My dear Foolsgold,
I read your last report with great interest and not a little pride. Your great-uncle Screwtape will be delighted to hear of your success. (He will, no doubt, claim responsibility for your accomplishments—though these, we know, should be credited to my account.)
A decade ago, when your patient entered “the ministry,” I feared the worst for your assignment. His charisma (as they call it), rapid growth in spirituality, and skill in both teaching the Book almost guaranteed him a large following and much success in that wretched outpost of the Enemy—the church.
You did well to encourage it and to “assist” him in these endeavors. Once a human has started down this route, it is almost impossible to reverse. There is no going back. Instead, we adjust the trajectory ever so slightly and increase the momentum. This way, by the time he has gone off course, it is impossible to slow down or stop. The damage is certain. The destruction is extreme.
Congratulations are in order…
Our Father Below will be especially pleased to hear of your patient’s treatment of other humans—especially those under his “care.” If we cannot cause a human to dishonor the Enemy in out-right blasphemy, the next best approach is to entice him to destroy those made in the image of the Enemy. For how one treats the image of the Enemy reveals what one thinks of the Enemy himself. You have made him an abuser—this is good. But even better, he is an abuser on multiple fronts.
Verbally, he uses his words with excessive force—disparaging, threatening, manipulating those in his family and in his so-called “flock” to get his way. Exquisite! The Enemy made all things through his Word—and calls his Son “The Word Made Flesh!” To use words to destroy and to deceive is a most ironic misrepresentation of the Enemy.
Sexually, you have convinced him that seducing vulnerable persons (particularly those who trust him and those who come to him for care) is a benefit both to them and to his ministry. How delightful! The one-flesh union in marriage was designed by the Enemy to communicate something about his love for his people. To make sex the act by which a wolf consumes a lamb is a brilliance of the darkest sort.
But the crowning achievement in this abuse—which you would have, no doubt, been unable to accomplish without my skilled oversight—is the spiritual variety. Your patient is entrusted with the care of the Enemy’s flock. The Enemy’s Son suffered for the good of his sheep. But your patient believes his station exists for his own pleasure and manipulates the sheep to serve his own interests! They call him a “shepherd,” but you have developed his taste for sheep! Even better—all this has been done in the name of the Enemy! Our Father Below will screech with delight.
Do not rest…
But this is no time for rest, my dear Foolsgold. Not in the least. There was a time in which such a man might be safe for decades—for life even! (Perhaps that day is not lost. But we must be diligent to stand guard.) There have been disturbing developments in your patient’s culture. Movements are afoot to empower victims to speak, to share their stories, and to confront such abusers. We have done much in the church and the world to discourage them, to cause others to doubt them, to shame and silence them. But more and more continue to speak.
And now—curse the Light!—churches are taking more significant measures to prevent, uncover, and respond to our work. Staff and volunteers are being trained. Parents are talking to children. Safeguards are put in place. Even worse, churches are cooperating with experts outside the church (curse his “common grace!”) instead of letting their own untrained people fumble investigation and response. (Note: Should you encounter this, be sure to characterize working with experts in the world as a threat to the sufficiency of the Enemy’s instructions and to the autonomy of the local church. This is an easy and surprisingly effective ruse among the undiscerning.)
We do hope that all this abuse awareness business is nothing but a passing fad. These humans are so fickle with their causes. (Even if it is isn’t, Foolsgold, it is always worth convincing the humans that it is a passing fad. Such cynicism will, as they say, lead some among them to “throw a wrench” in things.) But, fad or no, it is a dangerous movement that threatens our destruction of the Enemy’s image bearers. We must respond shrewdly. We must fight this fad with an equal and opposite fad. We must harness the power of misapplied Gospel-Centeredness.
The Power of Misapplied Gospel-Centeredness
“The Gospel!” you are sure to cry. Yes, you read that correctly. I know how painful the word is to ear and eye. However, the Bad News—in desperate times and only by the most skillful of practitioners—may be employed in our cause. And this season may be one such occasion.
The Gospel is the Bad News of the Enemy’s love for these pathetic beings. These humans hate the Enemy and one another. They even—as in the case of your patient—destroy one another! As our Father Below (being the most skillful and accurate of accusers) has argued in the presence of the Enemy: these vile creatures deserve the full and eternal wrath of the Enemy. They are enemies—no less than we! Nevertheless, the Bad News proclaims that he sent his Son to take on their flesh and endure his wrath in death to purchase their forgiveness. (I cannot bring myself to write what reportedly happened on the Third Day, though I am sure you have heard reports.)
Of late, there has been a resurgence of interest in the Bad News among the Enemy’s people. They call it “Gospel-Centeredness.” The best proponents of it see this Bad News informing, equipping, empowering, and motivating all they do. It is the most disgusting and repulsive of obsessions. We are working hard to end it. But, while Gospel-Centeredness is popular, there will always be self-serving glory-seekers who hope to catch a ride to the temple of Fame by hopping on this bandwagon. There is good news for us, my dearest Foolsgold: we can use the Bad News of the “Suffering Servant” to equip our patients to serve themselves.
Here, Foolsgold, are a handful of ways to form a Gospel-Centered Abuser.
1. Use the Gospel to Assuage the Conscience
It is difficult to discern whether a patient such as yours is a genuine follower of the Enemy. If he is a follower, the Ghastly Ghost is sure to be messing with his conscience. But even if he is a pretender, rest assured that he will feel—at least at first—some sense of guilt or remorse. (He is made in the Enemy’s image, after all!) That feeling may fade with time. But while it lasts, it is a dangerous thing. It can cause men to make sudden confessions, to repent, and to cry out for help to our Enemy. We must nip that in the bud.
Use a cheap and watered-down version of the Bad News to assure the patient that he is forgiven and all is done. Train him to think that the word “forgiven” means “immediately and fully transformed,” so that he actually believes he will not repeat his act. (He most certainly will.)
When he does repeat his behavior, bring relief so sudden and so full that he moves on without a second thought. Soon, he will be thinking of his forgiveness while committing his abuse. See that this continues until he thinks nothing of either the forgiveness or the abuse again. He will be peacefully enslaved to his own devices, deceived by a form of the Bad News that is emptied of its power.
2. Use the Gospel to Prevent True Repentance
In some cases, a false-peace will not be possible. The Ghastly Ghost will continue to prick and prod his conscience until he cries out for relief. He may even come to hate his behavior—sometimes enough to stop. In such rare cases you must, at all costs, convince him that stopping his behavior is sufficient.
Tell him that the Enemy is now pleased with him and that this means: he need not confess his deeds to those he has harmed; he need not confess his deeds to any other followers; he need not confess his deeds to other church leaders; he need not step aside from his office in the church; he need not seek help from other followers. This thinking will prevent him from receiving the ministry of other followers who may—I shudder to think it—pray to the Enemy on his behalf. It will avoid any appropriate civil or criminal justice. It will ensure a disqualified man still leads the church. Most importantly, it will make it more difficult for those he harmed to receive help and healing.
Note well: Under no circumstance should the patient characterize or speak of his actions as a rebellion (sin, evil) against the Enemy—particularly in public, especially before those he harmed. He may have convinced his victims that submitting to his abuse was an act of obedience. They may believe they deserved it. If so, they must never hear the patient say that he was in the wrong. In some cases, such a confession may assist them in recovering a correct view of themselves or of the Enemy. This is to be avoided at all costs. They must believe they deserved this, caused this, wanted this, and share the guilt. They must think this is normal behavior for people who serve the Enemy. Even better, they should believe that the abuser represents the Enemy.
3. Use the Gospel to Demand Forgiveness
In some cases—whether through the patient’s confession or the victim’s confrontation or some other discovery—the behavior will be confronted. Should this happen, run to the Gospel, Foolsgold! Yes, you read correctly: Run to the Gospel!
This is counterintuitive, I know, but extremely effective. At the moment that the patient is face-to-face with his rebellion against the Enemy, make him be the most eloquent proclaimer of the Bad News that has ever walked the earth. With tears in his eyes and a trembling voice, give the patient the power to say that he has confessed his rebellion to the Enemy, trusted in the Enemy’s Son, and received the Enemy’s pardon. This will give him the appearance of humility and spiritual high-ground. It may even cause the victim, confused and reeling from the abuse, to feel spiritually-inferior to the patient. This is a recipe for a destructive dessert.
Having paraded his piety and praised the Enemy for His grace, we can swoop in for the kill—a demand for forgiveness. “God has forgiven me (and you) for this,” the patient will say. He will look the victim in the eye, perhaps with a hand on a knee or a shoulder, and continue, “You have to forgive me.” The victim almost certainly will say, “I forgive you,” if only to relieve the tension and be released from the room.
This is a deliciously deceptive ploy. We use the Enemy’s words against him. In the Enemy’s Book, he commands his followers to forgive one another! How can the victim resist? Untrained and uneducated in a thorough doctrine of forgiveness, the victim seems to have no choice. Think of it: they either forgive immediately or leave the meeting as the one walking in disobedience! We use the Gospel to add insult to injury!
The long-term payoff of this approach is incalculable. Imagine the years of spiritual and emotional turmoil to follow as the victim—despite seeing no genuine repentance, no justice, and no restitution—struggles with guilt at their own perceived failure to forgive! Not only must they struggle with the harm done by your patient, but now they labor under the unbearable frown of a disappointed God.
As if all that isn’t enough to rejoice in, there is more! The patient may even remain free to continue in their position of ministry, enabled in their abuse. They can henceforth raise a scolding finger and speak a warning about forgiveness should the victim (or anyone else) express a concern. That brings me to our next point…
4. Use the Gospel to Demand Silence
No one must learn of the patient’s destructive behavior. Public knowledge, or even knowledge among church leaders, may result in his removal from ministry. A person who abuses others in the name of the Enemy through the ministry of the Bad News is an invaluable resource in our cause. We cannot afford to lose such a key asset.
Likewise, though humans fear it above all else, the exposure of evil sometimes diminishes its power. The victim receives care. Justice is served. The patient’s evil is addressed, along with his heart. The church prays to the Enemy and is conformed to his likeness. The exposure of evil leads to nothing good, Foolsgold. Silence is golden.
Once an expression of forgiveness has been procured, proceed to the obligations of forgiveness. (For full effect, call them “Gospel-Obligations.” Putting a “Gospel-” prefix in front of a word makes whatever is said seem legitimate and more difficult to question. After all, what follower of the Enemy wants to oppose the Gospel!?) Put the full burden of responsibility and action (or inaction) on the shoulders of the downtrodden. Tell them this is what the Bad News demands. Have the patient insist on secrecy, saying things such as, “Forgiving means forgetting. Now that you’ve forgiven me, you can never bring this up again. In fact, you can never tell anyone that this happened. If you do, you haven’t forgiven me. And God says that he will not forgive those who do not forgive others. You do believe the Gospel, don’t you?”
In specific contexts, it can be quite useful to insist that the work of the Gospel depends on silence. Lead the patient and his victims to believe that he is “too big to fail.” Have them think that if his actions were to become public, the ministry (and all the benefits of it that they enjoy) would end. “If you tell anyone, it will distract from the work of sharing the Gospel. Think of all the people who will be confused, hurt, or unreached. You don’t want that on your conscience, do you?”
The Enemy’s people have seen what a scandal can do to the local church. The harmful effects of one church split continue for at least a decade. A good scandal can destroy the funding of a ministry organization overnight. For this reason, they are terrified of controversy. Use their supposed love for the Gospel as a justification for hushing things up and sweeping it under the rug.
Make them forget the Enemy said that the Gospel is his power for salvation. Make them believe that secrecy, public relationship, and image management are what give power to the Gospel. Cause them to believe that thorough investigation and proper response actually threatens “Gospel-ministry” instead of being a true Gospel-response.
Be patient, Foolsgold. It is at this point that inexperienced young devils are quick to create a scandal, thinking to distract and end the work of a Bad News outpost. Such foolishness! With an abuser in leadership, the fallout is sure to come. It cannot be hidden forever. (The Enemy himself promises to expose every secret thing.) Rest assured, we will enjoy those thorns in time. Why rush it? The damage is compounded the longer we keep the abuser in the ministry, preying upon and devouring image-bearers on our behalf! In fact, the more “successful” he appears in ministry, the stronger their doubts and bewilderment will be when he is exposed.
5. Use the Gospel to Forget the Victim
Our Father Below came to steal, kill, and destroy—that is what this is about. So, whether there is a public scandal or delicious secrecy, do all you can to ensure that the wounded one is not cared for. In particular, convince your patient that the Bad News releases him from such an obligation. Help the patient believe and say things like, “Through the Gospel, I am released from all my debts,” insisting that this includes the responsibility to help his victim. (This is why it is essential to secure an expression of forgiveness. Once the wounded one says, “I forgive you,” the patient may use that statement to find release from any and all obligations.) Keep him from reading all that the Enemy’s book teaches by command and example about the restoration of victims. Leave the bruised reed to heal itself. Trust me, it won’t.
There is more I could say. But for now, remember your name, my son! Foolsgold sparkles and shines like the real thing but is void of value. Get them to have some empty form of the Gospel, something that looks like the Gospel but denies its power. This will all but guarantee that those abused in the name of the Gospel will never stop to listen to it again.
Your proud father,