I found the way Screwtape talked about sin to be one ofthe most interesting parts of this work. I do not know how C.S. Lewis thoughtof all of the insights into sin that he put into The Screwtape Letters, butthey are all very true and ways in which I would have never thought of. The wayScrewtape takes a new approach to sin, in making the person think they are justbeing picky, or making them feel they deserve to have things, while really,they are sinning without realizing it.
The topic of sin is one I find to beunder-written and talked about, so I enjoyed seeing how such a distinguishedwriter discussed it. In the second letter, which is the first when the Patientis a Christian, is the when sin is first really talked about. Screwtape saysthat the Patient should look at his fellow church-goers and see them for whatthey really are, which is imperfect people. He should expect them to be perfectbecause they are Christians, and so he should be disappointed in them. This mayseem like something that is not really a sin, but the second commandment is tolove thy neighbor as thy self, and so it is indeed a sin to judge those otherchurch-goers, rather than loving them. I find this a sin that many fall into,and it is one that many might not see as Screwtape talking about sin at all. Thethird letter talks about sin more outright, telling Wormwood to use the Patient’smother as a tool to get the Patient into sin.
The mother’s demon, Glubose, is agood person to work with to get them both into sin. Screwtape suggests gettingthem to see each other’s faults so that they get annoyed, and so they do notsee their own faults. This will make them fight in a way that they see the argumentonly from their own point of view so that they never reach a resolution. This isanother sin in the way of not loving thy neighbor. Later in the letters, in letter 9, Screwtape suggestsanother type of sin, sexual immorality. This sin is one that Screwtape says iseasy to fall into when “in a trough.” He says that this will also help to keepthe Patient from realizing the bad times he is in are temporary, as well askeep him in the trough, and convince him the Christian time was just a phase,not a life change.
He suggests getting the Patient into the sin by the naturalurges, and that will lead to an addiction that will keep him in the trough, ashe will not fall in love if he is in the bad times making bad choices.Screwtape, in the next letter, suggests getting the Patient to keep friendsthat are not Christians, as, though he does not realize it, those friends are atemptation, and the judgement of them is a sin too easy to fall into, as wellas the temptation to fall into the sin they are in. I found this view of sin tobe all to relatable, as it is difficult to love your neighbor that is in sin, andto love them through it. It is also a big temptation to be able to love them,while being different to them. Being friends with someone that is not aChristian when you are creates a lot of temptation to behave like they do, evenwhen you have been called to higher. Throughout the letters, Screwtape suggests sin in a waythat seems innocent.
That is his strategy. He wants the sin to seem likesomething that is following the rules, when in fact it is breaking them. Forinstance, when Screwtape speaks of gluttony, he tells of the mother’s gluttony,which she thinks is not sin. This is because she does not overindulge, butwants everything just so, and so she sends things back and complains that itmust not be so hard to just make it correctly as the help makes it seem. She isso picky that it leads to a lot of wasted food.
She is not gluttonous in thetraditional Augustus Gloop (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory reference) fashion,but in that she is not appreciative of the food she has, and is so picky overher food that she is snooty about it. This is a sin I see all the time in theworld, as food is so available that people have started to say some things arenot good enough for them. People are avoiding gluten for no reason other thanit is trendy to do so. Gluttony has many forms, and the disguise described byScrewtape is one I have seen work on many people in today’s society.
Sin is commonly understood to be the breaking of thecommandments given to us by God. That is true, but they have been interpretedtoo closely, and they have been taught about too little. People are ignoringthe commandments that are hard to follow, and are trying to interpret them in away that allows them to do what they want to, rather than what they should. Sinis a topic many avoid talking about, as it is not easy to tell someone whatthey should or should not do when we are indeed called not to judge.
It is ahard subject, and so it is not talked about. Sin has turned into a topic thatis up to interpretation, when in fact God gave us instructions on how to behavein order to glorify him. The interpretation should be about what God reallymeant by it, not what we can get away with. This work shows us how those interpretationsallow the Devil to slip into our lives and pull us away from God. We must workto understand what God meant by his commandments so that we can live how we aremeant to, not live how we want to while still expecting the rewards ofChristianity.