The Screwtape Option: 3 New Ways to Thwart Christian Witness Today

By Jason Jones & John Zmirak Published on April 4, 2017

LifeSiteNews has reported:

A representative from the George Soros-funded dissident group Catholics for Choice (CFC) said she supports Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider, because “our Catholic social justice tradition compels us to stand with the poor and the most vulnerable in our society.”

This hijack of Catholic language is meant to confuse people. Christians are called to serve the vulnerable. They are “the least” among our “brethren.” (Matt. 25: 40) When we serve them, we serve Christ. Or so He promised.

The most vulnerable, afflicted people on earth have the fewest defenders. And George Soros isn’t one of them. You’ll win little credit for fighting for the truly vulnerable. Perhaps the groups that best fit that description today are:

  • Unborn children in the West, who have zero legal protection, and are cannibalized for parts;
  • religious minorities around the world who are persecuted by intolerant governments; and
  • Christians who face the choice between betraying their consciences and losing their livelihoods or liberty here in the West.

So what would you do today if you were C.S. Lewis’ tempter Screwtape? You have one job: to keep souls out of heaven. To achieve that, you need to keep Christians from serving the truly vulnerable. You aim in fact to:

  1. Increase human misery. Just for fun, of course. But also to goad souls into wrath, dissension, and despair.
  2. Prevent people from doing what the Gospel demands.
  3. Keep them busy doing something else.
  4. Better still, wherever you can, get them to do the opposite.
  5. Convince people that by following your plan they are smarter, cooler, and more enlightened than those Christians who actually are obeying Jesus.
  6. Make it shameful in the eyes of the public, even of Christians, to follow the Gospel.

That sounds like a tall order. You will need to be strategic. People are different, and not every temptation will snooker each soul. So it’s best if you have more than one scheme in your playbook.

The Pharisee Plan

This one is tried and true, and doesn’t require much explaining. Convince people to focus on squabbling over minor points of doctrine. Get them to ignore their own sins and obsess on the sins of others. Teach them that the best way to get the beam out of their own eye is to pluck the mote out of someone else’s. Plant and water the fantasy that their own social or ideological circle is the invisible Church. Their gated community is the City of God. Let them think that grabbing power for members of the church is the same as building Christ’s kingdom on earth. And so on. You already know this one, so let’s move on to the three new, innovative strategies that have emerged in recent years.

The Benedict Option

The technical term for this bold new dead-end in Christian living is “Defeatism,” but that brand didn’t test well with focus groups. This plan works best for those who really are heart-broken about the evils of this world. They aren’t smug. They’re discouraged.

Of course, if they persevere, God will grant them the strength that they need. But that is where you come in.

Barrage them with negative news. Phrase every report in the most alarmist tone that’s possible. Tell them that the battle is already over. They have run the race, and fought the fight. But they have lost, and now it’s over. Time for a breather.

The church has burned to the ground, so now they’re free to salvage whatever they can from the smoldering ruins. And presto! You have turned an army of volunteer firemen into a sullen mob of scavengers. If they pick up a statue or prayer book here and there, don’t be alarmed. They won’t know what to do with them.

These people aren’t thinking about unborn children, or persecuted Christians. They’re focused on themselves and their sense of loss and grievance. Even better if you can turn this newfound Sloth into Vanity, by making them feel superior to those “fools” who continue the fight.

The Seamless Garment

This stratagem has been around since the 1970s. It got a little frayed around the edges, so its advocates had to mend it. To that end, they’ve stolen the name of an actual pro-life group, and re-branded the Seamless Garment the “Whole Life Movement.”

The goal here is to take genuine concern for real, needy people and dissolve it like an espresso shot in an Olympic swimming pool.

Use the arguments we usually associate with Relativism to prevent people from seeing the differences between things. Lump in every hard luck story or bad outcome in a fallen world with the worst injustices on earth.

Forbid people to see what distinguishes (for instance) a murderer on death row from an old lady about to be euthanized against her will. Teach them to equate a Muslim immigrant who’s offended by tasteless jokes with Christian girls kidnapped by ISIS. Convince them that climate change is a crime on the scale of abortion. And so on.

Once people have come to accept the fact that all evils are basically equal, they’ll probably give up fighting evil altogether, and concentrate on enjoying themselves.

The Victimist Gambit

This plan is the most ambitious. But it offers the richest rewards (beyond all that cash from Mr. Soros). Christian philosopher Rene Girard identified this as the worldview that will bring on the Apocalypse. So it’s worth our special attention.

Victimism is the mental trick by which you puff yourself up and congratulate yourself for being an activist. You win praise and social brownie points by identifying with the causes that are most popular with elites. Stick to topics on which Ivy League professors, Hollywood movie stars, and government bureaucrats agree.

Make sure that your efforts get noticed. (In biblical terms, “blow a trumpet” when “dispensing alms.”) If anyone opposes you, conceive of yourself as a genuine victim. You might really begin to believe it!

Our culture cherrypicks tragedies to suit its ruling ideology. It ignores the causes that challenge it. So of course, those who really suffer the most and have the fewest defenders — like unborn babies, or Syrian Christians — won’t make the list. Instead, the Victimist will latch onto animal rights,  transgender activism or Planned Parenthood … whatever cause is coolest among those people he wants to impress.

If you do your job right, the Victimist will scorn and resent those actual Christians who try to help the vulnerable. He will sneer and feel superior. And why not? He will be far from the sweaty, bloody victims. Instead, he’ll walk the red carpet, sniffing after the elite. 

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