This past year, though, it has been harder to maintain a regular readaloud schedule. My two oldest children are branching out from the home more and more, pursuing individual interests, activities, and studies, and that makes it difficult to find time to read together. With our trip to Grenada and various other schedule demands, we went several months without doing so at all.
But I am not ready to give up on readalouds. Not yet, anyway. The time is simply too wonderful and too well spent. So yesterday we started a new book. Often our readaloud relates to whatever historical period we are studying at the time. Sometimes it's chosen just because it's a great story. But this time I decided to have us read something a little different: The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis. Have you ever read it? It has been about 10-15 years since I did. Wow--already in the first few chapters, I am reminded of why the book made such an impression on me back then. If you have never read it, add it to your to-do list now.
In the book, a demon named Screwtape writes a series of letters to his nephew, another demon named Wormwood, giving advice on how to win souls for the Devil. Here are a few excerpts from the opening chapters:
"Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily 'true' or 'false', but as 'academic' or 'practical', 'outworn' or 'contemporary', 'conventional' or 'ruthless'. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church." (Chapter 1)
"One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity . . . . [but] the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate. . . . When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours. Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like 'the body of Christ' and the actual faces in the next pew." (Chapter 2)
"Keep out of his mind the question 'If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?' You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind. It is, Wormwood, it is! . . . At bottom, he still believes he has run up a very favourable credit-balance in the Enemy's [God's] ledge by allowing himself to be converted . . . ." (Chapter 2)
"Keep his mind on the inner life. He thinks his conversion is something inside him and his attention is therefore chiefly turned at present to the states of his own mind . . . . Encourage this. Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones. Aggravate that most useful human characteristic, the horror and neglect of the obvious. You must bring him to a condition in which he can practise self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts aobut hiself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office."
Good stuff, huh? In just a few paragraphs, Lewis takes on postmodernism, slams works righteousness and decision theology, and highlights the doctrine of vocation, the sinner's need for repentance, the eternal nature of the Church, and the Lord's free grace. My children, ages 13 & 16, were begging for just "one more chapter." Don't worry, dears, we have 28 more to look forward to!