My Dear Wormwood,
I have counseled you in the past to teach your patient and his family to hop from church to church like gluttons at the stations of a buffet, or even better, like spiritual connoisseurs with an impossibly refined idea of “how church ought to be done.” The aim was to have them go to church with the mind of a critic or a spectator — anything but a pupil, which, alas, is precisely what you have allowed to happen.
As your people have become thoroughly settled into a church, I see no point in your continuing your feckless attempts to start them church-shopping again. Humility and earnestness of the sort we see in your people calls for different measures. I shall outline the approach I recommend; you would do well to heed my advice. I ought not need to remind you that Our Father Below is singularly indifferent to your protests of effort and intention; indeed, the entire lowerarchy is interested solely in results.
The first strategy you ought to deploy is to inflame your patient’s agenda. Suburban humans, like your man, are always busy — busy at work, busy at play, busy being entertained, busy running late to spend money they don’t have in order to fulfill obligations they resent for people they dislike while driving through traffic they detest outside a home they cannot afford in a car they do not own. This is fertile ground, Wormwood; I expect even you can see that. The slightest pinprick applied to a carefully selected area of your patient’s peevishness is sure to yield a delightful harvest of wickedness that will greatly improve your standing with your superiors.
Secondly, and this will seem counterintuitive, Wormwood, but hear me out: you must see to it that your patient becomes as deeply involved in the activities of his church as possible. I do not mean the life of his church — the interdependent, symbiotic relationship that cements our Enemy’s followers in an impenetrable unity that frustrates even our most accomplished devils. No, Wormwood, I mean activities: boxes on a list that he can check off to impress himself and his friends with his illustrious deeds rendered in the service of our Enemy. This has the satisfying effect that it adds busyness to the patient’s life in a way that makes him think he is advancing in our Enemy’s service.
Do not think of study as an exception to these activities. Doctrinal maturity is something we would rather avoid, but for those infected with it, we can usually salvage something. Here is the trick: our Enemy’s doctrines make a great deal of His sovereignty in transforming the lives of those who would follow Him. Indeed, His sovereignty is to be admired so greatly that it affords us an opportunity to tempt our patients into a life of unmitigated passivity (which, of course, is the word we have taught them to use instead of “laziness” or “sloth”). Best of all, they can be made to feel all the holier for their lack of results — it testifies to their comprehensive grasp of doctrine, don’t you see?
On the other hand, this is risky. There is always the danger that your patient will take note of the ridiculous outcome to which all this leads, laugh at you, and set himself about something fruitful and practical with his doctrine. Fortunately for you, this sort of awareness is becoming rarer and rarer, so the social and cultural air your patient breathes will be your ally.
Whatever you do, the important thing is to prevent your patient from actually doing anything. Keep him impossibly busy doing nothing of any consequence. Our agents have been hard at work creating meaningless diversions of no significance whatsoever and which offer nothing in return; use them well. But even there our Enemy has been working to turn some of our most potent weapons against us. Idle chatter can turn to engaging conversation, so be careful to keep your man as shallow as possible. Keep as much distance between him and the other people in his church and community (to say nothing of his own family) as possible. Keep him to yourself, and you can feel good about his soul.
You have failed to make him bad, Wormwood. You must recover this disaster by making him busy — busy doing nothing. Succeed in that, and you will enjoy the pleasures of a despairing, burned-out soul that is both angst-ridden about his lack of fruitfulness and effectively neutralized to our Enemy’s plans.
Your affectionate uncle,
Note: for those unfamiliar with The Screwtape Letters, it was a satirical account written by C. S. Lewis chronicling the advice given by Screwtape, an accomplished demon, to his nephew, Wormwood, a novice tempter assigned to lead a young Christian man astray.