Mark Shea is a popular writer, blogger, and speaker. He has been a regular contributor to This Rock since the mid-1990s and is a member of Catholic Answers’ speakers’ bureau. This article first appeared in the July-August 2000 issue.
Note to the reader: This letter, through some quirk in the cosmic ether, found its way onto a Christian Internet bulletin board shortly after someone posted various badly spelled obscenities as proof of his ability to "think for himself" and tweak the noses of believers everywhere. Little did he realize that he himself was the subject of discussion among the demons, this snippet of which somehow reached earth. I pass on this letter to offer some insight into the spiritual dynamics at work in such acts of "free thought."
My dear Slimemold:
I see the Lowerarchy still has in force a solid policy for keeping the human patients in that delightful state of perpetual adolescence that fancies the mere mention of sexual intercourse as equivalent to blasphemy. American humans—being apostate Puritans by and large—are particularly rewarding specimens in this regard and make such delightful sport for us.
By all means, continue to urge your patient to spray-paint "graphic sexual references" (as the creatures love to call them) across cyberspace in the belief that he is standing up for some grand principle of freedom or whatnot. You may wonder if it is possible for even a human creature not to see what a venal and pathetic little gesture of vandalism such a squeak of puerility is—like noisily wiping one’s nose on one’s sleeve during a philosophical debate—but it is possible, Slimemold, it is! Play your man well and he will actually fancy he is a titanic creative force for upsetting the Established Order of Things, a Miltonesque Satan who dares hurl his intellectual might against the Powers of Oppression.
Yes, Slimemold, the capacity for vainglory among these hairless bipeds is virtually limitless. In such a creature’s fascination with himself at such moments it never occurs to him that sex is the creation of the Enemy, not of us, and that one of his main purposes is to maximize its pleasure by making it an expression of love so profound that the creature would be dazzled by the least imagination of it (if it had any imagination).
Happily, your creature is so impoverished in its inner life that it can only conceive of "sin" as some breaking of some arbitrary "rules." It is utterly blind to the fact that here, as in so much else, the rule is made for man, not man for the rule. The Enemy hates the sexual dysfunctions the creature mentioned in its post not out of a terror of pleasure but for much the same reason he hates to see his children in solitary confinement, or lonely, or despised: because he has made the little vermin for love and communion with one another.
The Enemy loathes the strip-mining of pleasure from that deeper reality of love for the same reason he loathes watching a lonely and depressed obese man try to strip-mine the pleasure of Twinkies wolfed down in secret from the larger beauty of a table surrounded by love and laughter. The creature, blind to the disgusting reality of mutual joy that is not only marriage, but friendship, camaraderie, and all other sorts of human communion, can only imagine that the Enemy forbids misuse of sex out of a Puritan loathing of pleasure (much as the glutton imagines God has some special vendetta against Twinkies). See to it, therefore, that it never crosses his mind to ask whom Christians think invented sex. Rather, continue to fill his adolescent mind with as much self-congratulation as it will hold for his "courage" in pointing out that sexual pleasure exists (as though none of the other bipeds in the Enemy’s camp, many of whom have children, had ever heard this).
And let him keep the nom de plume "Satan." Besides being amusing to Our Father Below (as the posturings of a skinny adolescent are funny to a bodybuilder), it helps immensely in reinforcing that bogus sense of grandeur of purpose that so blinds your patient to the delightfully petty nature of his actions. With luck, you will be able to turn him from the (at present) relatively minor sins of the flesh—which are the unfortunate fascination of adolescence—and move him into the really productive sins of the spirit (pre-eminently pride) which are the real goals of our work among the creatures.
Never forget what the creature must never discover: that since sex is fundamentally the creation of the Enemy, we are always forced to act on his playing field, with the consequent danger that the creature may one day awaken to the fact that it is we, not he, who despise sex (as we despise all Creation) and mean to rob him of it and all else that is good forever. As a tempter with eons of experience, I assure you that I would much rather have your man proceed directly to the spiritual sin of pride than dally about with the much duller sins of the flesh.
With pride there is never the danger of "falling in love." With sins of the flesh there is always the chance the Enemy will awaken in the patient some slumbering ember of genuine love for another person and thereby draw him to the possibility of the ultimate love that he has given these creatures in his own unspeakably dreadful incarnation, death, and resurrection. Pride is happily immune from all such dangers.
Unfortunately, though our advertising department is making excellent strides, most of the cultural bellwethers of these American humans have not yet been trained to value such cold, imperial sin above these unutterably more flaccid sins of the warm flesh.
Ah, well. Hell wasn’t built in a day. Meantime, keep me posted on the creature’s progress.
Until then, I remain, Your affectionate uncle, Corkscrew