love or self-hate until they reach our gargoyled gates—that, Swillpit, is the goal of all our hellish machinations.
Swillpit, I anxiously await your next report.
Regis Nicoll is a freelance writer and a BreakPoint Centurion. His "All Things Examined" column appears on BreakPoint every other Friday. Serving as a men’s ministry leader and worldview teacher in his community, Regis publishes a free weekly commentary to stimulate thought on current issues from a Christian perspective. To be placed on this free e-mail distribution list, e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Articles on the BreakPoint website are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Chuck Colson or PFM. Links to outside articles or websites are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily imply endorsement of their content.