Entering college is a dangerous business. Uncle Screwtape instructs a young devil on tempting the new college student.
My dearest Wormwood,
So your patient is going to seek higher education? Excellent.
It is a Christian college? No need to fear. Such a place is the Enemy’s in name, but so often do our patients rest on that title and let down their guard that this is a field fertile for our planting!
The month before your patient packs his bags, fill his mind with all manner of anticipation: make it seem a Paradise on Earth. Paint a vision of rich learning, admiring friends, beautiful ladies, and weekends of leisure. Remind him that the Enemy claims it, so, naturally, it will be overflowing with all manner of saccharine virtues like love, and graciousness, and faithfulness, with nary a glimpse of our Prince’s work.
Then, when he encounters the first real sinner, he will be shocked. Tell him that fellow is simply an anomaly, perhaps not really a Christian. Prompt him to let the foolish man know, out of concern for his soul, of course. Such we shall isolate the patient from all his fellows.
When they are alone, Wormwood,
then they are most vulnerable.
Once it is clear to him that all the others are quite broken, remind him that they are Christians, too. If you have done your work well, the patient will begin to wonder if any of the Enemy’s promises are real. None of those “Christians” are living a life of real love, after all. Be mindful not to shout this: that would scare him off.
Just suggest doubts. The seeds will grow on their own.
Then show him his sleeplessness, his awful grades, and his aloneness. A morning’s argument with a roommate, a dining hall dinner with no welcoming tables, or slow Internet an hour before a paper deadline—they all work marvelously well.
Here we get to one of my favorite little tricks: while reminding him how very un-Christian his roommates are, put a visor over his eyes that makes them at the same time seem so very handsome and smart and successful. Leaving to his mind the only logical conclusion: that he is the real disappointment. Humans are so very gullible, Wormwood; ridiculous as it is, that one could hold by such contradiction, they fall for it nearly every time.
Unfulfill every one of his idyllic expectations. If you have not shown too much of your hand, you will send him straight to Despair and Cynicism by the time of his mid-term examinations.
Feed the great lie of human flesh: not that they are God, but that they deserve to be.
Moderation, contentment, nuance, and (the idiocy of it!) paradox are the delight of our Enemy. No, keep him always longing for extremes. Black and White are invariably more attractive than Gray.
Or, if he proves resistant, steer him more subtly: let him delight in his own fantastic sense of nuance! Let him see how very sensible he is and exult it as the chieftest of his virtues. Then he is but a hopscotch step from Self-Importance. Oh, Wormwood, how delightful it is to turn the Enemy’s weapons against Him!
But Wormwood, do be careful. Our Enemy is very clever.
As soon as any of our patients shows the slightest inclination toward Him, He may rush in with answered prayers, and timely verses, and such a flurry of love and senseless joy that you might lose a year’s work in a night!
So, do keep me updated about your progress.
Your most affectionate uncle,
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