I was reminded this week about one of the valuable lessons I learned from C.S. Lewis. It’s been a long time since I read The Screwtape Letters, but I was recalling his discussion about how the enemy loves to distract us from the things that we should be focused on.
If you are not familiar with The Screwtape Letters, it is is a satirical Christian apologetics novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior “tempter” named Wormwood, so as to advise him on methods of securing the damnation of a British man, known only as “the Patient” (wiki source) .
In chapter 25, Screwtape discusses “the horror of the same old thing” as “one of the most valuable passions we (read:the devil) have produced in the human heart.” The discussion follows about how fashion, novelty and change will certainly produce an insatiable desire for more of the same. Displaying his keen insight through the voice of his character Lewis writes… “This demand is valuable in various ways. In the first place it diminishes pleasure while increasing desire. The pleasure of novelty is by its very nature more subject than any other to the law of diminishing returns.”
We are like this. We regularly succumb to the temptation to be bored with the regular, seasonal, rhythm of disciplined Christian living, and seek the next exciting wave of distraction. Churches are susceptible as well, trading a plodding, rhythmical method of discipleship for trendiness and excitement.
It’s not helping. I remember when I heard about a few of the local churches doing “40 Days Of Purpose” and thinking it was just the latest fad. It was, it’s over. This is not an indictment of that book or that program, I’ve never read any of Rick Warren’s material. But I agree with Lewis, and object to all the fads and hype in the culture, as well as the church. We have programs designed to assist people with needs, I think that is great. But the emphasis on the personal issues needs to be a distant second to our primary mission, that is, to know and represent Jesus in our world.
More from Screwtape on the matter:
“The game is to have them running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under. Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere “understanding”.
As for myself, and as I speak for Calvary Arlington, we will continue to provide the teaching of God’s word for our community. In the end, people don’t need programs, fads, and excitement, they need Jesus.