by Ethan Mack
The author modeled this piece on The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. It is written from the perspective of a demon.
The other day the strangest thing occurred. This letter was just left on my doorstep in a blank envelope. I have no idea as to the identity of either party in the correspondence. However, I got lazy this week and didn’t write a column, so I figured I would share this with you instead.
My Dear Wormwood,
This morning I was greeted by news from Command about their decision to spare your life. Rest assured, had the decision been mine, you would have suffered the punishment intended for your patient. However, it appears that someone further down the hierarchy than myself still sees an opportunity for you to be useful. Thus, my dear nephew, I will offer you counsel once again. Just keep in mind that should you lose another soul to the entrapments of the Enemy’s domain, you will find the mercy of hell is all but spent.
Now, let us move on to your next assignment. Certainly you delight (and if not, you should) in the fact that your next target is a student of the university. The opportunities for our influence to take hold are so numerous I’m certain they cannot all be listed in a brief correspondence. Nevertheless, I will share with you a few thoughts:
One of our greatest victories of the last half-century is fostering the illusion that the university is isolated from the greater society. It is now commonplace for students to segment off their years at the university from their coming “adult life.” If you have any sense at all, you will encourage your patient to adopt this view. Have him see college as a brief stop on a deserted island before completing the journey on towards civilization. He should feel unshackled and totally free to act according to his desires. Make sure he spends time with friends who share the same view and will act in obscene ways to display their misplaced sense of freedom. At times he may feel remorse or shame for wrongdoing, but don’t fret. It is impossible for us to completely eradicate such misgivings from the human heart; the Enemy has done his work well. Nevertheless, you can still succeed if you encourage him to bury these feelings. Make him find comfort in the idea that he will change as soon as he enters the “adult world.” If you succeed, he will only realize his foolishness after he has left the university, and by that point it will be too late. The habits he has built up for years will not be so easy to relinquish. He may still try to change himself, but once he understands how difficult it will be, it is likely he will give up all together.
One great advantage we have when dealing with the modern world is how busy everyone is. The world is so fast paced and competitive that it is easy for people to neglect what our Enemy delights in. It is imperative that we press our advantage here. If your patient is considering going to Mass on Sunday, make him think about the project he has due on Monday; if he ponders whether he should go to confession in the morning before work, have him consider how useful that extra hour of sleep will be. Encourage him to think more about his GPA than the status of his soul. After all, he has a lifetime to ensure the latter is made right and only four short years to attend to the former. Make his heaven not the foul land of the Enemy, but rather that six figure job he has coveted for so long. If at any point he regrets missing the activities the Enemy desires of him, remind him that that there is always a next time. He should realize that there is nothing to worry about; he’ll just be doubly sure to attend Mass next week. Feed him these words and always make sure “next time” remains a point on the horizon. Then simply watch as he enters into a cycle of spiritual inertia. He will continually delay any lofty spiritual goals for the concrete earthly ones.
Finally, if your efforts during this time fail, there is one final option available to you. It is possible (and always a most painful thing to witness) that your patient will grow closer to the Enemy during his time at the university. Should this happen, recognize that you have an opportunity after he graduates. Once he is free from those dreadful friends who brought him to Mass and persuaded him to pray, convince him that his faith was merely a phase. Make him think it was simply what he did to fit in with the crowd. Find him a new group of friends that will mock faith or, at the very least, show him how ridiculous it all is. Eventually, his Christianity will become nothing more than an adolescent phase of his life that he became too sophisticated for as an adult.
Your Affectionate Uncle,