THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE recently appeared on the monitor of the wrong computer - at least, it is hoped it was the wrong computer!

My Dear Screwtape,
As you know, I much preferred scrolls and quills to e-mail, especially when real blood was still available for ink. Nevertheless, we must move with the times (though never, of course, enquiring as to where those times are moving us).

I agree with your estimation that the tide is flowing in our direction. When the Easter sermon of an Archbishop of Canterbury can be interrupted in his own Cathedral with hardly a murmur of protest (much less rage!) from the English nation, we may be sure that victory is almost ours. The fact that the demonstrators were actually advocating sexual practices which were illegal there a little more than a generation ago shows how quickly we have capitalized on our gains.

It is, however, essential that no one in the English Church should understand what we are doing. This is not too great a challenge since, apart from that regrettable interlude four hundred years ago, the English have always preferred pragmatism to theology. Provided a thing ‘works’ they don’t worry what it means! Indeed, in these glorious days it is sufficient that it should feel as if it works, even if it reduces them to behaviour which was once regarded as evidence of our own activities.

But to return to my theme, be very careful that no-one hints at what an acceptance of homosexuality on a par with heterosexuality actually means. We must also continue to encourage the separation of sexual action from sexual function. If humans started asking what was the right age at which to bear offspring, rather than the right age at which to ‘consent’ to their sexual impulses, who knows where it would lead? Focus them on the importance of self-expression and equality, not on the service of higher ends or other people - such as the children they accidentally create.

We are, of course, fortunate in being ably supported by ‘our’ bishops - not that they themselves know this or even believe we exist. Spong’s impending retirement is unfortunate. Controversial bishops cease to fascinate when they are no longer in office, as we well know. Fortunately the Americans are a fertile source of replacements. However, even I am impressed by the way you persuade rank and file Christians on your side of the Atlantic to regard men who deride their own Bible as "flawed and fallible" as true bishops rather than the stuffed purple shirts we have made them. Fortunately, the inertia over the Canterbury affair meant that Dr. Carey’s own status was not enhanced by drawing attention to his stance on the ‘Big Issue’. He must not become a rallying point at the Lambeth Jamboree.

Continue, therefore, to major on the minors. Point to ‘faithful middle-aged couples’ as the common goal of the gay community. Say nothing in England about American ‘Queer theology’ and its intention to ‘deconstruct’ heterosexual marriage. Downplay biblical language about the ‘Bride of Christ’ as mere metaphor (and, where possible, sexist stereotyping). Don’t even allow yourself to think about the Reality it might represent - that way lies joy! Encourage the English Christians to go on debating amongst themselves. After all, their own gay members are mostly nice enough people - a flaw which in this case works in our favour. Don’t let them look at what is happening in their society, much less at what is happening in America.

With perseverance we may ensure that within the next decade the English church will have cut off the very branch on which it has sat for centuries, by denying the Scriptures and the Christ they reveal. Into the resulting vacuum we may pour anything we like for the majority, whilst the minority who still crave moral guidance will find it in the surviving religions which are no threat to ourselves.

And so, Screwtape, I bid farewell. But remain alert. In these modern times we must still remember that behind Our Father’s ‘Smiley Face’ there hides a frowning emptiness on which none of us would wish to look.

Your Brother in Torments