Screwtape and the 2016 election

For the character and lessons of Screwtape I am forever indebted to C.S. Lewis and his remarkable ability to challenge me and creep me out. In his The Screwtape Letters, Lewis recounts the demon Screwtape’s instructions to his nephew and subordinate demon regarding the temptation of a British man during World War II. What would Screwtape write today?

My dear Brimstone,
Do not weep and gnash your teeth in such uncle-screwtapegreat protest! It is most demeaning and unfounded. You fear your Patient’s resolve to “change the world around him.” I see a chance to coordinate with several of your fellow tempters. You see victory for The Enemy in the animal’s desire. I see a path to increase for Our Father Below. It is quite difficult yet also unnecessary to directly break such a resolve. I would rather you expend your energy channeling it towards our purposes. If you succeed, may this pitiful creature never stop changing the world!

Since adding oversight of America to my dominion, I have been most impressed by your predecessor’s accomplishments. Even after falling into the clutches of The Enemy, so very many are still led to believe their work for Him is dependent on which animal is chosen to lead their government. If that is lost, so they believe, all is lost. This is to your advantage, and do not dare damage the position so many of us have worked so hard to achieve. Point his thoughts towards the power of government. Let him see hope for The Enemy in the “right” hands and the fear of us in the “wrong” hands (recall The Enemy’s disdain of fear). That is not to say this view is not true; instead, the goal is to narrow his focus too tightly. If you can distract his time, money, and anxiety with the binary choice between two creatures, he is less likely to notice the odious, vile things he and those like him can achieve together for The Enemy. Thus the damage is restricted by simple distraction without the admittedly more formidable task of outright falsehood. The danger cannot be overstated if he sees what else The Enemy has empowered him to do.

But we don’t stop at restricting the damage, do we? Perish the thought, young one. I am quite encouraged by the Patient’s slavish devotion to political causes you described in your last letter. Never forget that The Enemy takes as a personal insult any cause which eclipses Himself in the heart of humans, no matter the original intent. I have always imagined this is partly because, as their designer, even He must admit their flesh brains simply are unable to fully devote themselves to more than one thing at a time. You should constantly work to maintain a cause in the place in your Patient’s soul which The Enemy would claim as His (even better if the cause looks like Him so as to go unnoticed!). I am sure you salivate as I do at the mere thought of such a tasty appetizer. But a feast awaits the demon who presses onward! I have been advised that the animal the Patient supports has been most thoroughly compromised by our side. Grant to the Patient an unwavering eye for the failings and sins of anyone and everyone throughout the world. This seems counterintuitive but is only to set the trap. Just when he is about to notice the sins of his preferred animal, allow him to remember the words of The Enemy, that all humanity has sinned. Out of their fear of Light, too many a young demon has forgotten that the words of The Enemy are an invaluable tool in the hands of a talented tempter. At that precise moment of seeming peril, push fear of the other faction in order to excuse anything and everything in order to prop up his precious cause. In a heartbeat, not only are your previous failings in allowing the Patient to speak out against us erased, but your colleagues assigned to the unconverted will find new power. “If for some cause this man excuses things he has so soundly condemned before,” they will whisper, “what matters more to him: Washington or Heaven?” Imagine the exuberance of your colaborers! Imagine your name resounding in the feast halls of Hell! Press the attack, and do it now.

It will seem quite uncomfortable at first, but remember to disguise yourself as Light. Dress all your designs in the trappings of The Enemy. As I have often said before, nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar.

Yours in victory,

Screwtape and the 2016 election

Christians, make social network news great again

I have good news, and I have bad news: we only have 36 days until the election. Only 36 days, but 36 more days of an increase in what can only be described as “2016ness.” While I do look forward to the impending drastic change to the news cycle, we unfortunately will find ourselves on November 9th living with not just the results of the voting but also the results of how the broader election process played out. I have my opinions on what the church supporting certain candidates will do to our witness. But perhaps more importantly bibleswearand undeniably, the church will have to live with the fallout of how we supported any candidate or cause. I don’t think I have to make a case that the standard of Scripture
demands honesty and integrity
, but sometimes it feels like we forget that when it comes to elections or social media at large. Please don’t forget about November 9th. This isn’t football; wins and losses don’t reset after someone lifts the final trophy. With that in mind, I wanted to devote a post to a few helpful reminders not on whether we as the church should use our digital voice to be good and reliable neighbors (hint: we should) but how to be good and reliable neighbors. Here are a few I came up with based on what I often see. If anyone else has some, I’d love for you to leave them in the comments!

  • Check the dates. Unless posting a throwback article is specifically your point, accidentally posting about some allegedly impending crisis or problem that scared people five years ago, all while thinking it’s about the present, probably isn’t very helpful.
  • Reverse image search. There’s a reason why Catfish relies so heavily on this basic but underutilized technology; it works. If something purports to be an image of something scandalous or hide to acquire, take an extra second to think about it. Are you sure? If not, edit off any added word banners and let the power of the internet save you from spreading something you shouldn’t.
  • Check sources. Pay attention to the source of any links you click or post. This is why consuming across multiple sources is so important. Responsible consuming leads to, among other things, getting a feel for the styles, opinions, and reliability of various authors and outlets. When multiple sources report on the same thing, seeing how they each characterize it is fascinating and helpful for the future. When an outlet stands out from the field dramatically, that doesn’t necessarily disprove it but it should make you wonder why. When an outlet’s viewpoint is actually in their name, think about if or how that may have affected their reporting. And please, I’m begging you, don’t fall for spoof sites. Please.
  • Don’t bite the clickbait. The only good thing to come of the clickbait trend is people making fun of the clickbait trend. If you find something you feel need sharing within a clickbait article (“This thing has people shocked,” “______ is going viral,””This will destroy _______,” and the all time classic, “You’ll never guess what happens next!”) make every effort to find another source with an honest headline. If you ultimately conclude you just HAVE to post it, short-circuit the system; give away the important talking point in your post with the link.
  • Watch yourself for fallacies. This could almost be it’s own post. Showing Candidate A is corrupt/mean/evil/opposed to puppies matters, but it doesn’t mean that Candidate B isn’t those things. Take the time to understand positions you oppose and engage them honestly. “Yea, well such and such wholly unrelated thing!” doesn’t disprove what you just heard. “Well you aren’t a true Christian/atheist/American/human if you believe that” helps no one. Conversely, “You’re just a [insert reductionist title like conservative or liberal” doesn’t disprove someone’s point, but it does cook the image of God in another person down to an artificial label. There are a lot of helpful resources out there to help you understand these problems. Otherwise risk the wrath of Ed Hochuli.
  • If you mess up, own up. Presenting a good witness as a Christian doesn’t mean you have to be perfect and thus can’t afford to be honest about your mistakes. In fact, honesty in the midst of our current Category 5 political lying storm is a refreshing change of pace capable of encouraging others. Furthermore, my generation is infamous for its ability to sniff out shenanigans. We all bite on shady news at times; I know I have. And no, “well the overall narrative it represents is true” will never make a false story true. Own up, fix it, and always strive to be better.

Again, please remember we’ll all be here on November 9th. Live the next 36 days in a way which honors God, loves people, and puts us in position to be the Body of Christ no matter who wins.

Christians, make social network news great again