Screwtape’s Formula

In the digital information era- the overload of all things in-coming and in-forming, our greatest challenge will be content filtering. And it makes sense that if the problem remains the human condition, then no amount of technology can cure the technology onslaught. Our eyes as the gateway, dictated by our soul, will determine our in-formation.

C.S. Lewis captured the tension in his brilliant Screwtape Letters.  The senior devil, Uncle Screwtape, instructs his nephew:

“…we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure,” he writes, “to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.”

You might want to work off a two-column chart for a week, sticking it in your Bible and reflecting over it in prayer. As technology continues to express our human condition, it’s a good exercise to ask:

1.  What activities do I enjoy that bring contentment? They always yield a therapy of sorts and don’t need an increasing amount of attention.

2.  What activities am I drawn to that used to require one hour but now require two? In what way is there a diminishing satisfaction for an increasing craving?

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I’m reminded of God’s simple invitation:

“Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:2)

Arranged Marriage

Find a set of railroad tracks and put your ear to the rail. Feel it? A distant hum, a low vibration. Arranged marriage is coming.

This is not your mama’s version nor an extraction from eastern nations nor taken from the tradition of Jewish matchmaking. Fiddler on the Roof anyone?

“Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match. Find me a find, catch me a catch. Matchmaker, matchmaker look through your book and make me a perfect match.” (Fiddler on the Roof)

Today’s digital information panorama has so confused the waters that our former straight shot to marriage now resembles the Mississippi River: muddy and winding, it even went backwards once. Consider the sand bars that the late adolescent must navigate around if they ever hope to get downstream and achieve this traditional marker of adulthood:

Loss of Confidence – Divorce has rocked the stability of the institution of marriage

Loss of Wonder – Pornography and Erotica (literature designed to arouse) are two sides of the same coin and have destroyed the hidden wonder of intimacy, a magnet that use to pull people towards marriage

Loss of the Trades – Skilled labor (manufacturing, construction, business) is out of favor, giving way to an endless forage into ‘education.’ One now needs a graduate level degree to match what used to be gained by a bachelor’s. This results in debt and the delay of traditional adulthood accomplishments (career, marriage, family)

Loss of Financial Recovery – The phenomenon of student loan debt is a cultural monster, often fed by forces beyond a student’s ability to process. 18-year-old optimism can suddenly become a 23-year-old’s disillusionment.

One thing is sure:

The short-timed social era where farms were abandoned for cities, where kids had nothing immediate to do other than to create an adolescent bubble, hang out, fall in love and get married….is long gone.

The complex world of sexuality, where students often spend 15 or more years in adult-ready-bodies, requires your help. It’s possible that this challenge may be partially met by arranged marriage, coaches and mentors who deeply enter the lives of single professionals. One thing is certain. Risk taking almost always carries a gender expression. If you’re meeting with a young man or young woman, your advice- if followed- will usually lead to godly masculinity or femininity.

But beware of the extremes as they generally backfire:

Extreme #1 – Where one’s reputation for match-making is so ambitious that it becomes their identity. Young singles sense this a mile away and cross to the other side of the street.

Extreme #2 – Buying into the old mantra that students should finish school, land a career, pay off student loan debt, save a gazillion dollars and buy a house- all before marriage. Good luck doing this before 40.

So, what could godly coaching look like?

  • Let God bring it to you. As you work with students and single professionals, work on first things first. Their love for God and his community
  • Pray for their private lives, including their deep longings for marriage
  • Assign risks in areas where their behavior seems counter to what they really want
  • Demonstrate trust in God as you overcome your own stage-of-life fears through faith
  • Invite them to activities where significant interaction with marriages and families occur
  • Point out a good match from time to time for them to process godly character
  • On rare occasions, arrange a blind date

Because of an increasingly complex culture, customized coaching is a growing need for our younger generations.

Shades

Erotica is the new game in town, toying with intimacy and longings through literature- titillating words designed to awaken desire. Picture pornography and erotica as two sides of the same coin.

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A recent book offers great clarity as to why the genre is exploding, linking the longings of a woman with the fiction of our day. Pulling Back the Shades (Gresh/Slattery) says:

The definition of erotica is “art or literature intended to arouse sexual desire.” Why is this a spiritual issue? Because sex is inherently spiritual. (Pg 44)

The word “spiritual” simply means that at our core, we were created for security and significance. Notice how the authors give further definition to a woman’s longings:

  • To escape reality
  • To be cherished by a man
  • To be protected by a strong man
  • To rescue a man
  • To be sexually alive

In the imaginary world of erotica, the reader both 1) gets saved and 2) becomes the savior. That’s the power. That’s the formula. Security and significance.

“Enter erotica. No man needed, no risks of heartbreak involved, you don’t even have to put on makeup….just start reading and you can have your body and mind awakened any time you want.” (Pg 24)

When Jesus says…

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

….he is talking about this very tendency. Whichever side of the coin we tilt towards does the same thing. It attempts to arouse our mind and body. The big question we’re left with is what exactly was Jesus implying? Was he taking the established code (no adultery) and simply ratcheting it up a notch? An impossible idealism? If you hold to that position, you may as well check into to the local despair unit.

Jesus is our security. And our significance comes from partnering with his agenda. This revolutionary intrusion into human history finds the Son of God invading our private space. We get saved and he is the one doing it. The savior.