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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Devil in us All......

This month for book club we are reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I am a fan of C.S. Lewis. I think he had an uncanny understanding of human nature, Christianity and the hypocrisy of religion and the human race in general. Lovely writer, incredible philosopher, stunning theologian and generous humanist.

The Screwtape Letters is thought-provoking. The text is written from the viewpoint of "Screwtape" who is an assistant demon to the devil. The novel appears as a series of letters that Screwtape writes to his nephew, Wormwood, a novice demon in charge of securing the damnation of an ordinary young man who converts to Christianity.

The writing is sly, ironic, hilarious and deadly sickeningly serious. While reading along it is easy to be laughing at how true some of Screwtape's observations are, and then to be utterly horrified by finding the truth of his words in yourself and in your own personality. Case in point:

I have mentioned on this blog before that I really like my time. I like my solitude and the days that I have entirely to myself. I am also a planner and I like to know what to expect. I am not really thrilled when my husband suddenly changes all my plans for "my day" by asking me to do a whole bunch of things I would rather not do, or unexpected visitors drop by without calling. I have always known this was a little bit selfish - but I have easily justified it by saying that I just like to have a plan, that it is difficult for me when people randomly drop by because I am often working, or because my house is a mess, or because I am not dressed for the day (a bad habit I have when I only teach night classes in the summer). And, to be totally honest, I haven't really thought this was really abnormal, or that it was a largely negative quality at all until I read Screwtape's words in chapter 21:

My dear Wormwood,

Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied. The more claims on life, therefore, that your patient can be induced to make, the more often he will feel injured and, as a result, ill-tempered. Now you will have noticed that nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him. It is the unexpected visitor (when he looked forward to a quiet evening), or the friend's talkative wife (turning up when he looked forward to a tete-a-tete with the friend), that throw him out of gear. Now he is not yet so uncharitable or slothful that these small demands on his courtesy are in themselves too much for it. They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. You must therefore zealously gaurd in his mind the curious assumption 'My time is my own.' Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright.

This is SO ME. And so alarming. I am a bad person. Bad. Bad. Bad.

7 comments:

Shaunie said...

It is not bad. You will often find me crouching down in the kitchen or in my bedroom trying to hold down my dog while hiding from the people at the door. Well not people, just my mother-in-law. This is why I always keep my doors locked too.

Beth Tunnell said...

Ah, I do love C.S. Lewis (even though, in the style of the times, he is a bit wordy). Maybe my next book will have to be the Screwtape Letters. I've been really sensitive to serious subjects lately and my reading has been very flimsy (although I have not resorted to any vampire stories) but this books sounds good.

Beth Tunnell said...

PS I love the little blinkie sign, and I'm glad that you like it, too. I wasn't sure if it was dumb or not, but I really do love comments!

Devri said...

I'm glad you found me! Thanks for the wedding invite a few years ago, by the way. I think I got it after I got home from my mission in Dec 2007, so that's why I never sent a card or anything. What are you up to these days? Send me an email sometime!

Devri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bluefish said...

Hm, charity and hospitality. How virtues grow out of style...

Josh and Lyndi Smith said...

We all have our things right? That is why The Screwtape Letters hit home...but you are hardly a bad person and not even close to a bad, bad, bad person.