Friday, May 24, 2013

‘Magnificent Malevolence: Memoirs of a Career in Hell in the Tradition of The Screwtape Letters’ by Derek Wilson – Book Review

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One of the most well-known expressions in history is ‘Know your enemy.’ It comes from the ancient Chinese military treatise ‘The Art of War’ by Sun Tzu. As Christians, we are in a daily battle against the enemy of our soul.
Magnificent Malevolence: Memoirs of a Career in Hell in the Tradition of The Screwtape Letters’ by Derek Wilson shows us the mindset and thought processes of one of the devil’s henchmen.

Here is the synopsis of this novel:

“I was a junior tempter then, but even in those days I showed phenomenal promise…”
From the Archives of The Low Command: Ministry of Misinformation
This remarkable manuscript outlines the career of the prominent devil, Crumblewit S.O.D. (Order of the Sons of Darkness, 1st Class).
Crumblewit provides a fiendish appraisal of the struggles between good and evil which dominates human affairs in the period from 1942 (when the great Screwtape’s Letters were released to the world) to the present. Crumblewit’s energies were deployed in the religious arena, undermining the attempts of Christians to carry out the mission entrusted to them by the Unmentionable One.
The account is pleasingly distorted by its author’s truly diabolical conceit and capacity for self-delusion. It sheds a very satisfying light on the tribulations experienced by humans throughout this period.

Here is the biography of the author:

Popular historian Derek Wilson is the author of over 60 books and has written and presented numerous television and radio programs. He lives and writes in Devon [UK].

I will use this review to focus on a few of the tactics; let’s beware of how we use our time and resources, and how we need to ensure we are not deceived.

Here is how Crumblewit steered a minister off track:

By suggesting to him courses of action that any of the enemy’s agents tried to promote, I induced him to lower his guard. First of all I drew his attention to radio evangelists. These rabid spouters of the enemy’s propaganda were a nuisance to us because they were able to get their sick-making message into every home to which their networks had access. Some of our colleagues had managed to use the novel phenomenon of radio (just as they more effectively use television years later) by insinuating into the preaching slots religious charlatans, who used their air time to make appeals for money. Only I saw that the medium could be used even more effectively. I induced Little Bratt [his name for the pastor] into spending more and more time listening to the radio evangelists. I got him to analyze their techniques and then try them out in the pulpit. It was not long before he was paying more attention to the method than the message. (p. 25)

Crumblewit also explains how he and his colleagues use and abuse a gift originally given by God, but perverted for their gain:

Sex remains the most effective universal tool at our disposal. Adultery, sexual experimentation by emotionally immature young people, and the unwillingness of parents to provide a firm moral framework for their teenage children are, in every human community, being justified by the grounds of “love.” Oh, the delightful spectacles of misery, betrayal, desertion, cantankerous bitterness, and murder we have been able to enjoy as a direct result of inducing couples to claim (and, in most cases, believe) that “It’s OK because we love each other.” As if they knew the meaning of the word! It is an attribute of the enemy which remains a mystery. If we don’t understand it, the inferior human creatures can’t possibly grasp its implications. Our task is to conceal reality from them by persuading them that the enemy’s hard-and-fast rules were mere guidelines, which humans are free to adapt, apply, or not apply, according to the circumstances. (p. 136)

This passage not only uncovers the enemy’s tactics (which were successfully employed in the Garden of Eden), but also shows how lowly he esteems God’s people.

Here Crumblewit talks about technology and television in particular. This section was particularly convicting to me, as I can spend a little too much time in front of the ‘boob tube:’

Television, as I knew well and had always urged, was an excellent tool offering numerous possibilities. At the lowest end it provided an endless stream of trivia with which we could fill people’s minds and divert their attention from issues concerning their eternal well-being. Handled properly, TV could even prevent them from thinking at all; they could simply take their ideas and opinions from the screens which dominated their living spaces. (p. 150)

He goes on to explain how he sows seeds of discontent:

[W]hat we can do, and have done consistently with great success, is keep the pathetic creatures preoccupied with the mundane; working feverishly to earn money to buy those trinkets – clothes, gadgets, motor cars, jewellery. houses – which give them social status and bolster their sense of self-worth. If that leaves them craving “something more,” we offer glamour. We have schooled a whole industry to dangle before the populace images of men and women whose wealth, fame, and exciting lifestyle suggest what, with luck, ingenuity, or extra efforts, their fans, too, might achieve. We have manoeuvred them into a delightfully jumbled state of mind in which fact and fiction, reality and dreams are splendidly confused. (pp. 150-151)

Can anyone say “Kardashian”?

There are many more examples of how our enemy gets us off track; these are just a few.

It was, at times, difficult to read the book from Crumblewit’s perspective, especially when he was so disparaging of people, but especially of God. His description of God as ‘the enemy’ was hard to read. In any event, I think it is important to be aware of the devil’s tactics. So I appreciate Derek Wilson for bringing these things to his readers’ attention – distasteful as it was. But that’s how satan (small s) operates. It was particularly satisfying to see what Crumblewit’s ‘reward’ is at the end of the book.

You can order this book by clicking here.

This book was published by Lion Fiction and provided by Kregel Publications for review purposes.

1 comment:

Tracy Krauss said...

Love, LOVE, LOVE the Screwtape Letters... just sayin'!

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