The Screwtape Letters, a collection of theologically profound and provocative messages between a senior tempter and his protege in Satan’s service, is valuable to me in many, many ways. I suppose the main reason it is my favorite book and the overarching reason I find myself reading it from cover to cover every couple of years is that it reminds me in hard-hitting ways of the cosmic battle between God and evil. I can’t see it. But it’s going on all around me. And I can’t be too aware of it. C. S. Lewis’ book helps to focus my thoughts and my direction on the dramatic difference between appearance and reality, between the temporary and the eternal.
In discussing his patient’s response to the war, Screwtape advises his nephew/apprentice devil to give him a full account “so that we can consider whether you are likely to do more good by making him an extreme patriot or an ardent pacifist. There are all sorts of possibilities.”
The devil is in the extremes. He does his best work in the extremes. Extreme views and extreme beliefs and actions, as they relate to our world and to our fellow man, tend to shut out our neighbors and judge those who don’t share our views. Extremes tend to leave no room for mercy and grace.
Our call to discipleship is an extreme one. Following Jesus requires extreme decisions and extreme changes. As God’s children we should be radically different from the ones around us. And we’re called by the teachings of our Lord to take extreme action to get rid of the sin in our lives.
But let’s treat our extremes with caution. Let’s make certain our friends and neighbors, our brothers and sisters, the widow, the orphan, and the stranger in the gate are not excluded. Let’s never crowd out mercy and grace and love.
After last night’s game, the second in a row in which New England’s inferior opponent blew a late lead by collapsing on both sides of the ball, the Patriots were all the talk here at the building early this morning. Some are rooting for the Pats to do it because it’s neat to see that history being made. Some were rooting for the Pats to do it until Tom Brady shot his mouth off a couple of weeks ago about their glee in blowing people out. One of the many Cowboys fans here wants New England to lose just so they won’t have a better record than Dallas.
Where are you on this deal?
I’ve always admired Robert Kraft as an owner. When Terry Glenn was a rookie wide-receiver for the Patriots he received a ticket for speeding. And Kraft, as I’ve heard the story told, called Glenn into his office and told him that his players did not get tickets for anything. He fined him and told him it would be worse if it ever happened again. In a culture in which our professional athletes are celebrated as righteous role models, even when they plead guilty to obstruction of justice and lying to police in a double-murder investigation (see: Ravens MLB & Pro-Bowl, MVP, Madden cover, etc.,), that was refreshing.
But isn’t it also our tendency as Americans to root for the underdog? We love to see David take down Goliath. I despise the Ravens because of everything Ray Lewis stands for. But I surely wanted them to win last night.
Where are you on all this? Why?
The Pats may be 15-0, coming off a pasting of the 0-15 Dolphins, when they face the New York Giants in the regular season finale. Saturday night. On the NFL Network. History will be made. Those on both sides of the fence will be stoked. Casual fans and those indifferent to the plight of the Patriots will be interested. They’ll hype it for weeks. In fact, it’s already begun.
And it’ll be on the NFL Network, unavailable to almost 2/3 of our country.