One simply does not discuss politics or religion in public. It is just not done. To offend is the gravest of sins. So say the watchers of correct discourse in our age of modernity.
Any thinking person of any political or religious stripe should immediately recognize that admonition as rubbish, claptrap to be ignored. But the stunning truth is that our society, for the most part, heeds it. Why else would a mere Christian quarterback like Tim Tebow become such a phenomenon? Chances are that several other NFL quarterbacks are Christians. But Tebow prays openly.
Why is that so rare?
As a society, and especially on television, we take great and unusual pains not to offend. Whatever its provenance, the governing counsel is: Believe what you wish, but keep it to yourself. One’s personal views should be kept private, especially if one is a Christian.
Such counsel could well have been issued by Screwtape, a senior tempter and demonic undersecretary of Hell’s lowerarchy from C.S. Lewis’s satirical masterpiece “The Screwtape Letters.” The novel is comprised of 31 letters written by Screwtape to tutor Wormwood, a rookie tempter on his first assignment, on how to damn a man’s soul.
In Screwtape’s first lesson, he advises Wormwood to place an intellectual barrier in the mind of his “patient” between the plane of ideas and what Screwtape mischievously calls “real life.” This compartmentalization of thought is meant to keep religion (and mankind’s instinct to be virtuous) in the realm of the abstract. The demons aim to make the tangible, breathable world that their man experiences “realer” than what he thinks and observes about that world. If successful, the mortal’s reason and higher aspirations would become items of academic fancy and never incorporated into his actions. He would value the material world more than anything beyond it, making his path to darkness a virtual guarantee.
When Wormwood’s human target becomes a Christian, Screwtape, at first, chides the junior tempter for his carelessness. Then he expounds on his initial lesson, explaining that a Christian’s soul can still be won for Hell, provided that his Christianity remains in a box. He can go to church on Sundays. He can even make nightly prayers. So long as the Christian keeps his Christianity in its proper place — not allowing it to interfere with “real life” — the demons can have their way with him.
Given his dark purposes, one must admit that Screwtape would be largely delighted with the peculiarities of our modern discourse in mass media. Unabashed Christianity is “polarizing.” So say all of the pundits. Though Christianity is routinely criticized, derided and ridiculed on the airwaves, the attacks routinely go without answer. Whether the rule is posted or understood, professed agnosticism is the only reasonable, moderate and prudent view on most television roundtables.
Screwtape would be pleased.
Then along comes Tim Tebow. By stating his beliefs clearly and praying in public, Tebow is … polarizing? He’s unique, certainly. He’s brave, confident, compelling to watch. But polarizing? To whom? Tebow has brought new fans to the game of football. He’s increased revenue for the NFL and the Broncos. He’s won legions of new viewers for the networks broadcasting his games. Apparently, Tebow is only polarizing to the media.
What happened to our discourse? Sex, drugs, violence and the Kardashians. And Tebow is the oddity? How did it get this way?
The sad answer is: We allowed it to. By not taking brave stands, by not challenging the discourse, by not being bothered enough to engage our neighbors, a mostly Christian nation has earned the frustrating state of our modern media, in which vice is celebrated or excused and virtue is a curiosity. By compartmentalizing our higher values and keeping them separate from “real life,” we’ve let the tempters be our guide.
However, the great benefit of a Christian view of the universe is that hope springs eternal and redemption is possible for those who seek it. The best lesson to glean from the emergence of Tim Tebow is that there is joy in Christians taking a Christian stand. To offend is not necessarily a sin. And offending Screwtape is a virtuous act worthy of emulation.
Yates Walker is a conservative activist and writer. Before becoming involved in politics, he served honorably as a paratrooper and a medic in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.