Tactics of the Enemy: hints from Screwtape

For a recent Advent podcast, I used a short excerpt from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.  US HERE – UK HERE

If you haven’t read this yet, are you in for a shocking delight.

Oh the insights in this book!

I had searched out that particular passage about noise for the podcast.  But it whetted my appetite for a review.

The very first letter of the collection of this senior demon’s advice to the novice, reminded me starkly of an attitude that libs have been fostering in the Church for decades now.  You have, I’m sure, encountered their tactic in many guises and from many sources.   I mean the false dichotomy they set up to confuse the faithful, tricking them especially through sentimentalism, by pitting “pastoral” against “academic”, “kind” against “intellectual”, and, especially now, “merciful” against “legalistic”.

In any event, here is a snip from the beginning of Letter 1:

My dear Wormwood, I note what you say about guiding your patient’s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naif? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s clutches. [NB] That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. [NB] He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” or “false,” but as “academic” or “practical,” “outworn” or “contemporary,” “conventional” or “ruthless.” Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, or stark, or courageous—that it is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about. The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy’s own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it “real life” and don’t let him ask what he means by “real.”

Real life experience must guide us and not the cold legalism of the past!

Notice how libs haven’t addressed the reasoned and reasonable concerns of those who are perplexed by implications of certain sections of Amoris laetitia.  They mutter about mercy and claim that it is “Thomistic!”  And when Thomists point out that it isn’t that Thomistic, they respond, “It’s Thomistic!”

BTW… young couples MUST read Letter 3 aloud together.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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1 Response to Tactics of the Enemy: hints from Screwtape

  1. catholicjen says:

    The book was narrated by John Cleese, and is available on Youtube. Here is Letter 1:


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