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Religion Column: My Dear Wormwood

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

Back in the day when Adolph Hitler was making every effort to take over Europe, obliterate the Jews and invade England, an unusual voice was heard, coming from an Oxford College Don. C. S. Lewis was hardly the kind to be involved in politics, but his ability to turn a word became renown, as he turned from atheist to noted theologian.
In 1942, he published the “Screwtape Letters.” These are a collection of written fictional instructions and often praise, from the Devil, for his cousin Wormwood. As the Devil is a liar, and nothing he says may be believed, the discourses are meant to speak to us in a far different way than that the simple words on the page.
We should note how apropos is the following and keep in mind it is we who are the individual patient.

My dear Wormwood,
Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people, they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration, and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity, or inner peace from further development. Be sure the patient continues to believe that the problem is ‘out there’ in the ‘broken system,’ rather than realize there is a problem with himself.

Keep up the good work,
Uncle Screwtape

Clearly, the discourse strikes home in this day and in our times. This devil’s viewpoint carries the message of the battle between good and evil; the battle between truth and falsehood. In essence it is a battle between our natures and within ourselves.
Much ink has been spent on assailing the masses for their repetitive lack of charity; not only for themselves, but for others. A perceived slight, a preconceived bias, an inner conflict, all bring the negative natures of ourselves to the fore. While Lewis may have referred to the evil nature as “Wormwood,” this sad nature is a part of ourselves, in our regrettably slow nascent recognition of what is the Christian life.
Often, we lament the world around us as having declined; both morally and spiritually.
Yet, as evidenced by the Screwtape Letters, written over seventy-five years ago, reveal we have not changed very much. In truth, as with God’s truth, we have not changed at all.
Evil shall always be present, when we stand apart from God and listen to the “Wormwood’s,” in our lives.
The constant goading of the ‘Evil One,’ temps us at every turn. It is our charge, as given to us by our Creator, to be ever vigilant against the wiles of Wormwood and his minions, for “the devil, as the roaring lion walks about, seeing whom he may devour.”