Five New Screwtape Letters… (#2)


My Dear Wormwood, 

I am pleased to hear that your patient has become a trenchant rule-follower. I am even more pleased to learn that his local church is filled with people who signal their public piety by their state of compliance. This is very good for us, and also allows an opportunity to think about the power of acceptance. Of course it would have been just as good if it had gone the other way. 

Remember, the human creature is constantly lonely and afraid. The Enemy has made it with appetites that cannot be quite fulfilled, itches that cannot quite be scratched by any earthly thing, and we must use this situation to our advantage. Of course, the Enemy tells him that the fulfillment of that loneliness is found in relationship with Him, an idea we find silly and abhorrent. Therefore we, for our part, must labour continually to encourage the animal to seek the solution to its loneliness in anything else—whether food, sex, purchasing power, a marriage, friends, work, etc. One of the most effective and subtle disruptions of this desire for belonging is to work on his sense of acceptance. Already, your patient has bound his Christian faith to a political position; now you must set the hook further by reinforcing this spiritual pride with a sense of acceptance and belonging in the church that promotes this position. In this way, you can utilize the animal’s natural sense of loneliness to cement his commitment to a position that is, spiritually speaking, of almost no importance at all. 

But acceptance has additional benefits, and the vulnerability can be exploited in a number of delightful ways. Our philological arm has done another wonderful job at mangling the meaning of ‘acceptance’ in human minds. The Enemy’s acceptance is scandalously generous, opening His arms to sinners so far down in Our Father’s service that we thought their presence in his halls all but inevitable. It is an acceptance that extends what He calls salvation, but comes with an absurd set of burdensome conditions—like obedience, transformation, and radical love in community. We, however, working to adapt His “Love” to our purposes, have turned acceptance into something the human creatures now feel is a moral and civil obligation. Everyone must be accepted for everything no matter what, and, on our terms, to be accepted means that no criticism is allowed! See? We have kept the acceptance, but leeched away the obedience, transformation, love, and community. This has created a delightful state of misery and confusion among the humans. 

How can you use this to your advantage? Right now, he is a Christian and part of a relatively small community of believers. Most of his ordinary relationships are with people safely in Our Father’s service. In the first place, you can manipulate his desire for acceptance in order to create a sense of alienation between him and the non-Christian world in which he lives. This will drive him from his animal loneliness to compromise on his convictions for the sake of a vague sense of belonging, or fitting in. (This is the same emotion you learned to work on when he was young, to make him choose one kind of socks or trousers or shoes over another, not because his mother had bought them, but because everyone else was wearing them.) On the other hand, you can confuse him. His head is filled with various, vague ideas about “God’s Love.” Make him think that what God means by Love is what his culture means by love, and the trick is nearly done. Now he will feel vaguely pious when he “accepts” everyone, and he will feel that his church is somehow “unchristian” when it does not “accept” everyone. Whatever happens, you must keep from his mind the thought of his own sin and that loathsome experience of encounter with the Enemy which inaugurated his “Christian” life. The moment he begins to reflect seriously on that event, all our work to disrupt his ideas of acceptance will go out the window. 

Your affectionate uncle, 


Additional Letters:

Letter 1 (The Spirituality of Covid)

Letter 3 (Prejudice)

Letter 4 (Sexuality)

Letter 5 (Pain)

3 comments on “Five New Screwtape Letters… (#2)

  1. Janice Sigston says:

    Wonderful letter! You even got the humour!!

  2. You definitely have the voice.


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