This summer marks the first time I’ve cracked open The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. (I KNOW! How can I call myself a Lewis fan and never have read them?!) This book is really quite impressive — it shows a depth of imagination far greater than the Narnia chronicles. Lewis evaluates various temptations and sins and then translates them into the advice of a Senior Devil to his student. The format works well and I find myself impressed with the skill of our dear “Jack” every time I pick up the book.
Here’s a quote I found to be painfully true. Screwtape here is addressing the likelihood of politics and earthly causes to supplant the Gospel. I think this can be applied to both ends of the political spectrum, whether it be progressive social justice or extreme conservatism:
Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “Cause,” in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war effort or of pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes and crusades, matter more to him that prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours — and the more “religious” (on those terms), the more securely ours. I could show you a pretty cageful down here.
Your affectionate uncle,SCREWTAPE