The Screwtape Letters

by: C.S. Lewis

Letters 16-18

Summary: Letter 16

The Patient has been attending only one church since his conversion. Unless this is due to indifference, Screwtape warns, it is a bad sign. Wormwood should try to make the Patient indecisive, make him seek out a church like a wine, to fit his tastes. Searching for a suitable makes the Patient a critic instead of a pupil. What the Enemy wants is for humans to reject what is false or unhelpful during mass without being critical. Screwtape says he has looked up the two churches closest the Patient’s home. The priest at one has watered down the faith to make it more acceptable to his parishioners. At the other church, a priest named F Spike changes his political position every week only to shock and surprise his congregation. He does not want his lessons to be acceptable or easy. But F Spike is dangerous. He believe. Next, Wormwood should make the Patient join some clique within either church. This will take his mind of the service and make church-going a purely social activity.

Summary: Letter 17

Gluttony (compulsive eating and drinking), Screwtape reminds Wormwood, is as good a way to trap souls as ever. Hell, however, has changed its policy. It is focusing on a gluttony of rather than one of excess. The Patient’s mother is a good example. She insists on having weak tea and a piece of toast no matter what food is set before her, and does not see her determination to get only what she wants as a form of gluttony. Glubbose, the Patient’s mother’s demon, has done a good job to keep her in She thinks she is virtuous because all she wants is a piece of toast, but she is extremely particular about how it should be toasted. This particularity allows her to be controlled by her delicate stomach. The Patient is male, Screwtape says, so it is better to make him a connoisseur. To make him believe he alone knows what good food is and where to get it. In time, his vanity will become habit.

Summary: Letter 18

In this letter, Screwtape considers human sexuality. Humans have two virtuous options: complete abstinence or complete monogamy. Hell, he says, has done a good job of making chastity a less common means of escape. Hell’s work, says Screwtape, is to convince humans that things are unequal, that one apple is not as good as another. In this issue, the Enemy contradicts himself. . makes man and wife “one flesh.” The Enemy is three the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This embodies love’s contradiction. In humans, Screwtape complains, the Enemy has mixed affection into sexual desire. Whenever a man has sex with a woman (even outside of marriage), a spiritual relationship is begun which must be enjoyed or endured forever, Screwtape says. Humans don’t understand how love works and this has two advantages for Hell. First, people think they must be in love to marry. Second, many people mistake sexual infatuations for love.

Analysis

Lewis uses Screwtape to reinforce conservative Christian ideas. A person should not try to find a church that is agreeable to him or herself. On the contrary, a person should make him or herself agreeable to a church. But the justification Screwtape presents for this and other conservative Christian positions is often somewhat radical. For instance, Screwtape argues that a good Christian can and should reject things said during church service as false or unhelpful. A good Christian doesn’t accept church teachings blindly. Rather, a good Christian strives to acquire Christian values like humility and sincerity. Were Lewis writing as himself, it may have been awkward for him to criticize Christian priests. Lewis’s character, Screwtape, however, has no reservations. He criticizes priests quite harshly. Some have watered down the faith. Others, like Father Spike, have personal failings that keep them from being convincing in the pulpit. But even Screwtape acknowledges that a priest can help his congregation draw closer to God so long as he genuinely believes in God and in Christian teachings.

In the seventeenth letter, Screwtape . The Seven Deadly Sins, others of which include pride and lust, are featured prominently in Screwtape’s correspondenceor Screwtape, gluttony is the sin of being overly-indulgent in any relationship toward food. The Patient’s mother’s tendency to eat only toast and drink only tea is used to illustrate this new approach to the vice. Though the Patient’s mother looks nothing like traditional depictions of the glutton, Screwtape argues that she nonetheless is one. Humans get caught up in the image of vice, but it is the spirit behind the vicea compulsive behavior toward eatingthat truly defines its nature. For Screwtape, the new tendency for humans to be oblivious of the sins they are committing is a sign that Hell’s policy is succeeding.

Gluttony gives way to lust in the eighteenth letter, where Screwtape advises Wormwood on how to tempt the Patient sexually. Through Screwtape, Lewis continues to argue for conservation Christian positions. Namely, only heterosexual sex that takes place in marriage for the purposes of procreation and complete abstinence from sexual activity are considered virtuous courses of action. he tendency of humans to participate in sexual activity that isn’t restricted to these narrow confines to Hell’s gradual success with mankind over time. As far as the Patient’s sex life is concerned, Screwtape’s advice remains mostly the same. Wormwood should confuse him. Humans have a hard time distinguishing lust from love. They mistake their physical attraction for spiritual longing. They also mistake cause and effect. Sexual intimacy, in The Screwtape Letters, is a holy activity. For many would-be Christians, these and other teachings on sexuality are among the most difficult ideas to accept.