May 26, 2020

Screwtape Gives Thanks

[With profound thanks to my spiritual and literary hero, Clive Staples Lewis.]

My Dear Wormwood,

It is that time once again when your patient, along with all those living in his country, set aside a day to give thanks. It is a deplorable idea, this “giving thanks,” and one that a team assembled by Our Father Below has been working diligently for some years to neutralize. Great strides are being made, and we have hope that one day soon we will turn this “day of thanksgiving” into just another excuse for fulfilling of selfish pleasures and of coveting what one does not already possess or need. Until that day, it is your responsibility, as it is for all junior tempters, to keep your patient from truly having a thankful heart. Fortunately, recent research has turned up methods which appear promising on this front.

The very act of being thankful is reprehensible to those who followed Our Father Below from the depths of the Enemy’s territory into the glorious realm where we now abide. By giving thanks, one is admitting a need for someone or something. And that admission of need leads to no longer being self-sufficient. It was on this point that the Enemy pressed Our Father, leading to the glorious march into Hell where we none of us needs be thankful to anyone. If I am thankful, it is not because I have been given anything. It is because I have found the power to take what I want when and where I desire.

How do you keep your patient from being disgustingly thankful? Here are some procedures laid out in the latest Tempters Training Manual, written by yours truly.

1. Keep your patient from ever seeing he is dependent on anyone else. Self-reliance, Wormwood, is the key to self-destruction. Be sure to point out those around him who are self-made men, those who never need receive anything from another. Professional athletes are good examples, as are movie and television stars. Never mind that these people are some of the neediest humans alive. Your patient need only see their public persona and be made to believe they have achieved success by their own efforts, not with the help of others. Awake in your patient the desire to never be in debt to anyone. Your colleague Gluberfest has made great strides with what is now referred to as “humanism,” encouraging the notion that, if they try hard enough, each human can achieve their own level of greatness. Keep your patient thinking that he needs no one to help him achieve his own greatness, and you will keep gratitude at bay.

2.  Greed is an excellent defense against being thankful. Coveting what one does not have keeps one from being appreciative of what he does have. If your patient begins to say, “I’m thankful for the food I have,” let him see an advertisement for something even better. The reason we encourage those in advertising (some of our greatest recruits to Our Father have been placed in the field of advertising, as you know, or as you would know if you paid attention to what you have been taught) to show very large portions of food is to make any other portion look miserable and, as an effect, make the one seated before the smaller portion feel miserable. How can one give thanks for a single serving when a double serving would, obviously, be so much better?

3. To go along with greed, we have painstakingly made the day after their giving of thanks the number one shopping day for humans in your patient’s country. Advertisements will clutter the newspaper and TV all day on Thursday, promising great enjoyment if one will only venture forth in the early hours of Friday. Of course, there is nothing available on Friday your patient could not buy the next Wednesday, if he really needs to buy it, but it is the thrill of the hunt, Wormwood, that we are going for. Make your patient see that he must have something right away, and he will not bother being thankful for what he has. If you play this right, he will even despise what he has today in the hopes of obtaining something greater tomorrow. This is an endless cycle that will continue when we possess that one in Hell.

4. Distraction cannot be discounted as a weapon against thanksgiving. The busy-ness of cooking, eating and cleaning can, with skill, be used to keep humans from stopping, even for a moment, to say thank you for what they are cooking, eating, and cleaning up after. Crying children, argumentative relatives and nagging spouses can all supply much delight to you if you apply them correctly to distract your patient from being thankful.

5. Finally, there is the discontent with those things your patient is supposed to be thankful for. All food, for instance, is not universally enjoyed. If your patient does not care for carrots, be sure that there are plenty of carrots on the table. And then have the person who brought the carrots speak up loudly to say how she worked hours peeling and slicing and cooking the carrots, and how offended she will be if your patient does not eat at least two helpings of carrots. Take this home, Wormwood, and not only will your patient expel any notion of thanksgiving, but he will embrace hatred of the carrot-bringer with great vigor. If you can do this, your fun will have just begun.

I do want to say that I am thankful in my own way. I am thankful that I am not like you, a junior tempter with little hope of climbing to my level. I am thankful that Our Father seems to have better things to do these days than to inflict torment on me. And I am thankful for the warmth of my office, fueled with the souls whom I led into Our Father Below’s kingdom by keeping them from being givers of thanks.

Your affectionate uncle,

Screwtape

Comments

  1. Brilliant! I’ve only recently come to realize how so many of our treasured Western values – independence, self-reliance, self-expression, social status, leadership/power/dominating others, and so on, are the polar opposites of what the Bible actually teaches. This is a poignant reminder to check our premises.

    • Indeed, this is a capital tribute to Mr. Lewis! And a cogent observation by you, sir… it seems we too easily forget Jesus’ warning about gaining the world but losing our souls as a result.

  2. “Coveting what one does not have keeps one from being appreciative of what he does have.” And then there was Black Friday.

    Happy Thanksgiving Jeff, CM, and the rest of the iMonk contributors.

  3. Excellent, Jeff! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours and thank you very much for all that you do here at the imonastery.

  4. Wonderful. Jeff! Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks be to God.

  5. i know this word is overused, but this post is simply AWESOME!

    Jack would be ever-so-proud of this bit of writing. Not only did he bring me from my childhood faith to one I could articulate and stand behind with reason……well, let’s say I know he never waded across the Tiber, but I have still asked for his prayers and intercession on more than one occaison. In my little mind, he IS a saint.

    And you, sir, are brilliant!

  6. Good work , Jeff!

    A Joyful Thanksgiving to all on this site!

  7. Thank You – Thank You- Thank You!! No one will ever, ever beat this for sheer brilliance.

  8. Thank you! Loved this! I feel like i just received my pre-game pep talk. I’ll probably be coming back to hear it again at “half time”.

  9. Nicely done. It’s been so long since I’ve read Screwtape that I didn’t ‘get’ that it was Jeff not Jack until the bit about the TV ads.

  10. Randy Thompson says

    Good job! Thanks for this very clever piece.

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and, in light of Jeff’s piece, go out of your way to be thankful to everybody, from God on down!

  11. On this Turkey Day even while being alone and away from family let me tell you guys for what I am thankful.

    I’m thankful for having a job when so many are out of work.
    I’m thankful for having a roof over my head while others are homeless or in shelters.
    I’m thankful for the grace that friends, co-workers, and family show me. Why they do sometimes astounds me.
    I’m thankful for my health, and that I am not in the ICU of a hospital.
    I’m thankful for my leg, and that I was able to keep it. I don’t look upon exercise as a right any more…just a privilege.
    I’m thankful for the community here at Internet Monk and telling me that other struggle with theology and doubt like I.
    I’m thankful for Internet Monk and blogs like Wartburg Watch or Christian Monist.

    Though holidays can be lonely when your single and on the opposite side of the country from family. I can not think of a better day to be grateful for what I have…job, health, being out of the hospital and back on my feet.

    Happy Turkey Day all! Now I’m going to grab a steak in the Virginia suburbs! 🙂

  12. “Self-reliance, Wormwood, is the key to self-destruction.”

    I agree. The “Atlas Shrugged” zombie army probably would not.

  13. YIKES – it’s like looking in a mirror and seeing myself. We ought to review this every year. Good stuff!

  14. We are actually reading the Screwtape Letters as a family right now – read it on the way to and from Grandma’s house for dinner as a matter of fact 🙂

    Thought provoking – thank you.

  15. Is there a reason my comment is stuck in moderation for over a day?

  16. Cute, but notice how you have literally demonized non-theists, and associated them with vices such as greed and ingratitude. One could just as easily write a lampoon against Christianity, calling it a plot to foment irrationality and narrow-mindedness.

    When you think about it, the expectation that one should “thank” God for “blessings” only makes sense if you are also prepared to blame him for the bad things. In any case, it is hardly fair to expect that all decent people will subcribe to your theology.

  17. 6. And there is not much need of this one as we seem to have almost universally succeeded–when your patient does succumb to the temptation to be thankful, keep his mind stuck on things and humans lest he turn it to our Enemy to Whom he is called to give thanks.