Thursday, April 14, 2016

Screwtape on the US Election

My Dear Wormwood,

I had not forgotten my promise to consider whether we should make the patient a nationalistic patriot or a democratic socialist. All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them.

If your patient can be induced to become a socialist, he will automatically find himself one of a small, vocal, organised, unpopular society, and the effects of this, on one so new to Christianity, will almost certainly be good. But only almost certainly. Has he had serious doubts about economic inequality before the recent recession began? Is he a man of great generosity - so great that he will have no half-conscious misgivings about the real motives of his socialism? Can he, when nearest to honesty (no human is ever very near), feel fully convinced that he is motivated wholly by the desire to obey the Enemy? If he is that sort of man, his socialism will probably not do us much good, and the Enemy will probably protect him from the usual consequences of belonging to a sect. Your best plan, in that case, would be to attempt a sudden, confused, emotional crisis from which he might emerge as an uneasy convert to patriotism. Such things can often be managed. But if he is the man I take him to be, try socialism.

Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Socialism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the "cause", in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of strong national defenses or of economic equality. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which earthly affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, blogs, policies, movements, causes, and candidates matter more to him than prayers and worship and kindness, he is ours - and the more "religious" (on those terms) the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here,

Your affectionate uncle,