My dear Wormwood,

Must I remind you again of the big picture goal? You learned this on your first day in pragmatic anthropology. Our goal is to make your subject lose their faith. As you know, the Enemy does not make us privy to whether their faith is real or not. So we don’t know whether or not we can pry them out of His disgusting hands. Because of this, it is best to simply assume that they are not in His hand and can, therefore, lose their faith and follow us to the prophesied destruction.

But you seem to think it is our goal to make them lose their faith by a single blow. While this would be nice, it never happens this way. It comes one small step at a time. I fear your continual attempts at a one punch knockout are making our dark masters goal more out of reach. For some reason these vermin are much more likely to find comfort in the arms of the Enemy when they feel intermittent acute and powerful attacks. We don’t know why, but the current theory is that when our attacks are so brutal, we leave them with nowhere else to go. Though this is not always the case, don’t let the exception create a new rule.

The rule remains the same. Remember the way we memorized this? “Jab, jab, jab, right cross.”  However, that was only for illustrative purposes. In reality, the longer you extend the jabs the less the right cross is needed. In fact, the right cross might never be needed! You see, while they have the tendency to find purpose in the major traumas of their life, they don’t really know what to do with the small things (this is especially true of the males). Yes, we love to see them in pain, and with tears that will not cease, but we would much more love to see them in hell, hating the Enemy for all eternity.

Where was I? Oh yes…While they may find purpose in a major loss, injury, or tragic evil, they don’t really know what to do with the loss of their car keys, the stomach virus they get twice in a month, the flat tire, a nagging boss, the computer that loses all their work, the husband that will never stop seeming to flirt with the neighbor, the electricity bill they can’t pay,  the wife who can’t cook, or the child who begins to find sexual independence outside of marriage. These will slowly beat them down. Why? you ask. We are not really sure and there are all kinds of theories that make no difference. The fact is that the Enemny has told them plainly that He caused “all things to work together for good” for his children and they, thankfully, don’t listen. If they did, our job would be impossible.

This strategy hinges on a step we have to take. We must keep it on their mind when the small things happen. A whisper in their ear, a passing thought, critical meme will often do the trick as they are vulnerable and they don’t realize it. One way to another keep it in their head that these smaller things are meaningless. Here is a good model phrase to use: “What purpose could God possibly have in this?” Remember what Prof Bael called it in school? “The stubbed toe principle” I always liked that name. It’s easy to remember and funny to picture.

So, after you have beat them down for days, months, and years with the so-called ”meaningless” jabs, then you will find that the big power moves are surprisingly effective and long lasting (that is, if they are even still necessary!).

But all this hinges on your continued tutelage, convincing your subject that the Enemy does not bring good out of everything. 

Affectionately,

Your uncle, Screwtape


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    3 replies to "Modern Screwtape Letter #2 — The “Stubbed Toe Factor”"

    • Daniel Eaton

      Love the series! Keep it up!

    • Daniel Eaton

      I’m glad that comments are pending moderation because I wanted to point out two proofreading things and then you can delete this comment. The second sentence seems to be missing a word. And the final sentence needs “uncle” to be capitalized or have a comma after it. I don’t want to be “that” guy that is a grammar Nazi. Just trying to help!

      Love you, Michael. Hope you and the family had a great Christmas!

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