A summary and recommendation of a literary classic.

C. S. Lewis, the author of Screwtape Letters, was an Oxford scholar interested in mythology and religion.   Although Lewis was a professor at both Oxford and Cambridge, and the author of many books on Christianity, he also wrote The Narnia Chronicles for children. 

He wrote Screwtape Letters in 1941, as the world was engulfed in war.   However, this book is as fresh today as it was at the time of WWII. 

 Screwtape Letters is an allegory personifying Satan and his nephew, Wormwood, who is in training to lead mankind into Sin.   Through letters, Screwtape offers advice on how to corrupt humans through their own weaknesses and through temptations.  Screwtape understands human nature and human fallibility.   He offers advice to his inexperienced nephew on how to bring young Christians to “our Father Below.”  But, the reader must always remember that “Satan is a Liar…” and recognize satire and irony.

Temptations always appear desireable, otherwise they would not be tempting.  It was the great British poet, John Milton, who penned, “Satan is a fair appearing fellow.”

Sadly, SIN never goes out of style,  

The Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, Greed, Sloth, Envy, Gluttony, Anger, and Lust, take many forms.   We humans want what we want without limits and we want it now!  Obesity and addictions (Gluttony) are huge problems in the USA, and in North Dakota.  A recent report by the Beer Institute says North Dakotans over the age of 21 drink 46 GALLONS of beer each year.  Our neighbors in South Dakota consume just under 39 gallons per year, and Montanans are guzzling 41 gallons a year.   Statistics show that each year there are 20,000 cancer deaths due to booze.  It appears Grandma was correct when she told me “the wages of sin is death.”

We humans demand “freedom” to do as we want.  Lately we often hear “Nobody can tell ME what to do.”  “Nobody should judge ME.”  “NO regulations on ME.”  (Pride).  Other versions of Pride are we also expect to be attended to and admired.  Think some of the garments at awards ceremonies, the Mylie Cyrus nasty behavior, the Janet Jackson costume “malfunction.”  All to get attention by flaunting bodies.

The media and Big Pharma promote desire, romance, and sexual gratification (Lust) Unfortunately it is the kind of “love” that possesses and consumes, not brotherly love, not sacrificial love, not spiritual love.

Too many take more than they need and crave more and more money and possessions to “keep up” with others.  (Envy)

Some people have multiple mansions, toys, and more of everything that they need (Greed).  We tell ourselves we deserve to “have fun,” have the best of everything, have “another.” 

Meanwhile, estimates are that the US has 633,000 homeless, many are veterans, the mentally ill, and to our shame, children!

We are urged to seek “fun” to fill our empty lives and idle minds as spectators or with chemicals. (Sloth).  Who is making a profit on our sloth? 

Too often when we don’t get what we WANT, we have tantrums ranging from verbal abuse, to rages, to killing those who thwart us or impede us (Anger or Ire).  How many “anger management classes are there?  Can we no longer control ourselves?

All of these sins are outgrowths of the Sin of Pride. 

Even though this book was written 71 years ago, at the start of WWII, the ideas are entirely contemporary.  Lewis says,  “I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’  The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ’dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint.  It is not done even in concentration camps and labor camps.  In those we see its final result.  But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.”   

The reader of Screwtape Letters must be prepared to question to face himself and our society, honestly.

This is a thought provoking book.  It is a book to discuss.  This is a book to be enjoyed, over and over. It will make the reader both laugh and cringe, as we recognize ourselves and people we know.

  It is witty, wry, wise, and wonderful.  I highly recommend it.