Screwtape Writes Again: The Luciferian Laptop

Screwtape Writes Again: The Luciferian Laptop by Doug Groothuis

My Dear Wormwood:

Your new charge is a seminary student, a young man of twenty-eight years of age, with plenty of idealism, but little experience or knowledge of the Bible or of his own soul. Make note of that! You know how our Father Below loves ignorance and reckless enthusiasm. The propaganda on the other side says that “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” So, we must be on our guard not to let these pious pussy cats get too much of it. Better to give them “blind faith,” which we can spin as the deeper spirituality. Since we love darkness, the “blind” part fits us so well.

I’ll have much more to say to you about tempting this miserable creature, but let’s start with a blind spot that we get so much mileage out of with so many: technology. Yes, yes, I know we have experienced some losses to the subterranean cause at the hand of technology: the Utopian and unrealistic Christian message has gotten around the world through technology. But let your man think only about the reach of technology, not its subtler effects. Your man has been accustomed since his earliest youth to have it dancing around him and dancing within him. He never gives it a second (or even first) thought–except on how to use it. Oh, how he can use it! He got an iPod as soon as he could afford one. He “traded” music files before it became illegal. I must add, in my sublime humility, that I myself invented that term for theft–“trade.” Oh, how the suckers ate it up.

Well, back to business. He was raised in front of the television, never drives without music or the radio on (and got satellite radio as soon as it came out), he takes his laptop everywhere and has been known to sit for hours with his friends while playing on it (while they play with theirs). I once spied him with his iPod blasting in his ears while he was looking at his laptop and talking on his cell phone! It made my week. He seldom reads, but was able to get a 3.5 GPA at the university by his native smarts, a lot of BS, and plenty of easy classes filled with PowerPoint graphics, film clips, and so on. And he thanks God for all of it. How I love this kind of faith. It is positively contagious in America: so much money, so much freedom, so little knowledge. We are doing well here, Wormwood.

Now, here is your plan. This seminary (as they call them) can give him seminal thoughts about the enemy–you know, all that rot about his holiness, power, love, wisdom… I just cannot go on. He will have entire classes on theology (but none, thank darkness, on demonology), the Bible, and apologetics (the thing we hate the most; rational thought in service of Christianity is just too dangerous). It could truly be harmful for our Luciferian cause if that young man realizes the possibilities these years could afford him. He could become a person of knowledge and wisdom–or at least be well on the way. If so, he might even make our Top Ten Hit List in his town when he takes a church.

But do not fear, we have an ally: technology. These besotted earthlings love their gizmos. In fact, they often worship them. (Really, they do. They are transfixed by them, amazed in the presence of a new one, and heartsick when one of them fails to satisfy.) They think these devices are neutral tools, and they always need more tools. They have become “tools of their tools,” just as Thoreau said before we even invented television. They never apply any of their precious theology to how or whether they use technologies. Even in all their precious prattle about “mentoring” and “spiritual formation,” they never think of how technologies might affect their souls. And, oh, how I love this ignorance! It befits them, the slimy believers.

So, here are the specifics. I get bat-bumps just thinking about it! Tell your charge that he must do as much as he can while in seminary. He must multitask. Why stop now?! He must bring his laptop into the classroom and never be far from it. Tell him that he needs not to only take notes on it, but to scan the Internet for related articles, stories, photographs, and more. Then tempt him to send emails, check his E-Harmony page (more on the possibilities of postmodern, digital romance in another letter), to shop, and to play video games. Any twinge of conscience that he is not fully attending to the professor or that he is not being respectful can be blasted in a moment by telling him the following:

“You are young. You are a digital native. You know how to use all these devices and you can do them all well all the time. The old professor can be interesting, but he is tethered to the past. He is a digital immigrant. He doesn’t get it. He doesn’t even send text messages and hasn’t figured out his cell phone. In fact, his phone looks like a pet rock it is so primitive. So, pick up the highlights of the lecture (especially when he starts yelling), but keep exploring the gigantic world of the Internet. You can do it all, be everywhere all the time.”

There it is, Wormwood. You may be surprised just how effective (and humorous, at least to us) this strategy is in keeping knowledge and sobriety away from your charge. And, for hell’s sake, do not let him read Jacques Ellul or Neil Postman.

Your affectionate uncle,

(Photo Credit: Manuel Schmalstieg / Flickr)

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About the Contributor

Doug Groothuis

Doug Groothuis
Doug Groothuis is Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary, where he has served since 1993. He is the author of eleven books including, The Soul in Cyberspace, Truth Decay, and Christian Apologetics. He has been writing and teaching on the philosophy of technology for many years, thus making him a pain to many people. 


  1. Geoff Hazel says:

    Nicely done! What would you recommend by Jacques Ellul or Neil Postman on this topic?

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