Friday, 6 April 2007

Screwtape on Humanae Vitae (3)

(For the first two, see earlier posts)

My dear Hogwort

In my last letter, I outlined the first strand of our attack on Humanae Vitae, and explained the principle underlying it. The approach is simple: ‘if the Law is hard or unpopular, it must be wrong’.

I hinted that there was more to the strategy than that, and here we come to the most elegant (though not the most important) part of the deceit. Along with that stupid idea, we've managed to introduce another, even more absurd
one. The way we present it to them is simply: ‘what goes on behind bedroom doors is nobody else's business.’

You may find this harder to believe, but they swallow that one, too. I know that you, like me, can see the absurdity of the idea: as though the Enemy who created them and holds them in being could avert His eyes; as though all the virtues or vices that they develop in this most intimate sphere have no impact on their character or moral well-being, as though... well the list goes on.

The most exciting part of all this, from a strategic point of view, is also the subtlest. Pay attention to this, as it is a technique you can use many times in many contexts, and as long as your victim is unaware, he will nearly always fall for it.

We start by introducing the idea in a way that seems obvious. So we take the notion that human sexuality is a private affair, and by a sleight of hand extend the notion of privacy to include the Enemy. We deliberately do not allow them to work through the logic of that, for then even they might see how stupid it is. If they do start to think about it, whisper ‘prying priests’. A slogan like that will quickly get rid of any further serious thought.

The elegant part of the strategy comes next: once they have accepted the initial deceit, we can then work backwards, and get them to reinterpret their theology (such as it is) to fit in with their new convictions. Thus we start by saying 'what goes on behind bedroom doors is nobody else's business.' Once they believe that, we can get them to deny the teaching
authority of the Church - for the Church clearly teaches something different. But surely, I seem to hear you say, they'll realise that if the the Church teaches differently, then to be a Christian means accepting the Church’s teaching.

Not for a second. I find it hard to put across to you youngsters how easy it is for a competent tempter to prevent most humans from thinking such things - or indeed anything. By simple mechanisms, such as bombarding them with noise all the time - whether music from the radio, or constant television, or simply inane and unthinking chatter among themselves, we have almost abolished most humans' ability to think clearly about one subject for more than twenty seconds.

There are some, of course, who do think. These we attack with pride. The idea is that they know better than the Church . We encourage them not to study the Church’s teaching as humble children seeking to understand it and explain it to their brothers. Instead, we tempt them into the role of critics, looking to pick holes in the teaching, and re-write it as they think it should be.

One popular theologian was fairly orthodox until his dissent from Humanae Vitae. From that we led him to question the teaching authority of the Church, and he has now followed us so far that he doubts the existence of life after death. And the final irony is that when the Church points out that he is no longer teaching Christianity, he genuinely feels persecuted!

The strategy goes a stage beyond this, but I will leave that till my next letter.

Your affectionate mentor


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