Adaptation of C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters (On the Intersection of Being Missional & Practicing Radical Hospitality)
In the tradition of C.S. Lewis’ classic The Screwtape Letters where an older demon (Screwtape) counseled his nephew & younger protege demon (named Wormwood), I offer the following counsel from Screwtape about the “perils” of Christians being missional by practicing radical hospitality:
My dearest Nephew Wormwood,
The Enemy’s Son came eating and drinking (Luke 7:34). Luckily for us, we have learned over the years to twist this profoundly social occasion where life, relationship, and the Enemy’s Word may be shared into a singularly private affair. Yes, I commend you over the years for convincing your subject of many simple but profoundly effective lies against carrying out the Enemy’s mission on earth.
Though your subject has recently begun going to church, all is not lost. During the sermon precisely when the Enemy loves to ignite faithful lives that are profoundly others-centered, you know what to do: Help them crave funny stories. Help them long for individualistic applications. You, of course, will want to do your best to convince your subject that following the Enemy is primarily a private affair. Our Cause is never so much endangered as when the subject begins to ask questions about his mission and witness in the world.
A budding fire for the Enemy’s mission is easily quenched by reminding your subject of several lies which – though boring to you by now – have proven so effective over the centuries.
Whisper repeatedly in your subject’s ear: who are you? Make them profoundly insecure. Remind them of their lack of a seminary degree. Assure them repeatedly that it’s their pastor’s job to reach the community. Playing on the insecurities of their own lack of knowledge and widening the gap between clergy and laity has often proven to be a most effective weapon at stopping the Enemy’s foolish intention to include everyone in his Mission.
Yet even when they believe adamantly in the Enemy’s mission, all is not lost. Work to convince them at all costs that the mission of our Enemy is mostly a church program and not a way of life. If you can convince your subject that working all day is a secular pursuit and worshiping for one hour is their spiritual pursuit, then you have won the day. At all costs, never allow them to consider that their work life or their home life can be leveraged for the Enemy’s Kingdom. This would put our Cause in a most perilous state.
Remember what happened when the Enemy’s Son came on our turf. We thought he was keeping busy eating and drinking and suddenly lives were being changed. And so, if your subject ever hears about the hospitality that the Enemy practiced while on earth, do your best to confuse the categories and blur the lines between hospitality and entertaining. Convince your subject that hospitality is really about nice china, white dollies and Victorian-era conversations. That their house isn’t nice enough, their house isn’t big enough, and that their food isn’t good enough. In short, make it all about them. This is, of course, one of their biggest weakness even while residing in the Enemy’s camp. Never allow them to recognize that hospitality is really about others, about relationships, and about their mission in the world. Remember, keep reminding them that the Enemy’s mission is a church program and not an everyday practice and your subject will forever only skim the surface of what he’s capable of accomplishing for the Enemy.
And on the very unlikely occasion – Hell help me – that your subject begins to tinker with the idea of inviting those to his home to practice hospitality in the way of the Enemy, rest assured that there are still several tactics you can employ.
First, tell your subject repeatedly: This is a good idea. And be sure to do it “when things settle down someday”. Even ideas that come straight from the Enemy’s playbook can be forever postponed with this simple reminder. “Things will settle down someday. Do it then.” Of course, we know that this a lie. And that we work over the culture day and night to assure that their lives never settle down. But if we can convince them – that their particular stage in life, whatever it may be – is always most unconducive for them to practice the Enemy’s mission, we will have won the day.
Second, remind your subject of his busyness with this line: “Everybody lives like this.” Make your subject constantly believe that being overly busy is simply a way of life. “Everyone’s doing it” is a line that works not only on teenagers but for entire sorry lot of them. Of course, we know that this is a lie: that there are thousands of people in the Enemy’s camp who live healthy lives. Yet if your subject believes that “Everyone lives like this” – his own busyness and distraction will not only prohibit spiritual growth, but Wormwood – the great news is – that he will have no time for the Enemy’s mission. As you know, it’s one thing for your subject to believe in the idea of the Enemy’s mission but another thing entirely to live it out.
Third, if – Hell forbid – your subject ever decides to take up the challenge to practice radical hospitality, make sure they practice it like the Romans and the Greeks: that they only invite others who can reciprocate. Or like the Pharisees who only invited people who lived and believed and acted like them. Always try to keep hospitality inside the confines of Enemy territory, the church. Once they start invading our territory with hospitality, be on extreme alert. As you know, this was the way the Enemy won over so many from our side when he walked the earth. Never let them dwell on the truth that 75% of their neighbors are not in church on any given Sunday; thankfully our communications department has led followers of the Enemy to believe that the statistics are much higher and in their favor. We always use this to our complete advantage because it diminishes their light if the darkness isn’t recognized.
Fourth, if your subject – and this would really stink to High Hell – suddenly feels moved by the Spirit of the Enemy to live their life on mission & as a witness to the Enemy, our cause is still not all lost. Guide your subject to conduct a brief but hard-hitting truth foray into our territory by dropping some “truth bombs” for all their neighbors to see, preferably on social media. Be sure to stroke the ego of your subject by convincing them that their duty to the Enemy’s Cause has thus been fulfilled by a few Facebook posts.
After all, we masterminded Facebook to stir up precisely this kind of divisiveness and polarization in today’s age. If the Enemy’s truth that is shared can be mixed with a divisive political message or watered down with a self-help truism so that these Christians are speaking stronger words than their relationships warrant, so much the better. As you know, having strong words and a weak relationship with a neighbor often works to our advantage.
Yet let me warn you, Wormwood, of a few revealing signs that your subject has taken a turn for the worse, especially with regard to the Enemy’s mission:
By all means, you must always help your Christian subject to avoid at all costs -- practicing hospitality in our territory with the intention of warmly sharing life and truth and their faith in the Enemy in the most natural way possible. As if their faith were the most natural expression of who they are. When they begin to digest that the Enemy’s mission is not complicated or complex but can actually be carried out over simple meals both in and outside the home, our dark Cause is prone to suffer by their very presence and lifestyle. You should be very worried if such a situation would develop, Wormwood. Very worried.
A second tell-tale sign your subject has taken a turn for the worse is when they recognize that, despite their busyness, and despite their family life, they begin to live with a quiet Intentionality and confidence in the Enemy’s mission. Suddenly, your subject may realize that it’s not their job to argue someone into the faith, but to share their life and witness and to love deeply their neighbor as a way of communicating the Warm Heart of the Enemy. At this point, we have big problems on our hands, Wormwood. Big problems. And if they communicate the Warm Heart of the Enemy with hospitality and with love and with a genuine interest in other people because their neighbor is made in the Image of the Enemy, we know this is when Heaven begins to invade our territory.
All for now.