Transcript of Screwtape Letters
The Screwtape Letters and the Modern World Epistles 19-25 To love, or not to love? "Falling in love is not, in itself, necessarily favourable either to us or to the other side. It is simply an occasion which we and the Enemy are both trying to exploit. Like most of the other things which humans are exited about, such as health and sickness, age and youth, or war and peace, it is, from the point of view of the spiritual life, mainly raw material"(103). In epistle 19, Screwtape discusses the issue of God's love for humans, and the worth of love. Screwtape writes "He cannot really love: nobody can: it doesn't make sense"(101). The view taken in this quote expresses the view of many modern Americans. Few people believe "true love" exists. The high amount of divorces in the country contradict the existence of "love". Since the only examples young people see of "Love" parallel images like THESE Many young people don't believe there can be a such thing as love. Images in the media such as the Kardshian Wedding have come to tarnish the once revered idea of love. TEMPTATION and Appearance "figures in the popular art are falsely drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender and more boyish than nature allows a full-grown woman to be" (107). This quote rings true with most of the media today. Every appearance is altered. Everything is false. Human minds are convinced that these altered images are reality and are willing to do almost anything to become the people in the images. Images like this have become our twisted reality. Women in photos such as this are considered desirable, and temptation for sex symbols is extremely high. Fashion CORRUPTION Lewis's demon's view on fashion is very accurate to today's fashion. The demon says " Finally, the desire for novelty is indespensible if we are are to produce Fashions or Vogues"(137). Lewis says fashions are based are newness. That is huge today with hipsters as they like anything that is new or different from normal. Screwtape claims that when spirituality cannot be removed, it must instead be corrupted(123). He then goes further and states the best "point of attack" is the "Borderline between theology and politics"(123). Fashions are often silly. Many people partake in them simply because they see a "popular person" dress or act a certain way. In the 2004 film "Mean Girls" this behavior is evident. The character of Cady Herron is viewed by her classmates as being extremely desireable, so when she dresses a certain way, her classmates follow suit gladly. "The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart-an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship." (135) Materialism A Concept of the Past, Persisting in our Present The presence of materialism is no new phenomenon to our world. An aspect of human nature that will always exist is that of greed; as we can see it in the old myth of King Midas, so we can still see it today. This boundary between religion and politics is what fueled a great deal of frustration throughout the most recent presidential election. People made their decisions based on propaganda shown about the candidates, their morals, and even their spiritual beliefs. The media corrupts the minds of today away from hard facts. According to Screwtape, this is the work of the devil. In The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape describes the Same Old Thing as something humans fear. Today many are fearful of their lives becoming boring and predictable, so to stir things up they create drama. This is especially true of high school students, new rumors circulate practically every day just to keep things interesting. Screwtape says in one of his "private" letters, "We produce this sense of ownership not only by pride but by confusion. We teach them not to notice the different senses of the possessive pronoun- the finely graded differences that run from 'my boots' through 'my dog,' 'my servant,'my wife,' my father,'my master,' and 'my country' to 'my God.' They can be taught to reduce all these senses to that of 'my boots,' the 'my' of ownership," (Lewis, 114) "In the Name of God..." Actions Taken in God's Name Screwtape, in his 23rd satirical epistle, addresses the idea of actions taken by humans as, what they believe, are a means of exemplifying their religion and exalting their god or gods, while in reality they are merely pursuing their own hidden agendas; they can fool themselves entirely that they are acting to the benefit of all of mankind, yet they purposely strike out at any who stand in their way. Screwtape states: "...to make men treat Christianity as a means; preferably, of course, as a means of their own advancement, but, failing that, as a means to anything- even to a social justice... get a man first to value social justice as a thing which the enemy demands, and then work him on the stage at which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice... the Enemy will not be used as a convenience. Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist's shop...'Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason," (Lewis, 127). Screwtape also writes, "...we do not want men to allow their Christianity to flow over in to their political life, for the establishment of of anything like a a really just society would be a major disaster... we do want, and want very much, to make man treat Christianity as a means;...as a means of their own advancement..." (Lewis, 126) Screwtape, in the 24th epistle, describes the current state of Wormtail's patient: "He does not dream how much of his conversations, how many of his opinions, are recognized by them all as mere echoes of their own,"(Lewis, 131). This phrase rang a similar message to that of a modern alternative song by the name "Do Better," by a band called Say Anything. The second verse begins, "Your life is always the post of something else," suggesting those they are addressing have no true opinion but the one that their group has formed; also, it suggests the lack of original thought. This can be linked to our modern world through the abundance of what is called "re-blogging" of other people's posts on Tumblr, sharing others posts on Facebook, and the same on Pinterest; people share other's ideas, but often do not give their own as well. A Note on the Nature of "the Same Old Thing" Screwtape also writes in the 25th epistle on the subject of fashion: "The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already near gunwale under," (Lewis, 138). A satirical critique on the absurd devotion of which humans follow something as seemingly trivial and bizarre as a fashion trend, he also suggests here the nature of human beings to, instead of forming their own path or way of thinking, to simply trod behind the footsteps already made for them by society's current ideals and expectations, and form their lives around that, too afraid to step on the toes of society by following their own. Examples of this behavior can go as far back as the crusades, a war fought in the name of each side's god as a means of proving to the opponent who had the superior religion. However, there are many modern examples that can be brought to attention on the subject, namely in the form of religious extremists of varying faiths: The Westboro Baptist Church A Famous Song from the 1980's Known as Madonna's "Material Girl," the start of the song's chorus follows: We are living in a material world, Full transcript
and I am a material girl. These words can say a lot about this generation: people obsessed with objects as proof of emotions such as love, utilizing material things as a means of pleasing someone; both stemming from a growing form of materialism among the younger generations. "...a child can be taught to mean by 'my teddy bear' NOT the old imagined recipient of affection to whom it stands in a special relation (for that is what the Enemy will teach them to mean if we are not careful) but 'the bear I can pull to pieces if I like.' ...we have taught men to say 'my God' in a sense not really different from 'my boots,' meaning 'the God on whom I have a claim for my distinguished services and whom I exploit from the puplpit- the God I have done a corner in." (Lewis, 114). Buy It, Use It- Break It? Buy Another! Screwtape's continued dialogue on the premise of human materialism in epistle 21 rings very true with a particularly modern concept: that, instead of fixing something- be it physical or not- one can simply buy something to replace it or repair it. The value of money to a person's life and well-being is so great, it manifests itself in the love of material objects. Consider the value we put on objects important to us- phones, cameras, shoes, etc. In comparison to a human life or soul (however you may believe), which is more important? Religion: Satisfaction Guaranteed (or Your Money Back) Otherwise Known as "the Comical View" This little red creature is the common imagery among people; as children, they are taught, in order to protect them from the lesser innocence of the outside world, to view the Devil in a more comical form. This version is taken less seriously and does not seem to be as necessarily evil; although in this particular image you can extract the duality of a person's conscience: the "shoulder angel" and the "shoulder devil." Often times, it occurs that people will use the excuse or justification of religion as means of achieving a goal or as an excuse for bigotry. A currently controversial issue is that of gay marriage; many people have varying views on this topic, but a common reason for the protest is that it is against someone's religion. While it is admirable for someone to stand so solidly on their religious morals (a rare sight in the modern world), it has too often been used as a reason to discriminate against homosexuals in general. Often, people use religion as an object to satisfy their means, where as its ideals in itself should instead be enough to satisfy the soul.
A form of satire on the moral character of some Christians (and people of other religions as well), Screwtape's commentary here reflects greatly upon this aspect of our modern society. Demons C.S. Lewis's view of demons is much like the common viewof demons as they sit on your shoulder and tempt you. However, unlike how Lewis portrays them, the modern world sees them in varying forms: either in other human beings, or as monsters, ranging from horrifying to comical. How We Teach Our Children to View Demons Our Views as We Get Older Hollywood The "Comfort/Cope" View Having a more
us more monstrous
using humans as a
base for their monster. People also tend to
view demons as monsters that reside within themselves or others- meant as a a sort of "coping" for why people may act cruel or discriminative. A Closing Statement More on the Nature of Modern Humans, as Addressed by Screwtape The social mind of the human being influences their actions and character greatly, as they must not only attempt to fit in to their own morals but also those of society, as well as meeting society's expectations about what may or may not be acceptable in various cases. In the 25th epistle, many of the individual ideas combine together, expressing each other in relation to one another. Avarice, Materialism, Fashion; Anything but Ordinary! Screwtape states: "...it diminishes pleasure while increasing desire. The pleasure of novelty is by its very nature more subject than any other to the law of diminishing returns... continued novelty costs money, so that the desire for it spells avarice or unhappiness or both... the more rapacious this desire, the sooner it must eat up all the innocent sources of pleasure and pass on to those the Enemy forbids... now daily drawn into fresh, and still fresh, excesses of lasciviousness, unreason, cruelty, and pride..." (Lewis, 137). The Social Human Being and Society The desire for one's life to be anything but dull is constantly witnessed in literature, and sighs can be heard all over the world (from children to the the elderly), followed by the phrase, "I'm so bored!". Here Screwtape proposes a more material remedy of this plague of boredom among people, a method that often can result as he says, and the affects of greed can be horrifying. To relate this back to the modern world, however, consider the enticing slogans of ads to "make a new you," or to not be "merely satisfied by the you of yesterday- become someone new!". These are a strong advocate of the "something other than ordinary" part of this quote. As for the fashion aspect, consider fashion magazines; materialism is also present here, and can be exemplified by people going on shopping sprees for no reason simply other than they could; even rich celebrities can provide a great example of Screwtape's message, frivolously purchasing things such as cars "because they can,"or because they have "money to burn." On the final pages of the 25th epistle, Screwtape writes: "He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous?... if we can only keep men asking 'Is it in general accordance with the movement of our time?..." Again, Screwtape insinuates the nature of human beings to follow the crowd, limited by social prerequisites, rather than thinking for themselves. Hoping to swade them from simple questions that lead them down the path of their own righteousness and morals, they would rather keep the humans guessing at a freater meaning that, in the end, is completely unanswerable, thus blaming a higher power for not being able to answer them. The Westboro Baptist Church seems to use God as a way to draw attention to themselves and force their extremist views on the rest of the country. This small group travels to picket funerals of homosexuals and other events related to gay people to voice their anti-homosexual views in the name of God.