stone gargoyle

Lost Screwtape Letters – Public Apologies

stone gargoyle

Dearest Wormwood,

Public Apologies are one of our newest and most useful tools in deluding the current generation of patients. A modicum of subtlety is required – which you demonstrate on your better days – for optimal results. You have already been taught the basics: now is the time for you to get your patient to practice this most useful activity.

However, as your mentor, I must mention a few points which cannot be too often repeated.

First: never forget that your patient must confess loudly the sins of others – but not his own. Confessing the sins of others is a congenial pass-time leading to the rapid growth of complacent pride: which is most useful to us. Confessing one’s own sins puts the patient in deadly peril – for it opens a route to humility and the possibility of real repentance. Happily for us, keeping your patient focused on pointing out the sins of others is an easy matter: just be sure he daily checks his social media and news feeds – which our agents continually update with the most violent, salacious, and titillating stories possible.

Second: ensure your patient starts making false public apologies a habit. This should be easy enough: because denouncing others allows every patient to feel good about themselves – avoiding all of the personal sacrifices that accompany really being good. Remind your patient of the joys of occupying the moral high ground that is all part and parcel of confessing the sins of others: and stress continually the pain which accompanies confessing one’s own sins. Our message is simple: “pain is evil and must be avoided” – something our Propaganda Department is constantly broadcasting through all the usual channels.

Third: ensure your patient expresses their false public apologies to as many as possible, in as many different fora as possible, as loudly as possible, for as long as possible. Teach him that “a virtuous person is not one who practices virtue – but one who expresses the correct viewpoint”, and therefore the most virtuous person expresses the correct view the most loudly and most often. Be careful to avoid anything that might spur the patient to action: patients who begin acting virtuously have been known to trigger The Enemy’s deadliest weapon – Grace – against which we are helpless. But nothing ventured, nothing gained: and we take comfort from most patients’ natural aversion to any kind of positive action. With our help, every patient will embrace our motto of “more talk – less action”!

Finally: cultivate your patient’s comfortable feeling of self-satisfaction. False public apologies naturally lead the patient to expressing themselves in terms of grandiose unctuous moralizing. Encourage such sentiments by every means at your disposal: for self-satisfied patients rarely – if ever – bother taking concrete action of any kind. Your patient should, by this stage, feel in high spirits for having exposed the sins of others: which lesson is reinforced whenever you helpfully remind him of his own shame should his own faults ever be similarly exposed. Hypocrisy is such a wonderful tool of the trade!

I trust that you will apply my suggestions assiduously and dutifully. If you do, your patient’s presumptuous pride cannot but flourish – and so, in time, we may safely usher him to a warm welcome in our Father’s House.

Your loving uncle,

Screwtape.

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Is Your Church a Family Franchise?

Church Franchise

Has your church transmogrified into a family business franchise? It happens all too often: for no denomination is completely immune to this disease (and independent churches appear to be quite susceptible.)

But don’t panic: help is at hand! The process of becoming a church franchise follows an easily discoverable pattern: key features of which are described below. Anyone can use the following points as a checklist to identify whether their church is turning into another family-run and operated business franchise. So how does your church stack up?

1. Nepotism.

Churches have a small number of remunerated positions and an infinite number of volunteer positions. The latter are fobbed off as “rewards” to energetic church members: but the former are zealously reserved for the pastor’s family members, relations, and closest friends. Whenever you notice salaried position becoming available: note carefully to whom the job is awarded. Nepotistic appointments are quiet affairs – made without advertising or drawing attention to the fact – until public announcement of the fait accompli.

When speaking of “renumeration” we refer to more than mere salaries: petrol allowance, phone allowance, and expense accounts are common types of additional renumeration awarded nepotistically.

2. Group Think.

Group-think is strongly encouraged in family franchise churches. Just as in any family business, open dissension is costly and is therefore avoided. One common reaction is to endlessly circulate propagandist-mantras such as “our church must be of one mind”. Public discussion of real issues is strenuously resisted to protect: the pastor’s freedom of action, the pastor’s income and system of patronage.

Church members who disagree with what their church is doing retain only their right to “vote with their feet”: and many do just that.

3. Financial summaries.

Church financial summaries are glossy, positive, and absent of any detail. Externally audited financial statements are impossible to come by: either they do not exist, or they are seen only by salaried staff. Detailed questions from church members are discouraged: avoided, dodged, or glossed over. Congregational meetings – if required – are always used to divert attention away from: who is getting paid how much to do exactly what.

It is fascinating to note how church family business franchises consistently ignore all accountability towards the people who actually pay their weekly salaries!

Missionary Programs

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Missionary Programs – the past.

In previous times, missionary work used to be one of the key activities of the Christian church. Today, it is an optional extra.

Missionaries once traveled from their home country to the target country to preach the Gospel to all and sundry. Over time, these heady ideals became too hard to maintain: so performing charitable good works superseded preaching the Gospel; which in turn have been replaced by “cultural exchanges”.

Critics ascribe such bowdlerisation of missionary activity to various causes. Some charge that church missionary budgets are misappropriated to pay pocket-money to pastors’ brats for overseas backpacking holidays to perform “friendship evangelism” at church expense. Others contend that charitable works – digging wells, mending roofs, and etcetera – have nothing at all to do per se with spreading the Gospel and therefore should not be missionary-funded. Other critics point out that today’s cities contain multiple ghettoes of unreached ethnicities (immigrant-suburbs of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Chinese, Indians…): so why waste money sending missionaries overseas when they could instead simply bus themselves into the next suburb?

Missionary Programs – the present.

Criticisms – such as those above – must be dismissed out of hand if a church is to establish a well-funded Missionary Program. Unpleasant facts must be reshaped, redefined, and selectively ignored for a church missionary program to garner funding.

In such a climate, the following suggestions are offered as tried and tested strategies for inspiring church attendees to willingly pour their hard-earned savings into your church missionary fund:

  1. Missionary as Marketing. Label everything “Missionary” to attract donations. Don’t worry about “misapplying” the label to activities that have nothing to do with spreading the gospel: instead, introduce the concept of “Missionary Support” (see below).
  2. Missionary = Missionary Support. To circumvent the contentious problem of identifying which activities spread the Gospel and which do not: adopt and generously construe the label “missionary support”. Categorising an activity as “missionary support” gives churches the flexibility to fund literally anything out of missionary funds. As long as churches consistently repeat that some given activity “supports missionaries”, church attendees will continue consenting to part from their cash.
  3. Report plentiful activity. All donors want to see value for money: so provide regular reports showing how busy church-funded “missionaries” are. List activity after activity: omitting all incriminating details. When the eventual question of “How fruitful is all this activity?” emerges: deflect embarrassing investigations by citing “Spiritual Progress” (see below).
  4. Spiritual progress. “The Material has nothing in common with the Spiritual.” These and similar mantras must be repeated endlessly to counter any donor expectations of measurable results. Endlessly reassure donors of the boundless “Spiritual Progress” of your “missionary” activities.
  5. Church expenses. The missionary fund cash-cow is now ready for milking! Churches must deduct: administration feeds, handling feeds, paperwork fees, transfer fees… – the list is limited only by your collective imagination.

The Giving Talk

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Christendom has promoted church-giving to new heights in this enlightened century. Always a centerpiece of church devotion, church-giving in the 21st century has now been elevated into a virtuoso performance: justifying the pride of its adherents everywhere.

The best contemporary examples of the extraordinary lengths churches will go to, to coax their flocks into happily emptying their wallets are ably demonstrated by the weekly “Giving Talk” delivered in large Churches every Sunday.

For those of us who have yet to experience this delightful ritual firsthand; a short description is helpful. The Giving Talk is a veritable “sermon preceding the official sermon”. In the order of service, the Giving Talk comes immediately after the emotional highs of a rock-concert style worship. The speaker chosen to present the Giving Talk is no lightweight: they are as passionate, as articulate, and (inevitably) as lengthy as the preacher scheduled later that morning.

Unlike a sermon, the Giving Talk has but a single refrain: that is, to coax every listener to “dig deep” and “give generously” to the church. The speaker provides a continuous stream of persuasive arguments, anecdotes, maxims, and scripture references to make their point over and over again. To put it differently, the Giving Talk aims to persuade that: giving is good, giving to the church is better, and giving to the church right now is best – sayings that cannot be too often reiterated.

The Giving Talk is – of course – directly solely for the spiritual benefit of those who hear it. And so what if the church benefits materially, and that merely inadvertently? Great spiritual benefits are conferred upon the faithful hearers who separate themselves from filthy mammon by pouring whatever wealth they possess into church coffers for “the work of the kingdom”. This, at least, is the fevered assurance of the Giving Talk speaker: whose reiterated blessings kindle within the newly-shorn flock a warm, internal, charitable glow for having “done good”. And indeed: the larger the church bank balance becomes, the more good has been done; apparently. So we are solemnly promised.

Detractors have rather unkindly accused proponents of the Giving Talk of dressing up a “Greed is Good” message in Christian garb: disguising church cupidity behind a covering smoke-screen of platitudes, including: “doing God’s work”, “building God’s kingdom”, and other pious-sounding banalities. More heated accusations sometimes follow: that Giving Talks serve only to cultivate a parasitical class of churchmen living in comfortable idleness: whose days are divided between gossip and drinking coffee at others’ expense during alleged pastoral visits. But since such vituperative claims are clearly made only by the envious – they can be easily discounted. Besides: who dares contend that indisputable worldly success does not clearly show the sanction and approval of God Himself?

The Giving Talk is clearly here to stay: and is already the focal-point of denominations world-wide. Those wishing to themselves participate in such a congenial and wholesome experience need only attend a regular morning service at the largest church in their vicinity: although I recommmend that they first divest themselves of all loose change and credit cards, and leave their wallets behind at home.

What if Jesus came back? – Walking on Water

What if Jesus came back banner

Walking on Water

If Jesus came back today, doing and saying what he did and said 20 centuries ago: how many religious church-goers would welcome Him with open arms, dropping everything to follow Him?

Do today’s church-goers really know the Jesus whom they claim to serve? Or do they worship an imaginary Jesus of their own fashioning as a comfortable substitute?

If Jesus came back today, I think the likely popular reaction would be the following…


[Anchor] The religious outcast Jesus ben Joseph has again upset local authorities by carrying out further tomfoolery on public waterways: this time on the Great Lake. Our local reporter takes up the story.

[Reporter] Local Coastwatch officials are shocked at the irresponsible actions yesterday of the religious mystic Jesus ben Joseph: who last night recklessly endangered the lives of innocent civilians.

[Fishermen, in background] He walked upon the water! He calmed the storm! Even the wind and waves obey Him!

[Coastguard] Some eyewitnesses reported Mr Jesus sent off some friends around sunset in a tiny row-boat to cross the lake. And with this storm coming on – that was just plain stupid, not to mention dangerous. They are all lucky they didn’t drown – I don’t know how they survived when the storm hit. We’ve taken a look at the boat, and discovered they weren’t carrying the right safety gear. We’ve impounded the row-boat pending investigation…

[Eyewitness] I was hurrying to reach before the storm got any worse, and across the Lake I see a white ghost – some drowned sailor I suppose – walking across the lake towards a boat. Horrible! Terrifying! I was so frightened…

[Paranormal researcher] Ghost sightings like this are just what you’d expect from this location. Paranormal activity always increases at night… When the wind stopped blowing, the fishermen in the row-boat were clearly delirious from their near-death experience: they claimed to see this specter walking on the water, and one was so badly overcome with sheer physical exhaustion he actually jumped overboard and nearly drowned himself. While the possible effects produced by an over-stressed nervous system include hallucinations…

[Local Priest] I regularly visit my parishioners at home. At times I get calls to ritually perform the exorcism ritual – to protect their property from unwelcome ghosts and evil spirits…

[Reporter] It remains unclear why Jesus ben Joseph acted so irresponsibly, nearly causing the deaths by drowning of an entire boatful of fishermen. Police have declined to lay charges at this stage. Authorities strongly recommend boat-users check weather forecasts before engaging in water-activities on the lake…

[Anchor] A lucky escape for all concerned – but will they be as lucky next time? To our next story, will oil prices continue to rise? Our experts discuss this question…

walking on water

What if Jesus came back? – Feeding 5,000

What if Jesus came back banner

Feeding 5,000

If Jesus came back today, doing and saying what he did and said 20 centuries ago: how many religious church-goers would welcome Him with open arms, dropping everything to follow Him?

Do today’s church-goers really know the Jesus whom they claim to serve? Or do they worship an imaginary Jesus of their own fashioning as a comfortable substitute?

If Jesus came back today, I think the likely popular reaction would be the following…


[Anchor] The heretical Jesus ben Joseph struck again today in Central park, contravening Food Regulations and drawing the ire of catering companies and registered charities by distributing illicit free foodstuffs. While police investigate the allegations of numerous breaches of the Sanitations Act, our reporter comes in now live at the scene.

[Reporter] Local food-stores are demonstrating against unfair competition after the rebel minister known as Jesus ben Joseph fed crowds of people today in Central park with free fish sandwiches. The all-you-can eat buffet was laid on for a large crowd – some exaggerated reports estimate over 5,000 people – gathered to hear the controversial public speaker. But not everyone is happy with today’s event.

[Homeless people in background] He fed me! The first meal I’ve had in days! God bless Him!

[City Official] You can’t just hold a rally for this many people without a permit. This Jesus character can’t just flout regulations with impunity….

[Health Officer] The free food provided at this event contravened local Food Safety regulations. We have requested police to identify who provided these foodstuffs and warn them against repeating such atrocious actions, which often result in widespread food-poisoning…

[Grocery Store Owner] It’s bad for local business! Legal competition is a good thing and all that, but what do you expect us to do when people just show up dishing out free food to thousands of people? How am I supposed to make a living? I should just shut up shop and give my workers their notice… So what is the city council going to do about it?

[Charity spokesman] Mr Jesus is in clear contravention of our Charity Registration act. We can’t just have random people running amok like this performing well-intentioned good works. Charities try very hard to do the right thing: random pranks like this tarnish the reputations of charities everywhere…

[Local Minister] Our local churches provide registered charity services. This Jesus fellow is nothing to do with us: we work through the proper, approved channels. I call upon Mr Jesus to stop grandstanding and showing off, to show more respect for the community…

[Reporter] Local store owners will begin a campaign to petition the city mayor to refuse all free food distribution without authorisation…

[Anchor] We’ll keep a close watch on developments. In other news…

feeding 5000