"Screwtape" Ringtones? Wha....?

I posted on my blog about this, but I'd like you reasonable folks to give me your take. Here is the body of my post:

Released just last month (presumably to target the Halloween crowd), the Focus on the Family Radio Theater has come out with a dramatic production of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. But the offerings, and the manner in which they are being offered disturbs my spirit. I read this small book some years ago, and somewhere in a box we have a version on cassette. For my part, it served to create a heightened sense of the spiritual warfare that occurs each day, in each of our lives. Here is the description from http://www.screwtape.com/downloads/ the website :

“Featuring a top-notch cast, cinema-quality sound and more than four hours of delightfully disturbing (and often diabolically humorous) entertainment, The Screwtape Letters will open your eyes and ears to the devil’s schemes — and to the One who has overcome them.”

Was this really the author’s intent? Delight? And would he support the free downloads offered, such as Screwtape wallpaper, ringtones (including “Screwtape’s Revenge,” and “Underworld March”), computer icons (featuring a demon with glowing eyes, flames, and flying pitchforks) and other “infernal devices”? To look at the website, you begin to wonder who the “star” of this show really is.

Admittedly, I am an absolute Scrooge when it comes to Halloween, so my sensibilities are perhaps more offended than most. Doesn’t this just play into the hand of the adversary’s agenda, to entice us to be entertained by (and even laugh at) Satan and his minions and devices?

Is this really all in the name of fun, or should believers be concerned? What do you think?

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Anne Sokol's picture

i'm totally not a stinge, i dont think, but i don't let my kids around occult things. i don't know that this classifies as occult, per se, but it has the same feel.

someone else might say that it's harmless, and maybe it is, but it gives me the willies.

going to fortune tellers and believing in curses is very real here in ukraine, it's not carnival, so maybe i've developed more sensibility to this stuff b/c of that?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Quote:
The videos, wallpaper, ringtones and other infernal devices included here were never intended for you, or, indeed, for any of us. You see, to access what is available below is to gain vital insights into how to fight those beings who would otherwise devour you. And while you're at it, you might as well enjoy a few choice samples of this dramatic twist on a most diabolical comedy.

Wallpaper and ringtones are going to help me gain vital insights into how to fight Satan?

I seem to recall Lewis saying that he found writing the book unpleasant- I don't think the light-hearted commercialism surrounding this production fits in with his intent.

Diane Heeney's picture

Yes, there is a difference between the wry humor that Lewis employs in this piece, and the flippant "feel" of what Focus on the Family has done with this site.

What I remember is that most of Lewis' struggle with the writing of this was due to the mental gymnastics in substituting bad for good, and good for bad. "Dry and gritty" were the words he used to describe his writing experience with Screwtape.

What I did not know is that he put together a study guide to go along with the book. I came across it in an internet search. To me, this speaks to the fact that he intended this to be didactic, not purely entertainment. And the whole glowing eyes, flying pitchforks and having-the-cool-tune-for-my-iPod thing really flies in the face of the message of the book. This is "Focus on the Family"??

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

rogercarlson's picture

Not long ago, I heard an advertisement for a play version of this in Chicago. It was on a major Chicago Radio station. At the time I thought iw as odd. I wonder if these two things are some time of spinoff? I don't mind the book done in drama form per se....but all of the silly eyes and pitch forkes.....I find disturbing.
Also, when I read the book 15 years ago, I took Screwtape to be more corporate person....not a rock-n-roll kinda character. I find that odd too

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Diane Heeney's picture

Not sure if this is their way of trying to make the book more marketable or what. The dramatization is not what I find troubling (the tape recording we have is dramatized...but nothing over the top)...it is the promo package and bells and whistles, which, if you visited this site and did not know the gist of the book, would really leave you wondering (and still does, even if you do get the gist). What impression does an unbeliever come away with, after having visited there?

This seems to be a grievously wasted opportunity to me. Perhaps I haven't searched carefully enough, but I don't find much reference to God at all, or any kind of invitation to seekers who may have googled "Satan," "underworld," "devil," or some such and arrived there.

On the Share page, this is said:

Quote:
Share is a most unpleasant word, what with its connotations of charity and giving — something a self-respecting demon would never be caught dead... well, would never be caught doing. The very idea is dreadful, in fact. But if share you must, this is the place to find banners, Twitter feeds, or audio and video clips to put on your own Web site or share with your (we can scarcely bring ourselves to say it) church.

It is supposed to be humorous. Maybe I am a fuddy-duddy. I believe spiritual warfare is not a topic to be trifled with, and should be handled more carefully than this. I have emailed them to express my concerns.

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

Anne Sokol's picture

can you write them?

maybe they're trying to have a christian version of something in the harry potter genre?

Diane Heeney's picture

They have an email http://family.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/family.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php?p_sid=... ]contact form on the Focus on the Family website.

Anne, The Screwtape Letters has been around for a long time (published first in 1941), and has been translated into many languages. It is considered to be a classic and was even a "best seller." Pardon me if you already know this. It seemed from your comments you were unfamiliar with the book. Here is a review from Amazon.com which summarizes well:

Quote:
The Screwtape Letters is Lewis's classic collection of diabolical correspondence. In it, a senior devil gives continued advice to his protégé on how best to tempt his victim and keep him from salvation.

Lewis does not propose any concrete doctrine on devils here, and this is not his point. Rather he focuses on highlighting the ways, both large and small, that Christians are distracted from God. Lewis explores the dangers of not being purposeful toward God and life, as well as what happens to people when they give in to temptation.

The book is presented as a collection of letters, all from Screwtape to Wormwood. But Lewis does a good job of making the conversation not feel one-sided, and he does a fantastic job with the devils' personalities. In fact the book is rather deeper than this, as there are two other plots going on. First is the fate of Wormwood's man. Second is the relationship between the devils, and the fate of Wormwood.

The Screwtape Letters is deeper than it appears, and is thoroughly thought-provoking. Most every reader will find elements in it to which he or she can relate. Christians of all maturity levels can benefit from this book.

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

Anne Sokol's picture

Diane Heeney wrote:
They have an email http://family.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/family.cfg/php/enduser/ask.php?p_sid=... ]contact form on the Focus on the Family website.

Anne, The Screwtape Letters has been around for a long time (published first in 1941), and has been translated into many languages.

i know, i'm a lewis fan, i just got to wondering if they want use this classic as a way to tap into that kind of supernatural activity like the potter stuff is generating. seems just really weird. did they release it around halloween or has it been for a while?

Diane Heeney's picture

Yes, as I said in the OP, no doubt they were targeting the Halloween crowd by releasing it last month. I just find it surprising coming from this group. Maybe I shouldn't be? I understood Focus on the Family to be about, well, biblical family values.

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

ChristyM's picture

Focus on the Family seems to just be about attracting attention and making a buck. They featured Carrie Prejean on several radio interviews during the spring (I was student teaching and would sometimes listen to FOTF on the drive home). They definitely made her out to be the victim. Even when it was "just" racy photos circulating around, there was no acknowledgement of that nor any discussion of the propriety of Christian women participating in beauty pageants. Her mother's version of her poor little daughter made it sound like she was 9, rather than a young woman. And don't get me started about the for-sale artwork they used to feature (maybe still do) in the magazine every December . . . I don't make it part of my routine to listen to or read Focus materials any more Sad

Diane Heeney's picture

By way of update, here is the response I received from Focus on the Family:

Quote:
Warm greetings from Focus on the Family, and many thanks for your recent e-mail. Honest feedback like yours is always welcome, and we were so sorry to learn of your disappointment with our new Web site for the audio drama version of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. We appreciate the opportunity to address your concerns.

Like you, we believe that spiritual warfare is no trifling matter, and we want to assure you that we have no intent of being flippant or dismissive of its significance. Rather, it’s our desire through “The Screwtape Letters” Web site to engage folks and emphasize the seriousness of this matter without being overly dark -- and to do so in a manner consistent with Lewis’ treatment of the subject. At the same time, given that our producers sought to bring the same level of depth in The Screwtape Letters’ storyline to the audio version, it may be helpful to mention that we’ve rated this resource for those age 12 or older; we would encourage families to give similar caution when considering allowing younger children to visit “The Screwtape Letters” Web site.

*sigh*

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

ChristyM's picture

"(E)ngaging folks" . . . . and incidentally selling some trinkets, eh? And this differs from Jesuit casuistry exactly how??? Just saying . . .

Diane Heeney's picture

To give them some credit...all these goodies are "free". But, at what cost? KWIM?

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com

ChristyM's picture

Ok, so I was hyperventilating a bit and forgot the free with suggested donation. But, yes, I am also having trouble seeing how this is helping fulfill a ministry's stated purpose of strengthening and supporting families.

I'd better quit before I say something else I may regret later.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Quote:
...to do so in a manner consistent with Lewis’ treatment of the subject..

My oldest son would say "Someone's been smokin' crack." HOW is any of this portrayed in a manner consistent with Lewis' treatment of the subject?

Diane Heeney's picture

Susan R wrote:
Quote:
...to do so in a manner consistent with Lewis’ treatment of the subject..

My oldest son would say "Someone's been smokin' crack." HOW is any of this portrayed in a manner consistent with Lewis' treatment of the subject?


This was my response:
Quote:
Thanks Kathryn for replying to my email and addressing my concerns.

I agree that Lewis employed his own unique brand of wry humor that shows up in most things he's written. But, I have to wonder if he'd be supportive of Christian kids using icons of demons, for instance. The whole pitchfork image is something I find particularly offensive...to make Satan into the comical guy in red tights, carrying a pitchfork (one of which is flying through one of the icons) plays right into the agenda of an adversary who would wish for us not to take him seriously. I am not trying to be prudish or stodgy. I love humor. I just don't think this is funny, with all due respect. I promote this book, but in the spirit I believe Lewis would have. Did you know he actually wrote a study guide for it? See it here. That tells me he took it seriously, even if he did employ some sarcasm.

Thanks for your time and consideration. I don't want to belabor this. It is clear that you folks feel you are in the right to portray things as they have been put out there for public consumption, and my opinion is not apt to change either. I just felt I needed to say something, I have, and I thank you for listening.

Sincerely,
Diane Heeney

"I pray to God this day to make me an extraordinary Christian." --Whitefield http://strengthfortoday.wordpress.com