According to Screwtape: How Race Became Our Religion

In C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, I find a truth within the seventh letter from Screwtape, a senior tempter/ devil to his nephew, Wormwood.  Taking heed to the warning and reminder that Lewis places in the preface: “Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar,” if I err it is for the sake of undermining the authority of race in religion.  Screwtape is mentoring, advising Wormwood, a young devili on his “patient”, a young man who is eligible for military service.  Wormwood has been assigned to him to ensure his damnation.  Screwtape writes,

“Whichever he adopts, your main task will be the same. Let him begin by treating Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. The quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the ’cause’, in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce of the British war- effort or of Pacifism.  The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience.  Once you have made the World an end and faith a means, you have almost won the man and it makes very little difference what kind of wordly end he is pursuing.  Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes and crusades matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours– and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours.”

This method can be applied to race as it became in centuries past the pseudo- divine endorsement for the causes of American slavery, Jim Crow segregation and the like.  Persons turned to the Bible to interpret the social, economic and political struggles of race.  Some sought solace in the stories of the children of Israel and quickly identified themselves with the characters.  Others looked for support for their feelings of superiority and the need to order the world according to their desires for control.  But, what began as a desire to discern God’s counsel on the matters of race, human worth and dignity quickly turned to our self- serving interpretations of the will of God regarding humanity.  We stopped asking God to speak to us and instead, began to speak as if we were God.  We moved from identifying ourselves as the children of God and even those chosen by God to the belief in a black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige God and likewise, Son of God.  We had chosen God; God had not chosen us.  We no longer wanted to see ourselves in the plight of the characters; instead, we wanted the characters to bolster our claims of superiority and inferiority. We wanted God to be made in our image.  We turned to the Bible not to listen but to reinforce our racialized beliefs in order to make our voices heard all the more.

The religion of race made our flesh god and our external appearance the designation of righteousness.  Race was to be worshipped and everything in existence serves its purposes.  Nothing makes sense a part from race and no order can be derived in the absence of it.  We need only look at ourselves to know where we belong and if we are worthy of life and the respect of others.

The Bible was no longer only a holy book, a sacred text about the spiritual life and the call to discipleship but became a rhetorical tool, standing at the bottom of and supporting our ladder of social hierarchy.  Sacred Scripture was used to support the aims of race and justify the actions of racism.  The Bible and likewise, God, Jesus Christ and Christianity became the means to our racial ends.  This is why the Trinity comes in all social colors and can be found in support of both Black Nationalism and White Supremacy.  But, what of the cause of Christ, who “came to the world save sinners”, is satified by either (I Timothy 1.15)?  It is because race has become our religion.  It is true! The “meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes and crusades (of race, for and against racism) matter more to (us) than prayers and sacraments and charity.”  We don’t believe that the latter works as effectively or they are deemed impractical.

American Christianity has become a part of race’s catechism. But, the devil remains a liar.  Though this is true for many American Christians, the truth of Christ’s entry into the world has been recorded and cannot be changed despite our interpretations and no matter how great our causes. That Christ is coming back for a church, not a black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige church, not a White Supremacist or a Black Nationalist church but a church “without spot or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5.27) also cannot be denied.  The end result of Christ’s life and ministry on earth cannot be altered no matter the means by which we attempt to distort His message.  Unless, of course, you don’t believe in Christ’s return, heaven or hell or devils like Screwtape and Wormwood to which C.S. Lewis also warned against.


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