Screwtape talks about “friends” in the previous letter.
Now, it’s back to the patient himself.
My dear Wormwood,
Everything is clearly going very well. I am specially glad to hear that the two new friends have now made him acquainted with their whole set. … who without any spectacular crimes are progressing quietly and comfortably towards Our Father’s house.
11.1) From last week’s letter, we talked about the friends we have / the things we do – how we can be influenced by them. How are things going for the patient, compared to our discussion last week?
You speak of their being great laughers. … The point is worth some attention.
I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. You will see the first among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday. … Laughter of this kind does us no good and should always be discouraged. Besides, the phenomenon is of itself disgusting and a direct insult to the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell.
11.2) Screwtape says that he does not know what the “real cause” of joy is. From John 15:5-11 and 16:19-24, what does the Bible says is the real cause of joy and how does that fit in with Screwtape’s assumptions about joy?
Fun is closely related to Joy—a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us….it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.
The real use of Jokes or Humour is in quite a different direction, … Cruelty is shameful—unless the cruel man can represent it as a practical joke. … Any suggestion that there might be too much of it can be represented to him as ‘Puritanical’ or as betraying a ‘lack of humour’.
11.3) Even fun gets a bad name in Screwtape’s view. What is it about fun & joy – and our choice of friends – that makes them inviting to Satan. And why do they start to stray from the intent of joy that is in the Bible?
But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy: it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practise it.
Your affectionate uncle
11.4) And finally, we get to flippancy – where there is no joy. How do we stray so far – what things influence this and keep us going down the path? And how can we get out of it. How can we help others get out of it?