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On Giving Up

Author's note: The following is part of a satirical series modeled on the Screwtape Letters. The writer of these letters is training an underling in the art of keeping justice out of discipleship, and, eventually, the life of the church.

Schimmel, you fiend, you barely gave me a chance to supervise this one! You just learned of this Kelly, assessed her progress towards a life of justice as discipleship, and have already steered her off the path. This is a great accomplishment. Yet I worry you may have missed a few steps, so I'll offer what guidance I can.

You let her learn and get angry about several new things at once--good! That must have sped up the frustration process. And then, clever you, you dropped her off in a justice-apathetic community and severed her connection to anyone who might mentor her. Oh, the burning anger without constructive outlet! I hope you will continue your good work in the church to paint her as a crazy activist gone rogue. They absolutely cannot see Kelly as one of their own covenant children adding a new perspective on discipleship to the life of the congregation.

I see you've been experimenting with the online comments--good. Kelly seems an appropriate subject. She'll feel burnt by her home community, reach out online to the places where she first learned of justice, and inevitably read a news story or blog post that hits a nostalgic chord in her. Do not let her linger there, Schimmel. If you must, teach her to pursue the nostalgia, not the experiences that shifted her worldview. And then--BAM!--you hit Kelly in the face with a string of vicious comments. I'm sure you've seen that the best results come from undertones of truth veiled by aggressive hostility. This makes our subjects defensive and angry while completely obscuring any bits of truth that could have been conveyed. As a side benefit, this also thwarts any mutual learning or collaboration, which would be detrimental to our work. Oh Schimmel, you've done this one well. Kelly was left reeling, angry, and hurt. That is exactly where we want her.

You know she may soon be contacted by those fiendish justice types who first started her journey. Teach her hopelessness, Schimmel. Make her think she doesn't have a voice in her community. Convince her she's alone against a complex system of injustice that will always triumph. Tell her it's not worth getting involved with justice people if she won't be able to effect immediate change. Let her think that God's call to discipleship is results-based instead of relational.

I hope, Schimmel, that you'll be able to steer Kelly safely away from her church community. You know how those covenant bodies can be--any number of people might suddenly commit to walking with her on her journey. Get Kelly out as soon as possible. The church is full of dangerous messages, especially ones of Jesus restoring everything that has been broken and inviting his people to join him in the kingdom work. I'm gagging just thinking about it. I should warn you, though: it's hard to keep someone like Kelly out of the church. That is the danger of covenant communities--they don't give up easily. Yet if you succeed in isolating Kelly and leaving a bad taste in everyone's mouth, you will have done a great deal to accomplish our mission.


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