Screwtape Writes a Response to Rod Dreher’s “The Benedict Option”

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to enjoy writing more Screwtape Letters.

If you have heard of a book called The Benedict Option… well, you could say it “inspired” me to write a shot across its bow.

My Dear Wormwood,

Your continued involvement with your Patient’s fretting and worrying has provided me with some encouragement. I am even entertaining the notion that you are starting to learn from your previous incompetence. A few millennia behind the curve, perhaps, but this change is welcome all the same.

I shall here expound on some material we have covered before, mainly to show you why your efforts have paid off. This will serve in case you have succeeded by mere accident, and I hope it shall be a reminder for the future. You have bungled enough assignments in the past that I must take such precautions.

Your man is a professional worrywort, ever “concerned with preserving God’s kingdom,” never mind that he has mislabeled the Enemy’s kingdom by treating it as one and the same with what it has wrought upon Earth. He conflates the effect with the cause (perhaps not consciously), and treats the preservation of his preferred culture with the same priority as spreading their so-called “Gospel.”

Your Patient is plainly interested in safeguarding what he mistakes for the kingdom as if it had become a dusty relic, one that would crumble to powder at the lightest breath. Perfectly laughable, of course. Has the Enemy placed the keys to His realm in the hand of this tiny mortal? Hardly! The Enemy admittedly has erected a fortress that can spread and adapt and convert at frightening speed, if we become complacent in our work. That fortress must be fought constantly, for it neither crumbles nor retreats.

Additionally, I am gratified to hear of your Patient’s daily paralysis, even to the point of publishing a book, allowing his paralysis to become a contagion. Even if the book contains much of what the Enemy claims to be “Truth,” Our Father Below knows well that poison works best when smuggled inside something nourishing.

You did well in coaxing your patient to accept calamity and defeat before they have even come knocking! He has gone from asking, “What kind of world will my children inhabit, if the world continues to go on its present course?” to stating that the world WILL manifest his every personal nightmare. Not only a general deterioration, but the worst of everything he, in particular, envisions. In most regards, you have ably stopped up the Enemy’s little words from having noticeable effect. “Take up your sword.” “Be salt and light to the world.” “The gates of Hell will not withstand your assault.”

Given our subterfuge, even the Enemy’s whispers need not take effect, if worry is there to shield the Patient’s mind. But the application extends beyond mere dulling of your Patient’s senses. Worry is one of the great forces of rot. Its main effect lies in the spirit world of course, but it also carries over to the mental domain, and finally begins to deteriorate the body as well. We must not forget the lesser effects, for if worry is sufficiently fed, it can cascade into a cycle of atrophy. The mind and body begin to suffer its effects, and soon every trend of persecution and slander will make his little world seem like it is unraveling as surely as his body.

That being said, here stands the great danger to you. At every cost, we must ensure the Patient continues to deflect the Enemy’s encouragement. If the Enemy steals past our barriers, and the antidote to inner defeat sinks in, where there once crouched a gaunt man, timid and trembling, you will see there now strides a mighty warrior. And the likes of such warriors are among the greatest threats to our cause at this point in human history.

But continue your work. Your patient has even come to view retreat and huddling in dark corners as some noble, preservative strategy. That was, I confess, masterful on your part. For if you can convince even the most imposing of soldiers that his side is already on the retreat, often he will drop his sword without need of you to pry it off his corpse.

Your affectionate Uncle,

Screwtape

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