The C.S. Lewis Spectator

Screwtape Protests

By From the June 2013 issue

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12 May 2013

Reginald Wormwood, Esq.
Wormwood Consulting, Inc.
1600 K Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006

My dear Wormwood,

You take me to task for spending too much time on hatred, and I do believe you’re right! As pleasing as hatred might be, we mustn’t forget all the other little virtues that make the world go round. 

Let’s start with the opposite of hatred. No, that’s not love, since love and hatred may resemble each other, two extremes that often seem to touch. A love affair can turn into hatred and back again in a day, even in an hour. The opposite of hatred is rather the milquetoast virtue of indifference, the act of simply not caring, perhaps not even noticing. We win more souls through indifference than through hatred.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the clincher: The Enemy has real contempt for indifference, for the members of Laodicean churches who are neither hot nor cold. He said he’d spit those people out, which is to say they belong to us. Instead, He wants people who are passionate about His set of virtues to feel unkindness like a wound, injustice like a slap in the face. With those kinds we don’t stand a chance. 

Passionate people are ill-mannered. They’re apt to say rude, hurtful things, to not care overmuch about the feelings of people they believe need a shaking. Philadelphia’s Dr. Gosnell shocks them, as does the indifference of the mainstream media to baby-killing.

Our set is really much better behaved. They know what is expected of them, and their sense of morality blends seamlessly into their sense of etiquette. They’re no more likely to rob a bank than they are to eat their peas with a knife or wear a baseball cap backward. Their churches, like their clothes, are in good taste, and if they should actually show up on a Sunday morning instead of lazing in bed with the New York Times crossword, they’ll settle leisurely into their pews, smile benignly at their neighbors, and listen to a sermon that might as well have been taken from the Times. You have to love them.

Think what it would be like if such a person really had his nose rubbed in it. Recently an anti-abortion group picketed St. John’s Cathedral in Denver. You’d like that church. They have a “Kirkin o’ the Tartan” service, in which tartans are blessed, with a pipe band and Highland dancers for the twee fans of NPR’s The Thistle & Shamrock, and a “Blessing of the Animals” in the spirit—if not the faith—of St. Francis. 

They hold services for Bill McKibben’s group of environmental purists and sponsor events to support Occupy America. They marry same-sex couples and are in favor of a woman’s right to abort. They have political causes but nothing suggesting personal transgressions; they have crosses but nothing suggesting suffering. Let others grovel in guilt and sin. They are so much nicer than that, and their services are designed to make parishioners feel better about themselves. Truly, such Christians are wonderfully at ease in Zion.

On Palm Sunday they like to dress up and hold outdoor processions in their glad rags, parading down the street and waving gaily at the Universalists. Imagine the lot of them, deacons in purple and parishioners in kilts and bonnets, walking hand-in-hand on a warm Sunday. But hold on! What is that ragtag group of ill-dressed louts up ahead with their placards, carrying pictures of babies—no, fetuses? The gall! The impudence! The bad taste!!!

There isn’t much point being a member of the church if one’s not well-connected, and the church succeeded in getting an injunction against the display of graphic photos of mutilated fetuses on public property. Some busybodies are trying to set that aside on the spurious grounds that it interferes with free speech, but the smart money is that the U.S. Supreme Court will punt and the injunction will stand. 

Let’s hope so. What we don’t want is anything that might break through the hermetically sealed complacency surrounding self-satisfied Christians. They have the right clothes and the right thoughts. They do nothing great, and as they are justified by their faith in every progressive cause, they need never engage in soul-searching. For them, anti-abortion protesters should remain, like Neville Chamberlain’s Czechoslovakia, “a far-off country of which we know little.” 

We also want to keep them in contented ignorance about the lot of children who manage to be born. The next generation will inherit an enormous public debt, for through its improvidence this generation has leeched wealth from future generations. Their schools and universities do not teach much of anything, which is just as well since there are no jobs for youngsters anyway. In a splendid act of generational betrayal, the Boomers who insisted on free speech rights when they were in college now impose campus speech codes on their children.

Our job is to keep things this way. It’s a struggle, I admit. Indifference is like a fragile flower. Blow on it, and it withers. What’s needed are distractions, things to busy giddy minds and keep them occupied. That’s where our friends the progressives come in. The next generation might not have jobs, but if Sandra Fluke has her birth control pills, why, the kids are all right.

Indifference is almost an intellectual virtue: the inability to think of serious matters when one’s mind is occupied by trivialities. It’s the virtue of the thoughtless, of those who unknowingly impose burdens on others. Sometimes they’re thinking of themselves, but more often they’re simply on autopilot.

Let the Enemy spit them out. More for us.

Your affectionate uncle,
Ebenezer Screwtape

P.S. Did you know that we have a special room set aside back home for the members of the church? It’s right next to the room for the laughing idiots in the audience of NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me

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About the Author

F.H. Buckley is Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law and author of The Once and Future King: The Rise of Crown Government in America.