Propaganda is a lie that is repeated over and over until it is accepted as being true. It is the view that perception is reality. Although Satan’s ultimate aim is our destruction, he prefers to keep that a secret. The average Joe on the street does not understand that the devil is out to destroy him and he is a much easier mark if he is kept in the dark. Jesus let the cat out of the bad in John 10:10–“The thief comes only to kill and steal and destroy.”
In Letter 28 Screwtape is very upset with Wormwood for showing too much enthusiasm over the death toll of men and the destruction of cities caused by the war [WWII]. Although the demonic world celebrates the misery of man, Screwtape would like for this to remain a secret. Plus, Wormwood’s response was a little over the top–the death of man may or may not suit Satan’s purpose. Satan has no pleasure in the death of a saint. When a saint dies physically, they are immediately out of Satan’s range. Physical death creates a barrier that Satan can do nothing about. Since Wormwood’s patient is a Christian, Screwtape is pulling for him to survive and he encourages Wormwood to seek the same thing.
As he has confessed before, Screwtape is not all that excited about the war. Yes it does produce a lot of death and destruction but it also brings men closer to their Creator and many into a personal walk with Christ. Wars tend not only to bring us closer to God but also closer to each other. Wars produce more heros than any other phenomen on earth. Satan’s goal is to make us cowards not heros. Wormwood is celebrating the war a little too much for Screwtape’s satisfaction. He wants him to tone it down a bit. A life time is all the time Satan has to tempt a believer. Screwtape does not want Wormwood’s patient to be killed in the war, he wants him to survive and come home just has the patient’s mother is praying.
Once he returns safely from the war, Screwtape and company have time to do some serious stealing and killing. Screwtape gives Wormwood a plan for bringing the patient into a state of impotence and misery, maybe, if they play their cards right, even to a point of despair. First says Screwtape, we will use the monotonous and dull middle years to lull the patient into what the humans call a mid-life crisis. That is when the human creature fears that life is passing him by and he begins to cling to his youth and his youthful passions. It is during these trying years that we tempt many a man into divorcing the mother of his children and taking on a newer younger model. By so doing, we can usually bring endless misery to at least two families. If we don’t trip him up during the middle years, we still have the later years when his kids are grown and he begins to accumulate a little wealth. Our next move is to get him to fall in love with his possessions and the world in which he acquired them. Once we get him loving the world and the things in the world, he will be of little use to the kingdom of Christ.
Screwtape’s final deexhortation is for Wormwood to do anything in his power to keep the patient safe and get him home alive. As he has previous warned, he does not want Wormwood to believe his own propaganda. The patients physical death at this time would be of no benefit to Satan.
Of course Lewis was not a Baptist and did not believe in eternal security as I do. His view was that Satan could so trip a believer the he or she would fall from grace but that is not possible. So, why would Screwtape want the young believer to survive the war? I think the answer is actually simple: he cannot damn the believer but given time he can kill or steal the believer’s testimony and thus through his bad influence damn others. The bottom line for those of us who believe is that physical Death is not our greatest threat, it is the loss our testimony. As one old preacher said years ago, “I just want to cross the finish line with my testimony in tact.” Satan doesn’t want the same thing and he will work relentlessly to see that it doesn’t happen. By the grace of Christ, I pray that he fails with both you and I.