86. The Turnspike Emails: Misleading Church Leaders

TMTF solemnly presents another hellish look at life from a demon’s perspective. This is an email intercepted from the demon Turnspike to his colleague Goreflak; a previous email from Turnspike and TMTF’s commentary thereupon can be found here.

My Dear Goreflak,

I am curious, my dear devil, as to whether you can do anything without making a mess of it.

Your Patient has joined the leadership committee of his church. I am revolted by your attempts to excuse your mistake by claiming it is “not a serious problem” because your Patient “had been attending church anyway.” It is a very serious problem.

Whereas before your Patient sat harmlessly in a church pew and dozed through sermons, he is now seizing opportunities to work against us. Your Patient was previously a parasite, benefiting from his church and contributing nothing to it. He is now a dangerous enemy.

What we want is a world full of Christians who are contented to do as little as possible—but that is another topic for another email. At present, I must restrain myself to addressing your current blunder.

In dealing with your Patient and his newfound role as a church leader, you have two great tools.

First is lack of perspective. Followers of our Enemy—even those who are far advanced in his service—can become so blinded by the day-to-day minutiae of their lives that they overlook things a child could see.

For example, church leaders, if we put them in the right frame of mind, will devote thousands of dollars to a new carpet (which the church does not really need) without even pausing to consider whether missionaries, who serve our Enemy all over the world, might need funds for living more than the church needs a change of furnishings.

Let us consider an example on a grander scale. A prosperous church builds a gymnasium, where its younger members play games once a week. For the same amount of money, five churches could be built in a poorer country or hundreds of children treated for disease or thousands of Bibles given away. Such uses of the Enemy’s money would have devastating consequences—but, fortunately for us, the money goes to a building that stands empty all but a few hours every week, and our work continues unhindered.

When your Patient is entrusted with church money, let it never occur to him that poorer churches may need a new roof more than his own church needs a new sound system. Our ultimate goal in dealing with church leaders is to equip them with spiritual blinders, rendering them oblivious to the needs of any churches but their own.

The second tool you have in dealing with your Patient is pride. Millennia of study by our best researchers have not uncovered any sin more useful for destroying the Enemy’s workers. Let but a seed of pride be planted in your Patient’s heart, and you will have him doing whatever you please.

A common mistake among inexperienced devils (such as yourself) is to assume pride can only be applied to a person. Pride can be applied to anything. You need not make your Patient believe he is better than everyone else. It is enough to make him believe his ideas are better than everyone else’s ideas.

Of course, for all I know, his ideas might be. That does not matter. What matters is that your Patient believes his ideas, opinions and plans are infallible, and that anyone who disagrees with him must be either ignorant or willfully foolish.

Should your Patient begin to suspect that he is being guilty of pride, remind him that he is not exaggerating his own reputation. Make him think he is merely standing up for ideas that are sensible, correct and useful. Never let him suspect that sinful pride can apply to his own ideas as readily as it applies to your Patient himself.

So much of the strife we have sown among the Enemy’s people is rooted in pride. We convince many Christians that their way of thinking, and only their way of thinking, is correct.

When we get the followers of our Enemy to make outrageous, opinionated statements in the name of Jesus, we have won.

Our Enemy himself advocates humility. He commands his followers to listen to each other, to seek to understand each other and to accept each other in spite of disagreements.

In the case of your Patient, make sure that does not happen.

Do not think, my dear devil, that I will overlook your blunder in allowing your Patient to become actively involved in his church. I have already referred you to the secret police, the high caste of demons devoted to straightening out incompetent devils such as yourself. You may expect a visit from them any day now.

Your affectionate colleague,

Turnspike

71. The Turnspike Emails: Sabotaging Prayer

It is the solemn duty of TMTF to present another diabolical email intercepted from the demon Turnspike to his colleague Goreflak. TMTF has previously succeeded in obtaining three of Turnspike’s emails, the latest of which can be found here.

My dear Goreflak,

Your latest email came as no surprise to me. Do not despair, my dear devil. What you are experiencing is nothing unusual. It is, in fact, something every tempter experiences sooner or later. As different Patients are assigned to us, it is inevitable that some of them turn out to be Christians. It is equally inevitable that some of these Christians pray to their God.

I admit this makes things difficult for us. Prayer is the great weapon our Enemy has given his people against us. In more general terms, prayer is one of the greatest gifts God has lavished upon his people.

Prayer enables Christians to build a relationship with our Enemy—as though the human vermin deserve a relationship with the Lord God Almighty himself! Prayer grants God opportunities to give his people peace and faith and other ghastly things. Prayer even allows Christians to make requests of God. How he panders to his people! He actually lets them ask for favors, like a father indulging his children! Disgusting!

I will not sugarcoat it, my dear devil. From Our Father’s point of view—which is, I need hardly add, the superior point of view—prayer is an abomination.

How, you ask, can we possibly make progress with our Patients when they insist on asking our Enemy for help? Fear not, my dear devil. We have many methods for sabotaging prayer. The most effective of these is, of course, to prevent Patients from praying: using distraction or guilt or misconceptions to turn them away from him.

This, however, is a topic for another email. For now, I will give you a simpler lesson.

To begin, I must teach you something extremely important. I repeat: extremely important. Much of what I will teach you about prayer hinges on this one fact. Pay attention, my dear devil.

Our Enemy wants prayer to be part of a relationship: a conversation between God and his people. We want prayer merely to be part of a religion: a recitation and nothing more.

Do you understand? Our Enemy wants prayer to be an activity requiring two parties: the speaker and the listener, your Patient and the Enemy. We want prayer to be something entirely different. We want prayer to be an activity requiring only one party: a performer babbling to himself.

Having explained the theory, let us put it into practice.

If you cannot prevent your Patient from praying, then make sure his prayers are as glib and meaningless as possible. Give him the idea that prayer is fundamentally different from all other kinds of communication. Fill his prayers with words and phrases he would never use otherwise.

I have kept a prayer from one of my former Patients. This prayer is one of the best examples of its kind I have ever seen.

Our Father who art in heaven, we thank you for this food. God, just bless the hands that prepared it and bless it to our bodies. Be with Jeff tonight, God. Shower him with your grace, God, and just keep your hand on him. In thy name we pray, Amen.

There are several things about this prayer that delight me. First, my Patient never used archaic phrases like who art and thy name in her usual conversations. She believed it was holier to use old-fashioned language in prayers. Second, she said God the way most people say um or uh. For my Patient, the name of the Lord God Almighty was just a word to fill in the pauses.

Most importantly, my Patient filled her prayer with meaningless expressions. My Patient was not asking our Enemy for help digesting food when she said bless it to our bodies. It was an expression she had heard, so she used it. When, speaking of her friend Jeff, she petitioned God to shower him with your grace and just keep your hand on him, she had no idea what her request even meant. It simply sounded churchy. In the end it meant nothing. The prayer was not a prayer. It was a mealtime ritual, like asking “May I please be excused?”

Make your Patient’s prayers meaningless, my dear devil. Keep him from suspecting even for an instant that talking to our Enemy might be anything like talking to another person. Persuade him to treat prayer as though it were just a daily ritual or habit.

Prayer is one of the foundations of the Christian life. Remove or weaken it, and the whole thing comes crashing down.

Keep me informed of your Patient’s progress, and make sure he progresses downward. You know the penalty for failure.

Your affectionate colleague,

Turnspike

61. The Turnspike Emails: Offensive Language

It is the solemn duty of TMTF to present another diabolical email intercepted from the demon Turnspike to his colleague Goreflak. TMTF has previously succeeded in obtaining two of Turnspike’s emails, the latest of which can be found here.

My dear Goreflak,

I must congratulate you! I was beginning to think you had no potential whatsoever as a demon, but the latest development in the life of your Patient suggests otherwise.

Your Patient has slipped into the habit of using swearwords. I am afraid swearwords are not a mortal sin, my dear devil, but that does not mean we cannot use them to our own ends. If you intend to exploit this promising development in your Patient’s habits, it is imperative that you understand the nature of offensive language.

There are three basic categories of offensive language: obscenities, slurs and blasphemies. To put it as simply as possible—so simply that even you, my dear devil, cannot fail to understand—obscenities are insults against propriety, slurs are insults against human beings and blasphemies are insults against God.

Consider for a moment the severity of these insults. From the point of view of the human vermin, it is worst to insult God. After that it is worst to insult other humans. It is least offensive to insult propriety. Therefore we may arrange these categories of foul language from most to least offensive: blasphemies, slurs, obscenities.

Is this clear so far?

Our Father Below has made great progress with foul language in the last few centuries. He has twisted the standards of society so that the mildest obscenities have become more offensive than the worst blasphemies.

Take the most offensive swearwords in use today, those related to sexuality and bodily functions. Anyone who uses these kinds of obscenities is instantly branded an offender of the worst degree.

The human vermin overlook the fact that sexuality, unless it is abused or perverted, is not offensive. Sexuality is an invention of our Enemy. It is, from his point of view, a good thing. Bodily functions are also an invention of our Enemy. They are embarrassing to the humans, but there is nothing wrong with them.

We have so skewed the mindset of society that most humans perceive sexual and scatological swearwords as the worst kind of foul language. We have succeeded in making mere obscenities taboo.

Now let us consider the swearwords considered by the humans to be the mildest: words such as damn and hell. Few people mind if these words are used. Even many Christians think nothing of using such “mild language.”

Can you see the joke?

Hell and eternal damnation are the worst things that can happen to any of the human vermin. There is nothing more torturous, more wretched or more painful for humans than to suffer separation from their Creator. Even so, we have trained humans to consider words like damn and hell much less offensive than bodily functions and human sexuality.

I regret to inform you that we have made little progress with slurs. Despite our best efforts to persuade them that slurs are only slightly offensive, the humans have recognized religious, racial and sexual slurs as the filthy insults they are.

However, we have made excellent progress with blasphemies against the name of our Enemy.

When the Enemy gave his people the regulations known as the Ten Commandments, only one of them pertained in any way to offensive language. Among solemn pronouncements such as “You shall not murder” and “You shall not commit adultery” came these oft-ignored words: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.”

Misusing the name of our Enemy is, in his judgment, the very worst kind of offensive language.

Admittedly, merely saying “My God!” in a moment of surprise is hardly blasphemy. It is, however, extremely irreverent. I am delighted when Christians, who owe everything to the God who saved them at the cost of his own Son, throw God’s name about as though it were a common swearword.

In summation, Our Father has done a careful job of making sure the human vermin misjudge the severity of foul language. They overlook the strongest blasphemies and consider mere obscenities taboo.

Regarding your own Patient, it is possible to produce in him a kind of contempt for his God through blasphemous language. It affords us much amusement to witness his hypocrisy as he prays, “My God, I love you,” in church, and swears, “My God, that was awful,” in his home.

However, the most effective use of foul language among Christians is not to destroy their own faith. It is to destroy the respect of others. If your patient uses foul language, he is giving a very poor impression of Christ. Since Christians are called to reflect Christ, it is to our advantage when they use the same obscenities, slurs and blasphemies as the rest of the world.

Your Patient is coming along nicely, my dear devil. Keep up your good work.

Your affectionate colleague,

Turnspike

49. The Turnspike Emails: Christmas

TMTF solemnly presents another hellish look at life from a demon’s perspective. This is an email intercepted from the demon Turnspike to his colleague Goreflak; a previous email from Turnspike and TMTF’s commentary thereupon can be found here.

My Dear Goreflak,

You continue to amaze me, my dear devil, with your supreme ignorance and idiocy. You actually want to abolish the holiday called Christmas? There are so many flaws in your thinking that I hardly know how to begin the process of pointing them out.

First of all, the Enemy would never let Christmas be completely destroyed. It is (or was; more on that presently) a celebration of his own Son’s life on Earth as one of those ridiculous human vermin. A full-fledged attack upon Christmas would be disastrous for us and Our Father Below. Our only chance lies in perverting Christmas into something more suited to our purposes.

Second, destroying Christmas would not change the regrettable fact of Christ’s birth. So long as that fact remains, the celebration of Christmas remains possible even if we do away with the trappings of the holiday. The meaning of Christmas is not in seasonal decorations or traditions, but in Christ. We would accomplish nothing by abolishing the decorations and traditions, for Christ would remain.

Third, even if we could somehow do away with Christmas entirely, we would still have a dozen other wretched Christian holidays to obliterate: Saint Valentine’s Day, Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, All Saints’ Day—the list goes on.

Destroying Christmas is clearly not an option. However, we have achieved something even better. As I mentioned, we would accomplish nothing by abolishing the decorations and traditions of the holiday—so we have instead exaggerated them.

Do you remember how in a previous email I explained how we had eclipsed All Saints’ Day by making Halloween into a commercialized holiday? We have done something similar with Christmas. It is no longer a celebration of Christ. It is a celebration of holiday specials and decorated trees, seasonal music and sugar cookies—and shopping. Christmas has become the biggest commercial frenzy of the year, when people across the world are given a gift-wrapped excuse to spend money.

I am afraid there is nothing inherently wrong in the decorations and traditions of Christmas. The humans enjoy music and food and gift-giving, and there is nothing we devils can do to prevent it. However, it is happily within our power to use these things to distract the humans from the Enemy, who would give them gifts too great to be bought or wrapped if only they would let him.

Incidentally, I wish to draw your attention to our use of political correctness in conquering Christmas. It is a Christian holiday, yet we have largely succeeded in removing its Christianity.

Christmas trees are sometimes called holiday trees and Nativity scenes are banned from public places for the sake of “not upsetting anybody.” Phrases like Merry Christmas are eschewed in favor of insipid slogans like Happy Holidays in order to be “more tolerant.” No secular establishment dares to acknowledge that Christ might have something to do with Christmas because someone “might be offended” if they do.

We have made sure it never occurs to anyone that Christians might be offended—not just offended, but deeply hurt—that Christmas, a Christian celebration, has been hijacked by people who prevent its Christianity from being celebrated publicly and use it simply to make money. The wonderful thing about political correctness is that it typically insults nobody but Christians, and nobody but Christians seems to mind.

My dear devil, I hope you are noticing a recurring tendency in our work as demons. Judging by the stupidity of your emails to me, I sincerely doubt it, and so it falls to me to point it out to you. We seldom face our Enemy head-on. We never destroy what we can pervert.

I hope you keep this principle in mind as you continue tempting your Patient.

Happy holidays!

Your affectionate colleague,

Turnspike

29. The Turnspike Emails: Halloween

The practice of intercepting diabolical correspondence was made famous by C.S. Lewis, who published under the title The Screwtape Letters a collection of missives from the demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood. The publication (by humans) of diabolical correspondence actually has its roots in earlier centuries; an example can be found in Letters from Hell, a series of epistles from a damned soul, collected and published by Valdemar Adolph Thisted in the nineteenth century. The following letter—or email, to be precise—purports to be from the demon Turnspike to his colleague Goreflak. Due to the sensitive nature of the material in this email, TMTF cannot release further information concerning the method by which it was obtained.*

My dear Goreflak,

Your ignorance is appalling. When I read your last email I could not help but cringe at your evaluation of the holiday the humans call Halloween. It is not an occasion for supernatural activity, as you seem to think—at least not typically. You young devils are all the same, eager for sensational witchcraft and spectacular sinfulness, when our most effective work is much subtler.

We seldom use human-possession or dark magic anymore. Have you failed to see the problem of manifesting our power in supernatural ways? Imagine for a moment that you are an atheist in America. What would you think if you witnessed a table lift itself in the air and spin around, or a demon-possessed person speaking in a tongue? It would be dashed hard to remain an atheist!

We were able to get away with sensational displays of power in antiquity because pagans readily acknowledged the existence of the supernatural. But in these days, when faith of any kind is becoming less common, to commit ourselves to any sort of overt supernatural activity is to give ourselves away.

Do not make the mistake of thinking that we have forgotten Halloween. By no means! My dear devil, Halloween is one of our great triumphs.

First, we have made the humans numb to the very idea of the darker side of the supernatural. They dress up as witches and go begging for candy; they make ghosts out of tissue paper; they bake cookies in the shape of vampires. Every kind of ghoul and devil, from the foulest phantom of their imaginations to the evilest demon of our own kind, is made innocent, even cute, by the holiday of Halloween.

Second, we have managed to eclipse All Saints’ Day. This wretched holiday was before your time, my dear devil, so you are probably unfamiliar with it. All Saints’ Day was a celebration of the Enemy’s most valuable servants, those vile men and women known vulgarly as saints, whose lives were abhorrent to Our Father Below. Year after year the Enemy’s people celebrated dangerous fools like Paul and Augustine and Patrick, until we could no longer allow it. We began to exaggerate Halloween, the day before All Saints’ Day, in an effort to draw attention from the Enemy’s saints to the specters of our own kind. We were utterly successful. The saints of All Saints’ Day are largely forgotten, while the monsters and demons of Halloween are celebrated year after year.

Third, and finally, Halloween has become a celebration of consumerism and commercialism: two behaviors Our Father encourages among the humans. Millions of dollars are spent on candy and decorations and all the multifarious paraphernalia associated with the holiday. Halloween has also become an occasion for horror movies, Our Father’s contribution to the medium the humans call filmmaking. Some of the films released around Halloween are quite delicious. Nothing amuses me quite like watching humans be ripped apart in the Saw films.

You asked in your last email whether there were anything inherently evil in Halloween. The answer, I regret to inform you, is no. Many humans celebrate the holiday—costumes, candy, decorations and all—and manage to enjoy precisely those things we dislike: innocent fun, loving fellowship and benevolent generosity. Halloween is, however, a holiday more easily twisted to our purposes than, let us say, Christmas. (We are making excellent progress with Christmas, but I will save my thoughts upon the subject for another email.) Do not assume Halloween automatically corrupts human beings, my dear devil. It is up to you to make sure it does.

On an unrelated note, I am very glad the Head of our department has finally authorized use of the Internet for correspondence between demons. Emails are so much more convenient than parchment and blood.

I trust you are making good progress with your Patient, and expect a full report as soon as possible.

Your affectionate colleague,

Turnspike

*For the record: This email is completely fictitious, as are The Screwtape Letters and Letters from Hell. Demons do not really send emails; at least, not of that we know.