Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Screwtape Letters: A snippet from Letter #16

Church was boring sound bite
My dear Wormwood,

.... You mentioned casually in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and one only, since he was converted, and that he is not wholly pleased with it.
  May I ask what you are about? Why have I no report on the causes of his fidelity to the parish church? Do you realise that unless it is due to indifference it is a very bad thing? Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.... the search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil....

Your affectionate uncle,

CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (originally 1942; this edition: Harper Collins, 1996) 81-82.


  1. Given the ways people go about church-shopping these days, this is a very interesting reading. What is C.S. Lewis telling us through Screwtape?

  2. Wait a minute are you talking about anyone in particular? What about people who are at church once a month or so? Maybe the church is not the building but a personal relationship you have with God wherever you may be that Sunday morning or for that matter any day of the week or every day of the week. Times have changed.

  3. Hi G. Thanks for your comment. The post is C.S. Lewis speaking, not me. If you're commenting on my comment, even then I asked "What is C.S. Lewis telling US?," myself included.

    I like the point Lewis is making through Screwtape, "if a [person]can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send [them] all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that ‘suits’ [them]..." So as Lewis sees it the devil has two strategies: first, try to break the Christian of the churchgoing habit. If that fails, try to make the Christian a church shopper, endlessly searching for a suitable church.

    G, I'm a church-goer. Perhaps, you're challenging how often I go. That's fine, I've been judged for worse things. Perhaps, the enemy is trying to break me of the church-going habit. I doubt that will work. I love the church.

    I do know the enemy tries to prevent people from really joining a local church and putting down stakes. Much better to keep them looking for that ideal local church. In other words, I think Lewis is bang-on once again!

  4. In regards to church shopping, the church has to provide what it advertises or else it should cease to exit.
    A bar's feature is that it provides the intoxication it advertises.
    A bar's is always true to its name. When a customer comes in, they don't inform him that the only thing they serve is warm milk. If they were to do this, as many barflies would stay away from the bar as church members stay away from Sunday worship.
    The bar has become the church of the secular city.
    The church must provide more enjoyment, better fellowship, more anonymity, and the intoxication it advertises, or start packing.

  5. Anonymous friend, you reminded me of a country song. I remember talking a lot with a friend of mine about this song... just seemed to describe a lot of what the church should be...

    With credit to Toby Keith, I Love This Bar

    I love this bar
    It's my kind of place
    Just walkin' through the front door
    Puts a big smile on my face
    It ain't too far, come as you are
    Hmm, hmm, hmm I love this bar

    I've seen short skirts, we got high-techs
    Blue-collar boys and rednecks
    And we got lovers, lots of lookers
    And I've even seen dancing girls and hookers
    And we like to drink our beer from a mason jar

    Hmm, hmm, hmm I love this bar
    Yes I do

  6. Well... Jack is trying to say that if one is keep on trying to find church that suits him, He will become a critic(which is one of Enemy's character) and will fall into his Lap.There is no perfect church in whole world and no perfect Pastor either. We are called to Look Unto Him and Run the Race..,It doesn't mean to go other extreme and sit in any Bar like church which doesn't inspire you or challenge you spiritually in any way. We ought to look for most scriptural based Church and be part of it and learn... learn .. and grow in Him. Hope it rings bell for at least few.

  7. Ugh, define Church. Is it this paint by numbers, building centered, ego lead thing I have been attending for the past 30 years or is it the small group of guys who encourage me, correct me, love me, and know me that I have met with for the past 15 years? Those guys attend different religious institution on Sundays. Are they attending Church on Sunday and church on Thursdays too? I find the institution too big to love me and too small to love the world. Got any ideas?

  8. Hi Ned Mc, welcome to Mere C.S. Lewis.

    It sounds to me like you've discovered the church within the church. In true Christian fellowship with a few other believers, you can change the world! Listen for what God calls you to do.

    Don't let your feelings about "the church" or the different religious institutions or whatever get in your way. I believe that is the strategy of Screwtape -- to get us so distracted by our ill feelings toward the church that we ourselves fail to be the church.