Book Club Discussion: The Screwtape Letters By C.s.lewis

Posted at 11:36am on 14th July 2020

Click here for the List of Questions

Suggested by a member of my Book Club, despite the fact that most of us had read it many years ago, The Screwtape Letters proved to have lost none of its appeal. Apart from one lady, that is, who abandoned it on page thirty, having found referencing God as the Enemy as approaching blasphemy. Nevertheless, she came to hear what we all had to say, and was surprised to learn of the depth of engagement we all felt we had experienced. That's not to say, however, that the book is an easy read.(The quotes that follow, are in italics.)

As always, I posed questions, linking them with quotes from the book, and titling them as relevant (see previous blog post). Leaving Question One aside for now, and moving on to Prayer, we 'fessed up to having blind spots in our lives, where we can practise self-examination without discovering those facts about himself (ourselves) which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him (us) or worked in the same office.

With the question of whether we should be more concerned with the state of our mother's soul than with her rheumatism, the debate became increasingly animated. Salvation and redemption, we agreed, depends entirely on what is inside - our acceptance of Christ's dying on the cross and taking our sins upon himself, and the commitment we make to follow Jesus as a result. Hence, this has nothing to do with good deeds. Discipleship, on the other hand, is a daily, moment by moment, willingness to be God's hands and feet, heart and voice, allowing him to work through us to bring about his kingdom on earth. It follows, therefore, that we should, without doubt, show concern for the physical complaints of our loved ones, and not view our concern for their soul as being the sole matter of spirituality.

When it came to shame and humour, and pride versus humility, we agreed that both are attitudes we have observed - in our own lives as well as those of others - as being the norm at times. Loving our neighbour as much as we do ourselves was a tricky one, as Screwtape observes. Yet this, it seems, is what God wants of us. To accept ourselves as having been created in the image of God and now, since our repentance and his redemption, knowing ourselves to be his precious children.

Gratitude looks to the past, love to the present, and fear, avarice, lust and ambition look ahead, says Screwtape. Given the current situation with Lockdown due to COVID 19, it is easy to see the Devil's take on this should we pray for the virtue to overcome our fear of what lies ahead, and concern ourselves, meanwhile, with the present. He views this as abhorrent, given that it is here that all grace, all knowledge, and all pleasure dwell.

Returning to the first question on Church I'm now going to link that with the one on Denomination. Liturgy proved it to be anathema to some, while I pointed out that to others it is a means of participation. Given that our Book Club has been running for a number of years, and that most of us have attended the same church during that time, we were not short of memories of those who have hopped from one church to another, and another, in pursuit of finding the One that suits them.

Leadership, denomination, musicality and age of the congregation are all aspects which may favour one over another. Personally, as someone who has met in various denominations, from Roman Catholic primary school, Church of England, Baptist, Evangelical and Charismatic - sometimes from choice, often for reasons outside my jurisdiction - I accept all. We did laugh, though, when we moved on to Gluttony, and agreed that gluttony of faith can prevail with those who ride on the roundabout of jumping from church to church.

Sadly, Gluttony nowadays is a big factor. With Coronavirus cases and deaths hitting hard on those who are obese, our hope is that help and support will be offered to people addicted to food, and a tax on take-aways. Food, however, is not the only cause of gluttony. As many charity shops show, clothes' shopping is excessive, with many unworn items, still bearing a price ticket, available in Barnados and elsewhere. Likewise, nails, tattoos, house furnishings and so on. Plus, of course, sex.

To Screwtape, sex is seen as merely one more mode in which a strong self preyed upon a weaker. He then goes on to declare: But in humans the Enemy (God) has gratuitously associated affection between the parties with sexual desire . . . thus producing Family . . . and one more device for dragging in Love. Clearly love is an unfavourable emotion in the eyes of the Devil. And sadly, with the increase in cohabitation and divorce, the decline in marriage and breakdown of family life, it would appear that he is triumphing over God's pattern for the good of humankind. There are, however, charities that support marriage, one being Care for the Family which has been running courses for the many who are finding Lockdown detrimental to the fulfilment of their

The issues of Spiritual Pride and of Unselfishness met with a good deal of discussion. How easy it is, I find, to pat myself on the back because 'I'm not racist!' and 'I talk to anyone and everyone, postman and bin man, neighbour, and stranger.'

And now, surely, I can do so again for my unselfishness in having taken the trouble to write all this up in order to help you. What? You don't agree?'Live and let live. Respect the Rights of others,' you say. You must, in that case, says Screwtape, be a man.

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