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Screwtape 2020

GUEST COLUMN

By Michael Thomas Cibenko | June 2020
After earning a degree in English from the University of Montana, Michael Thomas Cibenko spent four years teaching English in rural Japan. He is currently working on a book based on the events of the 17th-century Shimabara Rebellion. He would like to express gratitude to his friend and former colleague, Dr. Jeffrey Bond, for introducing him to C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, a book that has had a profound impact on his life.

My Dear Wormwood,

I couldn’t help but notice your celebration over the current pandemic. After your abysmal failure with your first patient in the previous century, I expected a bit more cautious pessimism from you. Frankly, I didn’t think you deserved another chance. Lucky for you, there are some at Lower Command who predict the end times for humans may be drawing near, and we need every available tempter working overtime. While many of the humans are scurrying about trying to supply themselves with certain foodstuffs and paper products, we need to be about the business of hoarding souls.

Let me begin with some larger-scale items before moving on to the particulars of your own patient. Of course, all of us down here are ecstatic over the shuttering of their churches. To see the shepherds withholding essential nourishment from their own flock is indeed a delightful thing to behold — the foot soldiers of the Enemy being cut off from their vital lines of supply! This is, I admit, a feat we could not have pulled off on our own. We do not know whether this decision of the shepherds was made out of prudence or cowardice. In light of recent history, we’d like to believe it’s the latter, but our intelligence has not been able to ascertain for sure.

While it’s true that the suspension of their sacraments will at least temporarily render the patients weaker, there is an inherent danger to us. With the deprivation of the food that only the Enemy can provide, the humans may become more acutely aware of their hunger and need for that eternal sustenance. One of their ancient Roman poets penned a phrase about the way in which “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” A sentimental cliché perhaps, but it seems to hold some water. The absence of the Enemy, at least in the form of His True Presence, may prompt the minds of patients across the globe to seek Him in other ways. And this is the point at which we must intervene.

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Screwtape 2020

The devil sees shepherds "withholding essential nourishment" from their flocks as "a delightful thing to behold."