Screwtape and Human Wave

“Dear Wormwood,”

So begins each chapter in a book about how to lure humans away from all that is good and eternal, and into darkness and evil. Screwtape, from the ministry of temptations, instructs his nephew Wormwood on all the varied ways that mankind slips into sin. You do not have to be a Christian to read some of the letters and feel a chill. The letters, written by C. S. Lewis between 1938-1942, could be written today.  Especially Letter XV.

In the fifteenth letter, Screwtape urges his nephew to have “the patient” focus on the future. Either strong hope or terrible fear would work, but the patient must be kept from thinking about the past or the present. The great sins all look to the future: lust, greed, ambition, and I would add despair, which was once considered a Mortal (or Deadly) Sin.

There’s a sense in the air in the US right now that, as a fellow study group member put it, “Screwtape has his hand out telling Wormwood ‘Just chill. We’ve got this.’ ” Politics are unspeakable, the economy feels like one of those endless knock-knock jokes (Knock knock. Who’s there? Recovery. Recovery who? Knock knock. Who’s there? Recovery. Recovery who?), truly important news has been overwhelmed by a wave of tit for tat that makes a toddler spat look dignified and mature, and there’s a great urge to stop, dive into a hole and pull the hole in after you. Why bother saving if inflation will eat it. Why bother voting or participating in local politics since [they] are not listening/are not moving fast enough/are corrupt/are tied to business interests.

Because there’s a reason one of the names given to Evil is “the Father of Lies.” (Apples are great! Trussssst me.) Screwtape’s way is the easy way. You don’t have to believe in Christian theology to see that paralysis has never cured anything. Heck, look at the Norse sagas and legends. The gods (and mortals) knew the end would come with Fimbulwinter and war and darkness. Did they roll over and give up, or sit around with hands folded, waiting for the end? Nope.

[for py see thy. Copy/paste does not like Old English letters]

Hyge sceal py heardra,  heorte py cenre,
Spirit must be by as much the harder, heart by as much the keener,
Mod sceal py mare py/ ure mægen lytlap.
Mood must be by as much the more, by as much as our strength lessens.
Her ligep ure ealdor  eall forheawen,
Here lieth our elder all hewn to pieces,
god on greote. A mæg gnornian
good (man) on (the) sand. Ever may he be sorry
se-pe nu fram pys wig-plegan wendan pencep
who now from this battle-play thinks to turn.”
It didn’t matter that the commander made a fatal mistake in allowing the Vikings to come ashore where they did, and to get set. He’s now (as these lines are spoken in the text) dead, and his shield-wall alone remains. They are doomed. But they are going down fighting.
Are we doomed? Well, since life has a 100% probability of ending in death thus far*, yes. Is the US and it’s version of Western Civilization doomed? No. We survived the Thirty Years War, we survived the Black Death and the slow-motion disaster that was the Fall of Rome – Western Edition, we survived WWI and WWII, although with a gaping spiritual wound that some people only recognized about 10-15 years ago. We will survive Marxism and the return of collective thinking, of those who would pit man against woman and neighbor against neighbor for their own gain.
It will not be easy. Dragging civilization out of the shadows never is. Fighting a battle that may be lost so that others will take heart and carry on the fight is hard. It is a battle I fight in my own way every day.
I write Human Wave novels because I refuse to quit. My stories are about people who go through H-ll and keep goin’, people who in a quiet, determined way refuse to give in to despair, people who take on enormous odds (OK, so Matthew Charles Malatesta was a wee bit overconfident, and “quit” was one of many words that Snowy the Mule didn’t understand, or acted like he didn’t.)
Never, never, never give in. We still remember the shield wall at Maldon. The Habsburgs defeated a better organized, better funded superpower. Light a candle, tell a story, cherish the truth, help your neighbor.
Make Screwtape and Wormwood cry.
Edited to add: Welcome, PJ Media/Instapundit readers! Thanks for stopping by!
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10 thoughts on “Screwtape and Human Wave

  1. Hear hear, beautiful article! I sometimes need reminding all they Greco-Roman-Western civilization has survived and overcome. Most of my friends an family are split between those who believe history bends toward social justice on its own without any effort on their or anyone else’s part, and those who think they end of America is nigh because ??????? Is polling higher this week. I would much rather be in our shoes today than be the burghers of Vienna watching the Ottoman army march on their walls, the Brits in Dover looking at the German Army across the Channel, or any one of a hundred hopeless looking situations throughout our history. Our culture is strong and will take more to kill than what we are facing right now.

    • Americans, more so than Europeans, didn’t see just how hard the emotional as well as physical trauma of WWI affected western and southern Europe. We (most Americans) saw the physical scars, and knew about the rise of Fascism and in some cases the trouble Communism caused immediately after WWI. What we (Americans) didn’t really understand, because for us it was a relatively good and easy war, was the damage it did to Christianity and the core of what we think of as Western Civilization. Why it was so destructive is a complicated story, but by the end of WWII, especially among the academics and the people who became the secular leaders of France, Germany, and other places, a sense arose that Western Civilization had failed. Fascism and WWII only confirmed that belief. Western Civilization had not brought progress but only misery, Christianity was at best incapable of dealing with the modern world and at worst toxic, and Western Civilization was uniquely bad and deserved to wither away and die. Why bother fighting for a faith and values that did nothing but destroy two generations and that enslaved and oppressed the entire world?

      With a new interest in WWI and the inter-war era that developed starting about 20 years ago because of the pending centenary, a lot more material and studies have been published showing just how deeply WWI and the years after (1918-1930 or so) wounded the culture of Western Europe, particularly among the intellectuals and political class.

  2. One of the messages of Jewish history is that if you put your faith in God’s promises, you can endure much – exile, persecution and even the decline of civilizations around you, while still maintaining an optimistic, life affirming culture. I could be killed, my family could get wiped out, the society in which I’ve lived could collapse, but I know, just as surely as I know that the sun will set this evening, that there will be Jews and Judaism a thousand years from now.

  3. Pingback: News of the Week (October 23rd, 2016) | The Political Hat

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