Regardless of your religious persuasion, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is an excellent fictional read about all the behind the scenes work that goes on in the quest of securing the final destination of your soul. The book is an insightful, intriguing and even comical look into how Satan and his minions plot, scheme and tirelessly labor to ensure your eternal damnation.
The book is short — about 160 pages in paperback — and an excellent candidate for a weekend read. The book is written in a conversational tone and is simply a series of letters written by Screwtape, a senior level officer in Satan’s Army, to his nephew Wormwood. Screwtape is mentoring the young, inexperienced Wormwood in the fine art of deceit and manipulation as Wormwood struggles to bring his human patient back into the fold of “Our Father Below.”
British author Lewis wrote the book during WWII and, on occasion, uses the war as a backdrop for the story. Lewis puts a spotlight on the hypocrisy of his countrymen, fellow churchmen and people in general. In one WWII reference, Screwtape belittles the inclination of the British to say that ‘torture is too kind’ for their German enemies — and then offering a wounded German pilot tea and cigarettes.
“Do what you will,” Screwtape advises Wormwood, “there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbors whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know.”
In another letter, Screwtape addressing the laziness of some believers by commenting on their overreaction on points of doctrine. Screwtape tells Wormwood,
The real fun is working up hatred between those who say “mass” and those who say “holy communion” when neither party could possibly state the difference between say, Hooker’s doctrine and Thomas Aquinas’, in any form which would hold water for five minutes.
Even for non-Christians the book is a worthwhile read because, at it’s core, Lewis is examining why people succumb to their baser desires instead of nobler ones.
Author of the Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity and Surprised by Joy, Lewis wrote more than 30 books and is one of the preeminent Christian minds of the 20th century. He died in 1963.
Get The Sequel
The Screwtape Letters was first published in 1942. If you’ve never read the book, grab a copy that includes the short 1959 sequel, Screwtape Proposes A Toast. In the Toast, originally published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1959, Screwtape gives an after-dinner speech at the Tempters’ Training College for young demons. Although, the sequel is more political (dealing with education institutional woes, the Cold War and Communism) than the book, it is another peek into Lewis’ moral views.