Sunday, April 25, 1999

A letter to Screwtape

        “I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands.”

        C.S. Lewis, in his Preface to “The Screwtape Letters,” a collection of letters between two of the devil's disciples, discussing their efforts on Earth.

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FROM: Wormwood, Director U.S. operations

        TO: Screwtape, Vice President Recruiting and Public Relations, Hell

        Dear Uncle Screwtape:

        I agree with your recent memo. It has now been 40 years since our letters fell into the hands of that annoying author and misguided philosopher C.S. Lewis. It should be safe now to resume regular reports. How lucky for us that his book was classified as “satire,” entirely beyond the grasp of the vast majority of ordinary mortals.

        By the way, did you know that a movie was made about C.S. Lewis? They called it Shadowlands. Don't worry, our friends in Hollywood turned it into a smarmy love story. His dangerously persuasive arguments for Christian faith were reduced to a subplot. Another victory for our side. Too bad we lost him to the other side. I'd like to see the look on his face.

        So much has happened since 1959, I don't know where to start. The USA division is so busy we expanded from retail to wholesale recruiting.

        We point with pride to a decline in church attendance and ending school prayers. But that indicator alone does not begin to represent the deep inroads we have made here on Earth on behalf of CEO Beelzebub, god of flies, prince of darkness.

        For example, many churches are at worst neutral about our chief competitor's product (they are still peddling that old Gospel line). And some help us by updating hopelessly outdated Scripture. Remember those painful sermons about evil that we suffered through for centuries like heretics on Torquemada's rack?

        They are sooo over. Modern Americans see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.

        Example: The other day when some of our young recruits went into a Colorado high school and opened fire on students, killing 13 (your favorite number), not a single TV report used the word “evil.” Instead, the killers were “good kids who made one bad mistake.” Imagine that 40 years ago! What progress.

        That's just the latest evidence that our tireless efforts to turn the media into a neutral Switzerland in the Ultimate Battle have paid off beyond our lowest hopes. In many cases, the press is even our ally, demonizing religion and mocking the “Christian Right.”

        And we're no longer limited to the low-rent losers market with Hustler and Playboy. Some of our most effective sales brochures have respectable names like Vanity Fair, People and Redbook, which spread our message on the subtle scent of glossy, perfumed ads that trigger insatiable material lust, leaving readers feeling inadequate, empty and lost — prime candidates to reserve a spot in one of our hot new “eternal retirement communities.”

        Forty years ago, we were still licking our wounds from the loss of our star salesman Adolph. But we rebounded in 1973, when the Supreme Court legalized abortion. By substituting euphemisms such as “choice” and “rights” for harsh “extermination,” we've managed to defend and even escalate the most brutal “procedures” of genocide. (I've enclosed a clipping of headlines from Cincinnati, about a baby that lived three hours after a partial-birth abortion. Forty years ago, something like that would have triggered protests. Today — just yawns.)

        Our entertainment division is wickedly successful. We never could have predicted the effectiveness of steady doses of profanity, violence, crudity, nudity and anti-Christian bigotry. (Check out the computer games I've sent along, then pass them along to the Department of Agony and Suffering. They could use some fresh ideas.)

        Our political division has set new standards that will make our job easier for years to come. As the recent impeachment demonstrated, the White House, part of the House and half the Senate are big buyers of our most reliable leading brands: lying and adultery. (By the way, you'd better check the fine print on that contract signed by a certain draft dodger in 1968. He's the fastest talker since Daniel Webster.)

        In the coming year, we will be working with Global Hell on a much bigger scale. We've chosen the test market that has launched some of our most successful projects — the Balkans.

        Picture this: Thousands of American soldiers fighting inch by inch through bloody “Viet-slavia,” like SWAT teams searching for the Trench Coat Mafia of Eastern Europe — our man in Belgrade, Slobodan Milosevic.

        No matter who wins, we can't lose.

Peter Bronson is editorial page editor of The Enquirer. If you have questions or comments, call 768-8301, or write to 312 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.