A Screwtape Letter to a Senior Pastor, Part IV

A guide for pastors looking to split a church…

This is Part IV of an ongoing series presented by The Midway Guardian. Readers are referred to the preceding Parts I-III here.

“Screwtape”, © image credit Philip Wagner

My dear, my very dear, Pastor, my poppet, my pigsnie,

Let it be said before the One Below and all his followers that “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” to the pastor that pulled it off! Reflect on your fervent efforts over these past months – you have achieved the goal of splitting the church and damaging the witness of the Holy One. You also managed to remove many of your detractors in the process.

The One Below and I distracted ourselves from orchestrating wars and famines to follow your recent moves with great interest… what a show! For a short time there, we weren’t sure you would pull it off, as your opposition quite openly challenged you – and you responded with drastic action that even forced the involvement of civil authorities! Even I couldn’t have imagined such a public spectacle! But know this dear friend, and be forewarned – your work is not complete. Oh no no no friend, there is much more to do. 

Do know that I had resolved not to write you further as you seemed to have the most urgent matter of splitting your church well under control…. I must admit though, even I began to doubt you as the conflict you started climaxed, and you abandoned the principles I had previously relayed to you with regard to secrecy… you took great risks my dear friend, great risks indeed, which may have exposed your true intentions to many as you worked to secure the vote to preserve your power. Many of your bullish tactics, financial indiscretions, and manipulations were unmasked. In some ways you were most lucky as the gallantry of those who opposed you was admirable although ultimately unsuccessful under such exigent circumstances.

Nonetheless, you have shaken off your enemies like a scab fallen from an old sore. Yet, as we know, the sore remains, ready to spread the infection of truth we have fought so valiantly together. Now hear this: now is not the the time to relax. Get back to work – no time to gloat, your supporters will handle that for you… you’ve built a magnificent (truly magnificent!) system of persecution for those you target – now – together, let’s find the next victims! I tell you one thing I have learned challenging the Holy One (for a very full and rich career I might add) is that he keeps a remnant around and they “hear his voice” — that’s a problem for those of us in the half-truth and lies business… but no matter… let my words here help you to counter others moving forward.

Your first task, and it must be done quickly to capitalize upon its value, is to reward those who fought for you – prosecuted on your behalf in the church courts and in the court of public opinion. Reward many of them with invitations to your inner circle. Whiskey and cigars – you know the right cadence… This is critical. These servants are susceptible to flatteries and will be the next generation of foot soldiers in your wars to come… which – I look forward to you starting with great interest. You may also consider announcing a time of ”renewal” or some other pleasantry to galvanize their public show of support.

What is to come next you ask? You have split your church… now make preparations to do so again! The time for further division will come – and now is…  This season of celebratory glee, having just accomplished that very thing, affords you great power. You have a mandate from the deceived people in your midst. Use that influence while it is fresh.

To this end, I share with you now what I call “The Seven Foundations of Calamity.” Instruct your followers well in these basic (yet extremely influential) tenants of division and you will be most successful on earth. Banish from yourself any surprise if some of your followers themselves become astonished in the future to learn that they have become enslaved by your mendacious system of control – which is quite concealed from them at this moment by the fact that they are not conscious victims themselves, and are foreigners to the pain you’ve caused others in private – but I digress – to the Seven Foundations… which represent (if used well) the triumph of severance of fellowship among the churched:

  1. Conceit over Contrition
  2. Control over Competence
  3. Cowardice over Courage
  4. Compulsion over Community
  5. Coercion over Compliance
  6. Cons over Correctness
  7. Cruelty over Charity

Cherish these things, and, above all, don’t let the fools see them for what they are openly. If they notice them for what they are, they will be on the road to discovering that their pastor is not who they thought — and might get dangerous ideas about opposition and the like… that won’t do at all. No, no… Therefore shroud these principles in flowery and ambiguous language couched in the words of the Holy One taken out of context. 

Remember your pulpit and your followers… continue to preach the submission you are famous for promoting. On top of these confusions you can now introduce a few more. The enchantment of being for the “winning side” you will find produces a mutual complaisance in which the people will willingly submit to you in the short term. They also know that the enemy demands of them a degree of “charity” – remind them that to oppose you is to betray the Holy One’s desires for them.

There is one final matter to consider. I have written no shortage of words to you on the matter of controlling higher courts in the church. You of course need allies there, and must maintain influence if we are to preserve your well earned dynamism. I guide you to openly consider most seriously what I know you have considered inwardly… who needs these so called “courts” anyway? At this juncture in your career, does it not make sense to shake off these old things and embrace in substance what you have always believed in practice? You act as the final authority… you might as well formalize the practice. Shake off the accountability and rule independently.

Meddlesome higher courts can only serve to impede your progress toward more control. It is time for true autonomy my friend… I urge you, most sincerely, to make it so. You will need of course the “vote” of the people but your are no stranger to the manipulations and flattery required to succeed in such endeavors. Make use of a dozen different and hypothetical fates to strike fear in your followers. I have counseled previously, the fear of the “liberals” will of course keep your people in line – if you use the right words – and will more than justify any actions of separation from authority you choose to pursue.

And now I leave you again – we may speak in the future… but we both have much to do to continue to harm the witness of the Holy One. Remember the Seven Foundations… remember the liberals, always the liberals… they are lurking behind every pew and you must relentlessly remind your people of this fantasy… It is your key to your earthly kingdom of control. In the meantime, I raise a toast to the aggravation of fresh domestic tensions in your church… Never. Stop. Working.

Your Affectionate Counselor,