I recently came across this posted on Facebook, and it didn’t quite make sense.
If you’re familiar with The Screwtape Letters, you know that this work of fiction is composed of a series fof letters rom the demon Screwtape to his nephew and protégé Wormwood who is undertaking an ongoing process of tormenting a human first to keep them from coming to faith in Christ and then when Wormwood fails in that effort (to the great consternation and rebuke of Screwtape), to keep the new believer preoccupied with anything that would keep him from undertaking activities that would model the teachings of Christ to the world or have any positive influence upon the people around him.
The passage above seems to fit well within that scenario. It’s become almost dogma in the American church that involvement in politics is a messy “worldly” activity beneath the more “spiritual” aspects of being a Christian.
Sounds reasonable, right? Well, it’s nothing but hogwash! And, in fact, one could interpret this apocryphal quote as a very real letter to Wormwood in reverse designed to trick believers.
This passage does not exist in the book and was created out of whole cloth as a way to encourage people (especially Christians) to remain unconnected from the political system. It’s walso inconsistent with the ideals of C.S. Lewis himself who saw rational, godly engagement with the culture as a high ideal.
There is a real quote from the book which is relevant to politics, and I believe meant to encourage political activity by Christians. And when you read it, you will find that the impetus which caused someone to create this false quote is exactly what Screwtape hoped would happen though the meddling activity of demonic efforts.
Read carefully and consider it fully. Every American of goodwill and especially every Christian should take this lesson to heart.
“Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose. The good work which our philological experts have already done in the corruption of human language makes it unnecessary to warn you that they should never be allowed to give this word a clear and definable meaning. They won’t. It will never occur to them that Democracy is properly the name of a political system, even a system of voting, and that this has only the most remote and tenuous connection with what you are trying to sell them. Nor, of course, must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle’s question: whether ‘democratic behaviour’ means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same. You are to use the word purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate. And of course it is connected with the political ideal that men should be equally treated. You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal. Especially the man you are working on. As a result you can use the word Democracy to sanction in his thought the most degrading (and also the least enjoyable) of all human feelings. You can get him to practise, not only without shame but with a positive glow of self-approval, conduct which, if undefended by the magic word, would be universally derided. The feeling I mean is of course that which prompts a man to say I’m as good as you.” The Screwtape Letters, p. 197