Tag Archives: Amusing Ourselves to Death

“You can make him do nothing at all for long periods” by C.S. Lewis

“This dim uneasiness needs careful handling. If it gets too strong it may wake him up and spoil the whole game. On the other hand, if you suppress it entirely—which, by the by, the Enemy will probably not allow you to do—we lose an element in the situation which can be turned to good account.

If such a feeling is allowed to live, but not allowed to become irresistible and flower into real repentance, it has one invaluable tendency. It increases the patient’s reluctance to think about the Enemy. All humans at nearly all times have some such reluctance; but when thinking of Him involves facing and intensifying a whole vague cloud of half-conscious guilt, this reluctance is increased tenfold.

They hate every idea that suggests Him, just as men in financial embarrassment hate the very sight of a pass-book. In this state your patient will not omit, but he will increasingly dislike, his religious duties. He will think about them as little as he feels he decently can beforehand, and forget them as soon as possible when they are over.

A few weeks ago you had to tempt him to unreality and inattention in his prayers: but now you will find him opening his arms to you and almost begging you to distract his purpose and benumb his heart. He will want his prayers to be unreal, for he will dread nothing so much as effective contact with the Enemy. His aim will be to let sleeping worms lie.

As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations. As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention.

You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him.

You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.’

The Christians describe the Enemy as one ‘without whom Nothing is strong.’ And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy.

It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.

Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,

Your affectionate uncle,

SCREWTAPE”

–C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillian, 1950), 62-65.

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Filed under C.S. Lewis, Christian Theology, Literature, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, Satan, Screwtape, Sin, Temptation

“I had it all wrong” by Cornelius Plantinga Jr.

“When television-saturated worshipers attend their local churches or wonder how to draw secular seekers there, it’s not the songs of Zion they want but the songs of Babylon and Hollywood– or something like them. People attend worship with expectations shaped by television, and evangelical preachers try to meet them.

In such cases worship may degenerate into a religious variety show hosted by some gleaming evangelist in a sequined dinner jacket and patent leather dancing slippers who chats with celebrities and introduces for special music a trio of middle-aged women in pastel evening gowns with matching muffs for their microphones.

He may also include, or even perform, certain eye-popping acrobatics or karate moves. Each act in the show is pre-timed, including estimates of the length of audience applause. Imagine a High Five for Jesus replacing the Apostles’ Creed; imagine praise time beginning when the evangelist shouts, ‘Gimme a G! Gimme an O!…’

Naturally, services of this kind give an impression of a religion somewhat different from historic Christianity. One could imagine a visitor walking away from such a service and saying to himself:

‘I had it all wrong. I had thought Christianity included a shadow side– confession, self-denial, rebuke of sin, concern with heresy, a willingness to lose one’s life for the sake of Jesus Christ. Not so, apparently. The Christian religion isn’t about lament or repentance or humbling oneself before God to receive God’s favor.

It’s got nothing to do with doctrines and the struggle to preserve truth. It’s not about the hard, disciplined work of mortifying our sinful self and learning to make God’s purposes our own. It’s not about the inevitable failures in this project and the persistent grace of Jesus Christ that comes so that we may begin again.

Not at all! I had it wrong! The Christian faith is mainly about celebration and fun and personal growth and five ways to boost my self-esteem. And, especially, it’s about entertainment.'”

–Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 192-193.

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“Turn off the television” by John Piper

“Turn off the television. It is not necessary for relevance. And it is a deadly place to rest the mind. Its pervasive banality, sexual innuendo, and God-ignoring values have no ennobling effects on the preacher’s soul. It kills the spirit. It drives God away. It quenches prayer. It blanks out the Bible. It cheapens the soul. It destroys spiritual power. It defiles almost everything. I have taught and preached for twenty years now and never owned a television. It is unnecessary for most of you, and it is spiritually deadly for all of you.”

–John Piper, “Preaching as Worship: Meditations on Expository Exultation” (Trinity Journal 16 [1995]: 29-45): 44.

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“Amusing ourselves to death” by Neil Postman

“All public discourse increasingly takes the form of entertainment. Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.”

–Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (New York: Penguin Books, 1986), 3-4.

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Filed under Neil Postman, Quotable Quotes, Technopoly, Worldliness, Worldview