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The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is a classic masterpiece of religious satire that entertains readers with its sly and ironic portrayal of human life and foibles from the vantage point of Screwtape, a highly placed assistant to “Our Father Below.” At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written.
The Screwtape Letters is honestly not the kind of book I would choose on my own but it filled a reading challenge prompt, I love Narnia, and one of my old bosses recommended it to me years ago. So read my review with that in mind.
This just was not the book for me. I’m a fast reader and simply cannot bring myself to slow down and give philosophical/spiritual books the thought and attention they require. There’s also not much of a narrative arc to drive this very spare plot forward. I like plots. A lot.
Screwtape is a demon writing letters to his young nephew, Wormwood, advising him as to how best win a human soul over for “Our Father Below.” I can be surprisingly literal-minded for someone who adores all things fantasy so I had a very hard time as a Christian wrapping my head around the backwardness required to see Lewis’s point with this book. To me, “Our Father” means God and “The Enemy” is Satan. I constantly tripped over this reversal in the book. So there was this constant, “What? Our Father doesn’t want us to be greedy. No, wait. ‘Our Father’ in the book means Satan and Lewis is saying that Satan wants us to be greedy so if we want to be good Christians we should not be greedy.” My brain made it much more complicated than it was supposed to be but I couldn’t find a way to adjust my thinking.
“The parochial organisation should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires. The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction.”
Churches in America today seem to be splintering more and more along political lines. This quote, written around 1941, seems, to me, to address that.
“The figures in the popular art are falsely drawn; the real women in bathing suits or tights are actually pinched in and propped up to make them appear firmer and more slender and more boyish than nature allows a full-grown woman to be…. As a result we are more and more directing the desires of men to something which does not exist–making the rôle of the eye in sexuality more and more important and at the same time making its demands more and more impossible.”
Photoshopping women into impossible dimensions was a problem even before Photoshop existed.
“Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.”
So this wasn’t the book for me but if your brain is more flexible than mine and you enjoy philosophical and/or spiritual books, go ahead and give it a try.
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