My Dear Wormwood….Screwtape Addresses Ecumenical Community

Note: If you have not read C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters the following may make little sense. The Screwtape Letters is a collection of letters from a senior demonic tempter, named  Screwtape, to his nephew Wormwood, a novice tempter. It is a Christian classic and I would heartily recommend you read it first.

My Dear Wormwood,

It is with real alarm that I read the casual comment in your previous letter that your patient is getting involved in an ecumenical community – do you remember nothing of your lessons at the teaching college on this topic? I’m sure Slubgob has not let this lesson drop out of the curriculum. Do you not recall the special protocol for raising the alarm? Our father below himself takes special interest in these cases. You should have contacted me at once!

Our ultimate war aims are dependent on our success in keeping the Christians divided and dividing. Many of our best minds in research have been devoted to these schemes, and their work over the centuries has been truly impressive. Any attempt at real ecumenism, especially one that is expressed in practical daily life must be snuffed out at once.

As sobering as the situation is, all is not yet lost! Indeed, there are interesting possibilities in opening some deep veins of judgmentalism and hypocrisy that could be really entertaining over the long term. But we must be careful in how we proceed. There are several avenues of attack.

The first task is to focus your patient’s mind on the concept of ecumenism and steer him away from the more mundane and practical implications of actually living together in love with those from other traditions. Let his mind fondle the concept and congratulate himself on being open-minded and big-hearted enough to be an “ecumenist” – a wonderfully inflating term. Let the train of thought develop – “it really is a sacrifice for me to relate to these people and not have as much time for my denominational life… but it is the cross I need to bear.” I’m sure you see the progression – the intermingling of pride and self-pity that can be developed in various interesting ways. I trust you are capable of the usual developments along these lines. 

At all costs, keep from his mind the obvious lessons from their scriptures (you know, “May they all be one,” and such drivel) and the disgusting ultimate goal of the enemy – he really does profess to want to bring all the human animals into an ultimate unity with himself. The humans will be only too ready to overlook these points in favor of the immediate and more comfortable attractions of a purely sectarian approach. By the way, this teaching of the enemy on ultimate unity is all the more irritating in that it borrows so obviously from our father below’s own goal of ultimate unity. Of course our father’s approach is based on the infinitely more dignified principle of mastery and domination – “May they all be mine.” The enemy’s hypothesis of a voluntary unity of independent beings is a pale shadow of our ultimately more realistic approach.

I have checked the records on this particular ecumenical community and find with some dismay they teach the concept of convergent ecumenism. This approach is based on the concept (so painfully obvious to us but opaque to many humans) that the common ground shared by all adherents of the Christian faith is broad enough to spend a lifetime mastering. They seem to relish standing in this common area and working for the center instead of focusing on the more narrow areas of difference or distinctive. Make sure to encourage your man along the lines of “this convergence idea is all well and good but really we mustn’t over-simplify things.” Here you can appeal to his pride in wanting to avoid seeming common or dull. Play on your man’s alleged passion for truth (most of them are really not that serious about truth…) but get him to burrow deep on some truths (those held especially firmly by his church) to the neglect of the totality of truths (those held in common by all the Christian humans).

Finally, I find the group also advocates what they call “ecumenical courtesy.” This is really alarming and perhaps the most dangerous teaching of the whole lot. This approach threatens to undo one of our most effective stratagems – building on simple misunderstandings and inflaming minor slights to drive a wedge between humans. Make sure your man categorizes those who offer these slights – carefully nurture the notions of “us” and “them” and make sure he keeps score whenever one of “them” offers a snub. Is your man’s church in the majority or the minority in this ecumenical community? You can play him either way on this point, but it is most helpful if he is in the minority. Play upon the normal human fears of being overwhelmed by a majority that does not understand him. Plant in his mind the notion that the group is really dominated by “them” and does not have room for “us.” Once you get him thinking along these lines the rest is child’s play. 

Given the seriousness of the case, we need to increase our vigilance! I’m sure you’ve seen the new directive on upgrading our communications to this new tool they call “e-mail.” Henceforth we need to dispense with these letters and adopt the new technology! (By the way, it seems to offer some really interesting opportunities for creating discord and misunderstandings with the humans themselves. Our research indicates in sufficient quantities it can drive them quite mad.) In any case, I need to give a report to one of the under-devils later this evening on this case so please drop me an email yet tonight and catch me up on the latest developments.

Your affectionate Uncle,


Top image composite of illustration by Hala Mychaski and book cover by Living Bulwark design staff.

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