My husband and kids and I just saw the Screwtape Letters yesterday afternoon in Houston, performed onstage by a theatrical group from New York. The book, written in the 40's, is amazingly relevant today, but unfortunately many people I know struggle to understand C. S. Lewis' literary language, and miss the very profound and really funny details of the story. Seeing it with all the energy and drama of a play brought the whole thing to life.
A chief demon gives advice to a less-experienced demon, sent to the world to destroy the life of his first human victim. It doesn't go well, as the victim keeps getting closer to "The Enemy" and experiences true salvation. Through Screwtape's advice to his young nephew, we can see into the inner workings of a demon's strategies. So funny, so sad and so very real.
Evil exists and thrives where there is no faith in God, and lack of faith thrives where emotionalism is the driving force behind people's decisions. Don't let them think or reason, just make them feel - the effective mode of operation for demons.
“Whatever their bodies do affects their souls. It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out...” (Screwtape)
It's true that our generation puts far less importance on thinking and reasoning than generations before. (I know all old folks complain about the youngsters today and how much better it was in the old days. I sure hope I don't sound like one of those!) But look at the vast amount of pure garbage there is to dwell on and obsess about available on TV and the internet today compared to in the past. Celebrities, totally devoid of talent, can devour a large percentage of media coverage whenever they appear in public, even it it's a trip to the local coffee shop. Why does anyone care, and why do we even bother to gawk and their pictures? The emotionalism of the moment makes us look, and they know it.
But there is a wealth of learning, of inspiration, of wisdom, of challenging old assumptions and character building writings and teachings - from both the Bible and just history itself - that an overwhelming percentage of young adults will only touch if forced to by a teacher, and then just enough to pass a test.
And then there is just plain thinking that doesn't require an advanced education or even exposure to good literature, just simple common sense. The reasoning of Abraham, a sheep and goat herder in the desert. The reasoning of Gideon, threshing wheat in a wine-press or young David, bringing lunch to his brothers. They looked at the stars, the promises of God, the lions and bears they had killed with their hands and reasoned that great things could be done through them because they believed in the power of rational thought.
There are plenty of people who love to argue, but argue about how things make them feel. Healthy debate and argument about logic or truth is as foreign to many people as yak butter (look it up). Good arguments are done for the sake of really wanting to learn and understand. Have you even experienced one of those? Good arguments that I've been blessed to be a part of have been some of the greatest motivators and life changers I've ever experienced.
For the next three weeks I'm disconnecting from the world of media and entertainment and cutting myself off from all the information that is just there to dull my senses and dull my faith. I want to rediscover the power of thinking, reasoning, and listening to my Creator speak to me as clearly and wonderfully as He wants to. This is not one of those painful fasts that you keep wishing were over because of the great amount of self-denial that goes into it (lunch, please let me eat some lunch!!). Rather it's a chance to nourish and renew that part of me that I ignore far too much. My mind.
I challenge you to join me. Keep reading this blog, as I'll be posting more frequently than usual during these next three weeks.
"The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy's own ground. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient's reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?" - Screwtape