Thursday, November 22, 2012

Screwtape writes to Wormwood regarding Thanksgiving

In addition to being the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, November 22, 1963 was also the day British writer C. S. Lewis died. Lewis wrote many excellent works, among them The Screwtape Letters. Here is an excerpt that is appropriate for today:

Screwtape Gives Thanks

My Dear Wormwood,

It is that time once again when your patient, along with all those living in his country, set aside a day to give thanks. It is a deplorable idea, this “giving thanks,” and one that a team assembled by Our Father Below has been working diligently for some years to neutralize. Great strides are being made, and we have hope that one day soon we will turn this “day of thanksgiving” into just another excuse for fulfilling of selfish pleasures and of coveting what one does not already possess or need. Until that day, it is your responsibility, as it is for all junior tempters, to keep your patient from truly having a thankful heart. Fortunately, recent research has turned up methods which appear promising on this front.

The very act of being thankful is reprehensible to those who followed Our Father Below from the depths of the Enemy’s territory into the glorious realm where we now abide. By giving thanks, one is admitting a need for someone or something. And that admission of need leads to no longer being self-sufficient. It was on this point that the Enemy pressed Our Father, leading to the glorious march into Hell where we none of us needs be thankful to anyone. If I am thankful, it is not because I have been given anything. It is because I have found the power to take what I want when and where I desire.

How do you keep your patient from being disgustingly thankful? Here are some procedures laid out in the latest Tempters Training Manual, written by yours truly.

1. Keep your patient from ever seeing he is dependent on anyone else. Self-reliance, Wormwood, is the key to self-destruction. Be sure to point out those around him who are self-made men, those who never need receive anything from another. Professional athletes are good examples, as are movie and television stars. Never mind that these people are some of the neediest humans alive. Your patient need only see their public persona and be made to believe they have achieved success by their own efforts, not with the help of others. Awake in your patient the desire to never be in debt to anyone. Your colleague Gluberfest has made great strides with what is now referred to as “humanism,” encouraging the notion that, if they try hard enough, each human can achieve their own level of greatness. Keep your patient thinking that he needs no one to help him achieve his own greatness, and you will keep gratitude at bay.

2. Greed is an excellent defense against being thankful. Coveting what one does not have keeps one from being appreciative of what he does have. If your patient begins to say, “I’m thankful for the food I have,” let him see an advertisement for something even better. The reason we encourage those in advertising (some of our greatest recruits to Our Father have been placed in the field of advertising, as you know, or as you would know if you paid attention to what you have been taught) to show very large portions of food is to make any other portion look miserable and, as an effect, make the one seated before the smaller portion feel miserable. How can one give thanks for a single serving when a double serving would, obviously, be so much better?

3. To go along with greed, we have painstakingly made the day after their giving of thanks the number one shopping day for humans in your patient’s country. Advertisements will clutter the newspaper and TV all day on Thursday, promising great enjoyment if one will only venture forth in the early hours of Friday. Of course, there is nothing available on Friday your patient could not buy the next Wednesday, if he really needs to buy it, but it is the thrill of the hunt, Wormwood, that we are going for. Make your patient see that he must have something right away, and he will not bother being thankful for what he has. If you play this right, he will even despise what he has today in the hopes of obtaining something greater tomorrow. This is an endless cycle that will continue when we possess that one in Hell.

4. Distraction cannot be discounted as a weapon against thanksgiving. The busy-ness of cooking, eating and cleaning can, with skill, be used to keep humans from stopping, even for a moment, to say thank you for what they are cooking, eating, and cleaning up after. Crying children, argumentative relatives and nagging spouses can all supply much delight to you if you apply them correctly to distract your patient from being thankful.

5. Finally, there is the discontent with those things your patient is supposed to be thankful for. All food, for instance, is not universally enjoyed. If your patient does not care for carrots, be sure that there are plenty of carrots on the table. And then have the person who brought the carrots speak up loudly to say how she worked hours peeling and slicing and cooking the carrots, and how offended she will be if your patient does not eat at least two helpings of carrots. Take this home, Wormwood, and not only will your patient expel any notion of thanksgiving, but he will embrace hatred of the carrot-bringer with great vigor. If you can do this, your fun will have just begun.

I do want to say that I am thankful in my own way. I am thankful that I am not like you, a junior tempter with little hope of climbing to my level. I am thankful that Our Father seems to have better things to do these days than to inflict torment on me. And I am thankful for the warmth of my office, fueled with the souls whom I led into Our Father Below’s kingdom by keeping them from being givers of thanks.

Your affectionate uncle,



  1. Good old "Our Father Below." A man upstairs and another man downstairs. I want some women supernaturalities. I recall that the Apostle Paul preached in the city that was devoted to one of them, Artemis. I know little of her, my major writings from antiquity being by people who spoke of God as irrelevant at best because what they perceived as its/his/her/their apparent lack of involvement with the affairs of earth. I only point this out to say that both of our positions in the area of religious belief have a long history, but I really don't know how much you know of mine, and I frankly know little of yours. I've read The Seven Storey Mountain, and a few things by C.S. Lewis (including The Screwtype Letters), a few chapters by Kierkegaard, "The Archaeology of the Bible," and a wonderful book entitled "The Desert Fathers," but that's about it other than some popular books from the sixties when I was in my teens.

  2. Artemis was the goddess of the hunt and the equivalent of the Roman goddess Diana. Chapter 19 of the Book of Acts records a great crowd shouting "Great is Diana of the Ephesians" for two hours in protest against Paul.

    I think it's those popular books from the sixties that did you in. That was the era (or maybe it was a little later) when Hal Lindsey's The Late, Great Planet Earth and Marabel Morgan's Total Woman were all the rage in evangelical circles. The Desert Fathers were ever so much more instructive. At least they didn't tell women to get naked and wrap themselves in Saran-Wrap to greet their husbands at the door.

  3. "I think it's those popular books from the sixties that did you in."

    Did me in? Ha. The only two I remember reading were "The Cross and the Switchblade" and another that built personalities around the various apostles, making then seem a bit like a troupe of itinerant hippies. I don't either book did me in. I think asking questions is what did me in.