By Chet Yarbrough
Narrated by Ralph Cosham
Considered by some to be one of C. S. Lewis’s most popular books, “The Screwtape Letters” is interesting but too pedagogical for this critic; i.e. “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” (and other books of the Narnia series) are better and more easily understood. All are Christian fables about religion, faith, trust, and mankind.
Lewis has earned his reputation as a guardian of Christian doctrine but “The Screwtape Letters” is no fun. Getting one’s mind to think of God as the enemy is too difficult to grasp. Many of Lewis’s points are well taken but irony is too difficult a medium for Lewis’s message. It is not straight forward and it is not symbolic. It is confusing and off-putting because it asks the reader to become the devil to clearly understand the book’s meaning.
In “The Screwtape Letters”, Uncle Screwtape is mentoring Wormwood to become a more effective devil’s demon i.e. Uncle Screwtape writes 31 letters to Wormwood on the art of seducing souls to worship the devil rather than God. One of the difficulties of the book is that it is written as an irony which confuses its message. In the turn of a tableau, God is the enemy, and Lucifer is the hero. That turn of mind makes one think twice about who is saying what to whom.
Lewis creates Uncle Screwtape, a minion in mammon; a bureaucrat in the middle of hell teaching a devil’s disciple the crooked way of deceiving and relieving mankind of faith. The devil’s goal is like that of the Roman Catholic Church but rather than recruiting souls to heaven, Mammon recruits souls to hell. The Pope, Cardinals, and Bishops, manage the church hierarchy while Mammon mans his minions with the devil, senior demons, and novitiates.
So Wormwood is a demon novitiate, counseled by his Uncle on how to seduce souls by divisively interfering with humanity in war, peace, love, and faith; i.e. Uncle Screwtape teaches that all these world conditions are tools for recruitment of souls to hell. By wheedling into the relationship between men and women, mankind and God, demons are taught how to turn fear in war, idleness in peace, attention in love, and adherence to faith into marks of unworthiness for heaven. Mankind is maneuvered and seduced by demons to lose faith in itself and God. Human relationships and beliefs, in its varied forms, are distorted and transformed by the devil’s disciples; paving the road to hell for unwary, and confused souls.