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Marriage and Family

Screwtape: ‘Our task, as always, is to undermine and to divide’

The 11th contribution to His Grace’s emergency team ministry during the coronavirus pestilence is another letter from senior devil, Screwtape, to his nephew and apprentice devil, Wormwood. It comes again from someone who wishes to remain anonymous for professional reasons.


My dear Wormwood,

I trust that my last words to you on the war with the Enemy were taken in the spirit in which they were intended. I hope that, while rejoicing in battles won in the destruction of the family, I did not distract you from the formidable difficulties which the Enemy has set in the way of our further progress.

I refer again to the fearful institution of marriage and the Enemy’s desire to unite man and woman, a union which it is much harder for us to defeat than the two of them standing alone. There are still those who enter marriage with a godly intent. Our task, as always, is to undermine and to divide.

By his ingenuity in creation, the Enemy has doubly bound husband and wife. Their unity is not just a spiritual one; it is a bodily one as well, in which the instinctive desires for common purpose are reinforced by the physical delights that each can each have in the other. When there is spiritual tension, the natural desire for bodily congress aids the weak spirit and brings healing and restoration.

At one time the Enemy’s clear instructions about marriage had at least been heard by the faithful – such a powerful influence on the way that husband and wife saw themselves. They knew that they were one flesh, something greater in their unity, and greater for themselves individually, than any two separate individuals could ever be. Oh, how much that thwarted our designs! If husband and wife see themselves as one, the man already inclines to understand his wife’s authority over his body, and she his over hers. It was only natural for them to turn for comfort to the other and know that, even if their inclination were not reciprocated, their desire would be understood and accommodated.

Now we whisper to both that they are each separate and autonomous individuals with rights rather than responsibilities. We caricature the whole concept of yielding to the other physically by likening it to a concession to gross sins of abuse. They see each denial as an assertion of their rights as an individual and as the physical union is eroded so is the spiritual one.

My dear nephew, we need to use the particular frailties of men and women to our advantage. Let the man’s laziness keep him ignorant of the Enemy’s scripture so he never reads, much less thinks about, let alone acts in a way that delights in the wife of his youth. Let him drift in the direction of the alternatives, or the corruption which is within a click or two on his computer. As for the woman, feed her rebellion and indignation. Let her think ‘It was written by men!’ before she hears a word of the Enemy’s advice, and be determined ‘not to be owned by any man’ rather than seeking partnership.

Fear not the opposition of the Church. You will find it to be mute on the subject. When the Church struggles with its faith, reference to godly unity brings to the surface all its insecurities. That is why it writes twenty thousand words on domestic abuse – because it is much easier than shepherding those who struggle with common weaknesses.

No, the only voices that dare speak about sexual relationships are the media – our media – which we control in its entirety. In that context, intimate relations are toys for all to play with, casual encounters with no spiritual component, with the desire for everything but procreation, lest participants recognise that in carrying out the Enemy’s command to be fruitful they reflect his creativity and are reminded of him.

Physical union was the property of the Church, as much created by the Enemy as everything else. But now it is ours. Like the breast, which can be displayed without shame for every purpose save the one it was desired to fulfil, physical union may be portrayed, discussed, exercised, vaunted and encouraged in every context – save that of marriage.

Truly, we now have the advantage.

Your affectionate uncle.