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

Posted at 11:28am on 14th July 2020

The questions below are those I raised for the Book Club I lead. Click here for the discussion we had subsequently. Quotes from the book are in bold italics.

  • CHURCH: Chapter II
    One of our greatest allies at present is Church itself. Screwtape goes on to talk about a liturgy which neither of them understands then goes on to say that if churchgoers have squeaky boots, odd clothes or sing out of tune, then their religion should be seen as ridiculous. ARE WE OF THE OPINION THAT THE WAY CHURCH OPERATES IS COUNTER PRODUCTIVE, AIDING ONLY THE DEVIL? AND ARE WE REALLY SO JUDGEMENTAL?

  • PRAYER: Chapter III
    Keep his mind on the inner life. Bring him to a condition in which he can practise self-examination without discovering those facts about himself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office.
    Then he talks about being 'very spiritual', more concerned with the state of his mother's soul than with her rheumatism. DO WE TEND TO THINK THAT CHRISTIAN FAITH IS ALL ABOUT WHAT'S INSIDE? IS IT RIGHT OR WRONG TO DO SO?

    Perhaps a bit like we're going through now. These are the times that the Enemy exploits because they provide an excellent opportunity for all sensual temptations, particularly those of sex. He goes on to say that you are much more likely to make your man a sound drunkard by pressing drink on him as an anodyne when he is dull and weary, than by encouraging him to use it as a means of merriment among his friends when he is happy and expansive. HAVE WE EVER EXPERIENCED THIS? GIVEN ALL THE ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS, AND THE BREAKDOWN OF MARRIAGE THAT'S BEEN GOING ON, THIS WOULD SEEM TO BE SO. IS THERE ANYTHING WE CAN DO ABOUT IT FOR OTHERS?

  • SHAME v HUMOUR: Chapter XI
    Screwtape comments on the English sense of humour, and its all-consoling and all-excusing grace of life. It is invaluable as a means of destroying shame. If a man lets others pay for him, he is 'mean'; if he boasts of it in a jocular manner. . . he is no longer 'mean' but comical. ARE WE GUILTY OF THIS? HAS SOCIETY, IN THE PAST, COVERED UP RACISM, OR WOMEN'S RIGHTS IN THIS WAY?

    Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, 'By jove! I'm being humble', and almost immediately pride . . . at his own humility will appear. I CONFESS THIS CAN BE SO EASY AT TIMES RE RACISM, POLITICS, POVERTY etc. IS THIS TRUE OF YOU AS WELL?

    When they have really learned to love their neighbours as themselves, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours. IS IT TRUE THAT THE DEVIL WANTS US TO FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THIS IDEA, WHILE GOD WANTS US TO ACCEPT WHO WE ARE - EVEN WHEN WE'VE REPENTED OF SIN - AND THEN MOVE ON? HOW EASY / DIFFICULT DO WE FIND THAT?

    Gratitude looks to the past, love to the present, and fear, avarice, lust and ambition look ahead. Screwtape later points out that if we are aware that horrors lie ahead and we pray for the virtue to deal with them, meanwhile, concerning ourselves with the present, because it's here that all grace, all knowledge, and all pleasure dwell, we are in a good place, somewhere the Devil does not want us to be. IS THIS SOMETHING WE ARE AWARE OF? SOMETHING WE PUT INTO PRACTICE?

    Surely you know that if a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him . . . looking for the church that 'suits' him.
    Later: The real fun is working up hatred between those who say 'mass' and those who say 'holy communion'. AGAIN, ISN'T THIS SOMETHING THAT IS SO EASY TO FALL INTO?

  • GLUTTONY: Chapter XVII
    One of the great achievements of the last hundred years has been to deaden the human conscience on that subject, so that by now you will hardly find a sermon preached or a conscience troubled about it. SADLY, GLUTTONY - NOT SIMPLY OF FOOD - SEEMS TO BE PREVALENT THESE DAYS, AND IT'S TRUE, IT'S RARELY SPOKEN ABOUT. IS THIS FOR FEAR OF BEING THOUGHT JUDGEMENTAL? AND IF IT'S SOMETHING WE DON'T INDULGE IN, ARE WE IN DANGER OF FEELING SMUG?

  • SEX: Chapter XVIII
    Sex might have been, from our point of view, quite innocent . . . merely one more mode in which a stronger self preyed upon a weaker. . . But in the humans the Enemy has gratuitously associated affection between the parties with sexual desire . . . thus producing Family . . . (and) one more device for dragging in Love. THE DENIGRATION OF SEX, DESECRATION OF MARRIAGE, AND BREAKDOWN OF FAMILY ARE INSTRUMENTAL IN SO MUCH OF SOCIETAL ISSUES THESE DAYS. ARE YOU AWARE OF MARRIAGE SESSIONS CARE FOR THE FAMILY HAVE BEEN DOING? AND THE PETITIONS YOU CAN SIGN FOR 'COALITION FOR MARRIAGE'? SOMETHING TO PROMOTE, PERHAPS?

    This centres on the belief that the woman with whom the 'patient' has fallen in love - and who comes from a higher echelon in society - believes that those who don't share their beliefs are really too stupid and ridiculous. It's likened to having the 'right' kind of fish knives. Whereas the man who has climbed the greasy pole, under the influence of 'love' may think of himself as unworthy of the girl, but he is rapidly ceasing to think himself unworthy of others. THIS ATTITUDE OF PRIDE IN THE LEVEL OF SPIRITUALITY TO WHICH WE HAVE RISEN COMPARED TO THAT OF OTHERS IS FAIRLY COMMON, IN MY EXPERIENCE.

    A woman means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others. . . Thus while the woman thinks of doing good offices and the man of respecting other people's rights, each sex . . . regard(s) the other as radically selfish.
    An example of this is demonstrated when it comes to having tea in the garden, and those that want it and those who don't view unselfishness as giving in to the other, and both end up quarrelling because one of them has to give in. I GUESS THERE MAY BE A GENDER DIFFERENCE IN OUR VIEWS, WHICH MAY LEAVE US OPEN TO FALLING OUT. IS THIS SOMETHING WE'VE EXPERIENCED, OR VIEWED IN OTHERS?

Again, here is the link to the discussion.

Your Comments:

6th March 2023
at 1:43pm
As the person who is responsible for finding questions (or creating them) for our book club, I want to THANK YOU for creating some. I felt uncomfortable reading this selection & didn't always grasp the meaning. We will use your questions for our club's discussion, & am appreciative that you created them & shared them.
9th March 2023
at 12:08pm
Thank you, Jackie. I think the joy of belonging to a book club, is the way in which we all view things differently. Hence, we learn from one another. You are more than welcome to use the questions, raised here, in your meeting. Hope it goes well.

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