The Screwtape Letters

The Screwtape Letters Letter XXV Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Screwtape points out that the problem with the patient’s new friend group and community is that it is “mere Christianity.” If men must be Christians, Screwtape reasons, then devils want them to embody the state of mind, “Christianity And…” In other words, the most vulnerable Christian is the one who sees everything in a Christian light: vegetarianism, physical research, health, etc. This kind of Christian is vulnerable to the devils because he can quickly grow weary of his faith—a horror of “the same old thing.”
“Mere Christianity” is the title of one of Lewis’s most famous books, a defense of Christianity that he delivered as a series of radio broadcasts during World War II. Just as Lewis cautioned against using Christianity as a support for political ideologies or nationalism, here he insists that Christianity should not be made into an obligatory part of every aspect of one’s personal life, because it dilutes the power of the faith.
Themes
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
Devils can manipulate Christians of the “Christianity And” mindset in much the same way that they tempt gluttons by exaggerating the natural pleasure of eating: by exaggerating the natural pleasure of change. It is human nature to enjoy change. The change of the seasons, for instance, is a cause of pleasure for all people. Devils can manipulate this desire for change, to the point where humans desire change for its own sake. Thus, devils can encourage Christians to desire an alternative to Christianity, simply because it is an alternative.
We’ve previously seen how the love of change for its own sake can be harmful to the Christian mindset. Here, Screwtape explains how change can become an end in itself. This is an insightful observation related to the rise of advertising and consumerism: an economy in which change for its own sake—fashion, short attention spans, and the need for constant novelty—is what makes the world go round.
Themes
Freedom, Will, and Sin Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon
One of the devils’ most valuable weapons is fashion. Fashion is useful because it encourages people to abandon their beliefs simply because they’ve grown old. For this reason, civilization has abandoned the doctrines of Puritanism, Liberalism, etc. The celebration of Fashion is one manifestation of humans’ belief in the values of progress and evolution, values that hold the truth in relative terms. The truth, Screwtape observes, is that some changes are good and some are bad—there’s nothing inherently good or bad about change itself.
Lewis, a dedicated student of history and the classics, doesn’t have much patience for those who embrace change and novelty for their own sake. On the contrary, there are many things that should be accepted because they are inherently better, despite the fact that they’ve been around for centuries. Lewis obviously counts Christianity in this group, but also classics, philosophy, Puritanism, etc. Newness is overrated, he concludes.
Themes
Religion and Reason Theme Icon
Fashion, Progress, and Change Theme Icon