Remember the White Tower chain of hamburger joints? These small shops were set up so that the customer could watch a blob of hamburger smashed to a small pancake size, quickly cooked mass, and served up in a matter of minutes. The first store began in Wichita in 1916, but they quickly spread across the U.S.
These tiny white huts were the forerunners to the McDonald brothers, who opened shop in 1948 to show us how a high speed hamburger should be done—quickly and tastelessly. It was followed by Burger King and Wendys, and now many others, all seeing how fast they can get us to buy, devour and pay for a hamburger—or chicken sandwich, pizza, taco, donut or cup of coffee. We have become the Olympic champions of fast food and drive-thrus.
The small group that meets at our house on (most) Tuesday evenings have just finished working discussing “The Screwtape Letters”. I led the sessions, ably assisted by “A companion and study guide to The Screwtape Letters” by William O’Flaherty, (main title: C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell). I am glad he did not call it “To hell with C.S. Lewis”!
Screwtape, the author of the letters and an under-secretary of a department in hell, has his own secretary named “Toadpipe”. The letters are written to a nephew of Screwtape, a devil called “Wormwood”. It is his assignment to raise hell with the “patient”, and unnamed young man and his family, who will be tempted in all kinds of ways.
Other characters in The Letters are Fr. Spike, a minister at one of the churches near the patient, “Glubose”, who is in charge of the patient’s mother, “Scabtree”, who believes that during war is the ideal time to attach the patient’s belief system, “Slubgob”, in charge of the tempters’ training college, “Triptweeze, a demon who looks after a middle-aged couple, and a nameless Vicar. All are a part of Screwtape’s cabal to work on the patient and his friends.
Think of any vice or temptation that has plagued you and it will be on the list that Screwtape and Wormwood have at their disposal: Pride is big, but so is humility; anxiety and complacency form a perfect pair; gluttony is always available; various kinds of doubting prayer work well; distraction and disappointment will keep the patient from reason; fear and hatred are proven victors; and, of course, love and lust are candidates for bending. We could go on, but that is enough to make us shudder at the devil’s resources.
The January 2017 issue of National Geographic is a special one entitled “Gender Revolution.” On p. 3, Gloria Steinem is quoted as saying “I suppose getting rid of the idea of gender [is the most pressing issue today]. You know living in India was a revelation because I came to understand that there were old languages that didn’t have gender—that didn’t have “he” and “she.” The more polarized the gender roles, the more violent the society. The less polarized the gender roles, the more peaceful the society. We are each unique and individual human beings. We are linked: we are not ranked. The idea of race and the idea of gender are divisive.”
Fujimura, Makoto. 2017. Culture care: Reconnecting with beauty for our common life. Foreword by Mark Labberton. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.
Makoto Fujimira is the director of Fuller Theology Seminary’s Brehm Center for Worship, Theology and the Arts. As an artist, he wants to help us to think like one—recognizing beauty and creativity and creating our own as well. His book is “the first in a series of culture care that will expand on…generative principles and apply them to several cases (p. 21).