A Letter from Tapescrew

With Apologies to C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters consists of an imagined correspondence between the senior demon Screwtape and his young nephew Wormwood. Screwtape gives advice on tempting and leading humans astray. Lewis uses this correspondence to make some insightful and often biting observations about the human condition, and how easily we are deceived by the forces of evil.

I’m happy to report that some new letters have just been discovered, this time from Screwtape’s relative Tapescrew, writing to his nephew Woodworm. These letters may shed some light on the state of worship in our churches today.

My dear Woodworm,

In today’s world there are some delicious tendencies that make it particularly easy to confuse, distract, and divert the Enemy’s people from the things on which they should be focused. Some of our unwitting agents among the philosophers and academics have paved the way for the current wonderful situation, whereby the pathetic creatures seem to each go around in their own little bubble, unaware of forces and values that extend beyond the boundaries of their own consciousness and concern.

While there are some isolated voices crying out things like “It’s all about Him!” these cries are, as it were, cries in the wilderness, and they largely fall on deaf ears, thank Badness. There are blissfully few who are able to crack the barrier of their own self-absorption and truly focus even on other humans, much less on divine priorities and demands. That makes our work so much easier!

The worms bounce around inside the shell of self-centeredness, which is about all they know, and then they wonder why they feel that they are without a meaning or purpose that extends beyond themselves! They do the work for us, in many respects, as they so successfully fill their lives with a multitude of sweetly irrelevant pursuits, leaving little time or energy for the Enemy’s worrisome projects and plans.

In their churches, this kind of rampant individualism gets carried to hilarious extremes. In a delightfully blind way, these beings can recite creeds and sing songs and pray prayers that speak of the Enemy’s sovereign (and, we would say, dictatorial) rule over all things, and then they turn around and act as though they themselves are the center of the universe!

It is in their churches, those annoying places intended by the Enemy for corporate brainwashing and mutual encouragement in the perverse ways of holiness and godliness, that we find the most exciting displays of selfishness and narrow-mindedness. The smaller the issue, it seems, the more overwrought their emotions become in their stubborn campaign to get their own way! I tell you, we hardly need to whisper a corrupting suggestion into their ears before they are off fighting over the color of the carpet, the brand of coffee served, or even—most thrilling of all—over their worship! And each one with a self-righteous conviction that his or her own convictions or preferences on the matter just happen to exactly coincide with the Enemy’s point of view!

I tell you, it warms our devilish hearts when we are able to use worship, of all things, as a way to divide the Enemy’s people! The one activity that should unite them most has become a wonderful seedbed for strife and disagreement. It is all made possible when they begin to look out for themselves and their interests rather than the Enemy’s. And that perspective, I’m happy to report, is everywhere. It is embarrassingly easy to promote among those creatures, and truly is one of our greatest successes!

Affectionately yours,
Uncle Tapescrew

Rev. Dr. Ron Man is missionary-in-residence at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and director of Worship Resources International (worr.org).

Reformed Worship 93 © September 2009, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.