A strong contender for my favorite (which is something like trying to pick a favorite child) letter from Screwtape would be letter twenty-two. Where the Patient has fallen in love, and in the worst possible way, to a Godly woman. Since much hay has been made over the Proverbs 31 woman I would like to explore the kind of woman that thinking of contributed to the demon inadvertently transforming into a large centipede.
“[I] am horrified at what I find. Not only a Christian but such a Christian – A vile, sneaking, simpering, demure, monosyllabic, mouse-like, watery, insignificant, virginal, bread-and-butter miss. The little brute. She makes me vomit. She stinks and scalds through the very pages of the dossier. It drives me mad how the world has worsened. We’d have had her in arena in the old days. That’s what her sort is made for. Not that she’d do much good there, either. A two-faced little cheat (I know the sort) who looks as if she’d faint at the sight of blood and then dies with a smile. A cheat in every way. Looks as if butter would melt in her mouth and yet has a satirical wit. The sort of creature who’d find ME funny!” – Screwtape, Letter XXII
Such a Christian
This is such a rarity, I have met only a few. They make make the gates of hell shake because they really believe. It is not simple theological prowess but ground level understanding coupled with obvious obedience. Angular texts do not shake them, nor are they viewed as something to be explain away or deviation from justified. They joyfully obey despite wether they like it or not. It is the kind of woman who is hated by the world because they secretly fear her. To the untrained eye she may even seem to fit Screwtapes following litany, but in reality is a force to behold. There is no way that Screwtape can fight her effectively so he is reduced to ad hominem. But even in that attack he can not stay out of the truth.
Simpering, Monosyllabic, Demure
Before assuming that this article is going to take a Handmaidens Tale-esque turn I would point to Lewis’s words introducing Screwtape:
“Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his angle.” – C.S. Lewis, Preface to Screwtape Letters
I would then posit that there is good to be taken from the tirade of insults that contains truths, twisted as is the devils style. Every trait holds some footing in the instruction of, “that pestilent fellow Paul.” The world sees him and his divinely inspired writings on the subject of a Godly woman’s character, as an object to overcome, never something to consider and obey.*
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.” – 1 Tim 2:11
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.” – Titus 2:3-5
The question to ask in submission is, to what authority? The slight of hand played around this word is to immediately run to the abusers, never to the Godly men described in the preceding contexts or simply to Christ himself. If a believing woman were following the entire counsel of God with gusto, then she would be seen by the enemy to resemble something along the lines of what Screwtape describes negatively. Yet they can, and should be seen as badge of honor.
Dies with a Smile
The kind of woman described in total is one with eternity in her sights. She is in this world but not of it. Again she is force to be reckoned with who can turn what is meant for evil to good.
“[A] Huguenot woman was being led to the stake in France. She had been rich in good deeds, ministering to the poor, and a crowd of them were following her there, weeping. One of the women cried out, “You will never give me alms anymore.” And the martyr—isn’t it glorious that we will not know her name until the resurrection?—said this. She said, “Yes, once more.” And she stooped down, took off her shoes, gave them to the woman, and went to Heaven barefooted.” – As told by Douglas Wilson, The Romance of Protestantism
It should be noted, however, that the kind of ultimate sacrifice comes not from a final moment where there is a sudden rally of spirit. But from the kind of day to day death to the self that produces a selfless woman. It is the understanding that her crosses to bear are ordained by God and they are meant for her eternal good.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Matthew 6:24-26
She may not like the texts where submission is an inescapable directive from God, but to grasp and grab for authority is the path of Satan. And from a positive angle submissive to scripture does not mean spineless. In this age bravery is conferred upon those who flow with the cultural zeitgeist. But that is redundant. To stand against the direction of the culture with a face set like flint is true bravery. It shows a woman who has considered and answered Schaffer’s two great questions, Why are you a Christian? What does loyalty to Christ mean to you?”
A Satirical Wit
This begins with a Christian Worldview. Or as Lewis would say in another context:
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.” – C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory**
At the base this means the world operates in an understandable and logical way according to Gods design. It is marred by sin which distorts that ordered world bringing in contradiction. And there is the basis for satire. Comedy is couched in surprise. The unexpected incongruity tickles us. Yet the competing worldview tries to smooth over their inconstancies and hope against hope that no one notices. A satirical wit not only observes the departure from reality, but the subsequent coverup as well, then brings the entire farce into specific relief, and proceeds to mock it sharply.
Women who wield this weapon well are rare jewels. Again I have met some, they wield a fearsome rapier, it is no wonder they typically carry themselves like conquering monarchs.
Women, Christian women, have been sold a bill of goods. The lie that God did not design them, love them, direct them according to his design for their good and joy and his glory, but that instead he is a mean patriarchal moron who doesn’t speak to men competently is damnable. Because it robs women of true freedom and glory. The world does not fear Christian women because the vast majority do not appear to be anything to be feared. Mocked, yes, but not the kind of eternal being pulsating with the very power that made the worlds and should make spirits tremble before them. Instead they frequently could legitimately check off a good portion Screwtapes list: vile, sneaking, simpering, watery, insignificant, add to it other sins and be praised for it. It would appear that the confession of many women of the church have decided they would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven. “Slayyyyy queeeeen!”
The church should begin the hard work of building up Screwtape terrorizing women and removing from their perches the she-wolves masquerading as ewes. One kind the gates of hell will not stand against the other brings hell into our midst. Let us pray and labor toward the raising up of Screwtape Letter twenty-two women.
*Simply for your consideration: Is it possible that there is a correlation between rebellious women preachers and weak Christian women? On the spectrum of Beth Moore all the way to the Episcopal Lesby Pastor, the followers track along from weak theologically through to downright heretical. Perhaps God through the pen of the Apostle was on to something in the way he put to order His church.
**The oft misquoted version is: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”