I had not read this since high school. At the time I was deep in Southern Christian Culture (I need to post more about this sometime). I also was just young (duh, right?). When I read it then I thought it was dense and laborious.
Now, with more life experience and political experience (not just legal politics, but personal/professional politics) the writing was powerful. Almost painful.
I don’t write a lot about my faith, it is something I find difficult to put into words. It is very personal. And that is where Screwtape Letters hits home. It talks of a very personal theology where a young Christian is being tempted. It’s very internal, all about his own choices and lifestyle. How does he approach situations. It isn’t the action that matters, it’s the motivation. Acting humble to prove he’s humble isn’t the same as actually being humble.
There were several chapters I almost want to take out and individually discuss, but in the spirit of a review that will not be this post (maybe someday). This is a book which has a specific audience, and at least this read through I was the perfect audience.
So many of the issues Screwtape addresses are things that feel so personal and real. People who attend church but don’t carry any of the religion out those doors beyond into the rest of their life. The potential for human fear and misery (the book is “set” during WWII) and if you replace “Germans” with pretty much any demonized (har har) group, it rings terribly true.
C.S. Lewis was an atheist and returned to Christianity (was raised Catholic I think, left the church, and Tolkien helped bring him back as a protestant). I think it gives his writing about Christianity a view that is valuable. He has asked questions of his faith and wrestled with the difficult issues in a way that a lot of people never reach. They never question these things and it shows. When you look at theologians like Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther, Fancis of Assisi – all of them had these painful struggles with their faith. It makes their writing powerful.