From: His Exalted Darkness Malaphar, Denizen of Darkness and Strife, beloved Lieutenant of Beelzbul, Prince of Darkness and the Powers of the Air**
To: Barakiel the Accursed, Faithful Servant of Division
Re: COSK Portland 2014 Line Item Action Plan
My most foul, impish, and dear colleague, it gives me the most sublime delight to hear of your appointment to the task of crafting our glorious Master’s line item action plan for that paltry band of scum known as Church of the Servant King in Portland, Oregon. While we have been beset with failures of the worst order in our HR department this year, I believe that your appointment to this task is most promising.
You have certainly proved yourself worthy in you appointments to previous tasks, and, as you surely know at the outset, I expect nothing less than a perfect enactment of our line item action plan for COSK in the following year. Indeed, I expect your task to be all too easy. So much of the work is already done for you: they live in that veritable den of hipster laziness and hippy dirtiness that is Portland, Oregon. This alone you must see is a point in your favor. But more importantly they spend constant and consistent amounts of time together and this can only be to your benefit. One of the most amusing features of our Enemy’s most prized creation is how much they infuriate and annoy one another if only we can manage to keep them in the same room long enough. The natural tendency of every man and woman towards selfishness, frustration, insecurity, and dysfunctional power-seeking is always to our advantage when we are confronted with people who spend time together. And so that is where we begin, with their life together.
This then will be your first line of attack: the shape of their time together, whether in small groups or large, formal or informal, you must at every point seek to orient their time together in ways that serve our ends. I will briefly list just three of the most important:
First, keep them talking about each other. This is one of, if not the most important way to shape and guide their time together to its proper end. Whenever possible, when any two or more of them are gathered together, induce them to always be talking about, and dwelling on the strife, weakness, and trouble that they may have with other members of the congregation. Let every conversation they have be a time to air grievances, annoyances, gossip, anger, and frustration with their brothers and sisters. But crucial to this is to avoid a grave misstep: make sure that their conversations are always with others, not with the sources of their frustration and difficulty. Indeed it is most important that they spend all their time being actively held back from actually talking to those who anger and consternate them. At all costs keep them talking to others about others. Never let brothers and sisters talk to one another in openness, lest in place of bitterness and distance, new closeness and trust might, catastrophically be formed.
Secondly, at all costs breed isolation. Whenever you can, help your subjects as much as possible to be alone with their thoughts. This will be difficult in a community such as this, but step 1 will very much help serve this end. And while complete isolation will not be possible, what is very much within your grasp is making people desire isolation in and through poisoning the time they do spend with others, as we have already begun to discuss. Continuing to encourage gossip is vital, but it will be insufficient if you do not also inspire passive-aggressiveness, bitterness, reluctance to speak openly, secret-keeping, and mistrust as much as possible. All of these will help guide your subjects apart, deeper into themselves, which is, of course, precisely where we want them.
Finally, you must, whenever possible incite jealousy. This is another vital step that you must never neglect, my faithful colleague. You must, at every point inspire in your subjects a deep spirit of jealousy. Make them constantly compare themselves with others and compare how others treat them with how they treat others. Comparison, comparison, comparison. That is to be your mantra. When they look at a brother you must have them thinking about how that brother cares more about someone else than them. Constantly impress on them a feeling of being neglected and slighted by others and soon you won’t even have to work at it. Humans are masters of fantasy, especially when it comes to feeling disliked and slighted. Their pride is always inflated and always fragile, so learn this tune and play it always: Comparison, comparison, comparison. Whenever they compare themselves and their relationships among themselves, our work is done for us. For comparison does not allow them to actually see each other. It hides them from one another, for all they see is what they don’t have, or don’t think they have from each other. We must keep them distracted in this way. For if they see each other, rather than what they want from each other, then we have lost altogether.
If you have begun by the strict observance of these points you have begun well, my noble colleague. But there is much more that is vital if you are to succeed at making this coming year one that truly serves our Illustrious Prince’s ends. We must not only fracture and poison their mode of relating to each other and being together, but we must undergird this with the strongest points of division to keep them estranged. Frustration, anger, even bitterness can all be put aside if a moment of openness breaks in on our well-crafted work. To prevent this as many walls as possible must be put between people to make these moments less likely. I will begin by introducing you to two of the most powerful of all our tools.
Let Money and Power Rule
Remember our blessed tool, money (which as you surely learned during orientation, is simply the most tangible form of power we have at our disposal in North America these days). As you are well aware, we have used money effectively to keep the human animals from their Creator’s hopes for them for millennia. But challenges ever arise as we continue to wield this great and mighty weapon, and it is easy to make mistakes, some of which could totally undo your purposes. Let me begin with the most important points.
Do not imagine that exorbitant greed is your best ally when attempting to drive people apart through the power of money. To be sure miserliness, hoarding, and unrestricted greed is a wonderful thing when we can instill it in the human animals, but this is often harder than we would like. Despite our best efforts to desensitize and deaden the human animals to it, such total givenness to the glorious power of money seems to leave them feeling empty, shallow, lame, and pathetic. Eventually it seems to wear out with the money being squandered and the human tragically becoming wiser to its devices, or with disillusionment, despair, and longing for something true and real that all too easily becomes an opportunity for our enemy to strike. So for many years I have encouraged an alternative approach: rather than greed, encourage a basic sense of possession and entitlement. It is not important that we make the humans into greedy hoarding beasts, as lovely as that would be. All we need is for them to feel like the money they have is their own possession, something eminently reasonable and rational. We want them to be generous so long as they remember that they are being generous with what is safely and securely theirs. Make sure that in every act of generosity and sharing, there is always a string attached, an expectation levied, and the seed of a resentment planted in the event that their giving does not produce the result they want.
What is altogether important is that nothing ever be truly and freely given. Pure and unconditional gift is the character of our most horrible Enemy, cursed be his name. What we require is that every attempt at gift-giving come with a string attached. Let generosity and sharing happen, yes, but make sure that there is always the string of expectation attached, which is always ever-eager to turn into bitterness and strife.
To this end it is important to instill in the people a sense of compulsion to be complete in and of themselves — and this is true in all areas of their lives, not merely in the financial sector. Let neediness and vulnerability always be thought of as something to avoid at all costs. Make them feel the shame of not having it all together. Make them feel powerless compared to others when they find themselves in need. And this is only too easy for us because humans are always just one moment away from total and desperate need for one another. We must teach them to fear this, to avoid it, to scorn it. For if they were to embrace it, all our purposes would be undone and the power of money, indeed all of our most illustrious powers would suddenly fall away and they would again see each other rather than themselves and their own rights and wants.
There is of course the other side of this that must be kept in mind as well. For those with less power and money, you must cause them to resent this fact. You must teach them to hate their neediness, to be jealous, to feel entitled to what they do not have so that the result may be the same for all: loss of relationship, loss of trust, and the growth of bitterness and suspicion. This, my dear friend is our great endgame when it comes to money and power. And a great ally in this endeavor is to make them forget as much as possible that flexibility is strength rather than weakness. Encourage stubbornness, standing your ground, drawing lines in the sand, and staying the course at all times. Flexibility is an ever-present threat to this whole enterprise, because again, it offers these foul creatures another opportunity to do what we must prevent at all costs: see one another rather than what they want from one another or what they despise in one another. Because of this we must discourage flexibility at all costs. It leads, almost inevitably to openness, that vile and disgusting light.
But no, shut flexibility out by reinforcing distinction at every point. Make sure the weak know they are weak and the strong know they are strong and make sure they all know where they stand. Accentuate the differences between people and their stations and abilities whenever possible. All this will serve your ultimate aim: division. This is the key to money, and more comprehensively, power. Our work is to, at every point, accentuate and make plain the differences in power between people. The have-nots need to know that they are less, and the haves need to know that they are more. Our cause is destroyed whenever people begin to think “There is no longer….” It is our job to make plain that all the distinctions between people, distinctions of power, ability, wealth, competence, intelligence, and charisma are maintained. Where one person knows they are less than another and one person knows they are more than another, our goal is already accomplished.
This will be the brunt of your work among this people this year. To sow the seeds of distinction. The work is already begun for you. Convince the young and energetic that the old are uncool and out of step, convince them that their elders simply don’t understand them or the world of today. Convince the old that the young are naive, irresponsible, and reckless, that they are fools who know nothing and cannot be trusted. At every point, strive to insert distinctions. It is our Enemy’s work to cancel distinctions into a gross and vile unity. Our Enemy would have this people simply shrug and walk past these distinctions as if they don’t matter. This cannot be allowed to happen. It is your task to keep these distinctions healthy, to give these mighty fictions the appearance of strength. For with distinction comes distance, bitterness, suspicion, fear, and distrust. These are the fruits we covet. But all this is but preamble to that which is of first importance, and what we must come to at last as we begin the final stage of this tutorial.
The Priority of Self-Care
Listen well now, my dear friend and colleague, for this is the culmination, the apogee, the ultimate height for which we aim: the self. This was our enemy’s greatest mistake, that he would create human beings as individual selves, as persons who can either lose themselves in the lives of others, or claim themselves as their own — which is to say, ours. For as you know the person who lives for themself is finally and utterly ours. And this, of course is our fullest and most glorious aim: for every human person to think themselves self-possessed, self-enclosed, self-controlled, self-competent, and self-sufficient, for at that moment they belong to us. At that moment they function perfectly as citizen of our great Master’s kingdom.
But as we saw with money, we must realize that we cannot simply encourage the humans to become selfish monsters consumed only with their own desires. No, such excessive self-consumption, though glorious to behold, is extreme, unsatisfying, and unattractive to all but the most diabolical of human beings. Our course must again be the one of subtlety, of reasonableness, and rational explanation.
For what we must encourage, incite, nurture, and birth in this people is a sense of self, and self-care that is prudent, rational, understandable, eminently reasonable from any human point of view. We must make them believe, first of all in the power of sequence. This is the most crucial point, for it relates to what we have said above about power and money. It is of the utmost importance that these pathetic people, this miserable little body come to realize that that they must first care for themselves, so that they then can care for each other. The chronology here is most important, so pay close attention.
Our enemy, you see, has no place for sequence and chronology. In his cruelty and malice he would see his creatures serving each other, not out of their strength and wellness, but out of their weakness and sickness. He would see his creatures love each other, not out of well-established security and control, but out of complete insecurity and uncertainty. He would have them care for one another, not out of being whole, but out of being broken. He would have them heal one another, not by being well, but by being sick together. He would have them give to one another, not out of their excess, but when they have nothing. He would have them show hospitality to strangers, not when they have room and resources, but when they are crowded and exhausted. He would have them love one another, not out of attraction, but unto senseless self-forgetting sacrifice. We all know this is his aim.
What we must incite and secure in this people then is something that will sound almost right to their ears (and, fortunately they will find many friends who will believe the same wisdom). We must teach them the lesson of sequence. They must come to believe that they must first care for themselves and only then can they serve each other and the world. The sequence is everything, everything altogether. It is for us to convince them that when they think only of themselves, when they secure their own life, when they shut themselves off from others, when they hide in their houses and rooms, when they withhold their gifts, their words of encouragement, their actions of help and service, when they do all these things it is for us to convince them that they must do this first, so that later they may be able to help others.
This is the glory of our Great Father’s plan: all of our enemy’s prized creatures will love and serve themselves, and do so thinking that it is just the preliminary step to loving and serving others. They will think, when they keep silent, when they stay in their rooms, when they do not give, when they do not answer, when they take care of themselves, that they are doing so out of the purest and most Christian intent: to be strong enough to be good and righteous. They must believe this, my dear colleague. They must be made to believe our glorious message of sequence. First they must care for themselves, then they can care for others. If they believe this beautiful piece of our propaganda all else will fall into place without a word. They will think of themselves as taking the first step toward sainthood, when in fact they have fallen into the never-ending service of the self. This, my sweet friend is our goal, hope, and destiny.
Never let them imagine that they can love when they are stressed, and tired, and angry. Never let them believe that they can serve and give themselves away without first being centered, whole, and put together. Let them always worry and suspect that if they give up their strength, give up their control, and give up their power, that they will be trampled underfoot, emptied out and left for dead. Always make them worry that complete and total self-giving will use them up and leave them empty and alone. Make them think that responsible, reasonable boundaries are healthy, good, and ultimately will make them better servants. We know the truth: that once we have them drawing boundaries, the boundary is all there is. Make them fear vulnerability above all else. Make them ashamed of their weakness, of all the ways they know they are pathetic, small, and unfinished. Make them believe — not wholly or on the surface even, just in some small dark corner of their heart, that’s all it takes — that they are unlovable in their frailty, weakness, twistedness, and brokenness. Make them believe that to be together they have to have it together. That they have pull themselves up and make something of themselves, that they must prove themselves, establish themselves, take care of themselves. They will think they are doing this so they can then, consequently be for others, but that is precisely our great device: for once we have them for themselves, their self is all they shall have.
And this, my dear colleague is our ultimate aim: that they should be consumed with their own selves, with their own health, security, and boundaries, all the while thinking it is for the greater glory of our Enemy. And this is most critical now at this time, my friend. Nothing could be worse in the coming year than if this despicable band of followers of the false way were to forget themselves, their health, their security, and boundaries and pour themselves out into one another and beyond. After all we have struck great victories in the last year among them and among their dear friends in Eugene, Forest Grove, and San Francisco. We have done well in sowing seeds of strife and division, we have inflicted losses and led some who were once faithful away into delusion and folly. We have even killed, when needed and will do so again. All we need now is for those that remain to close slowly, imperceptibly in on themselves. All we need is for them to believe that it will never be truly good again, that joy will always be far away and they must, therefore, take care of themselves a bit in order to go on. All we need is for them to believe that their own selves need to be cared for first. And then they will love and serve each other. That is where we will catch them, where we will drag them down into the prison of self.
Nothing could be worse for us this year — and let me impress on you the seriousness of this, my friend — than for this people to truly forget themselves and throw their lives away for the sake of their brothers and sisters, both among themselves and among the communities of their friends. All our work could be undone in an instant we we to let this happen. Before we knew it they might become bold, energized, and fearless, and it would seem to them the most ordinary thing in the world. All that stands between them and their vile Master’s aim for them is the prison of the self. In an instant, all the powers that powers that we have crafted and engrafted into them might suddenly be tossed aside like worthless rags and they might forget themselves in the love of each other, and in the love of any other that they might happen upon! And this cannot be allowed. We have invested too much work in sewing seeds of division and strife to allow them to forget themselves and throw themselves into life. It is your responsibility to make sure this does not happen. You will be held to account for this.
Well my sweet Barakiel, with these exhortations I must leave you. I believe your task has been made clear. Failure, as you know, will not be tolerated, but do not worry. We have every reason, from a human point of view, to expect your success. I must now turn to others matters. As usual the home office is buried in mountains of paperwork to which I must attend. You know your task. Get to it. I shall be in touch soon and I shall expect a full and satisfactory report.
I remain yours always, in the service of his dark majesty,
Malaphar, Denizen of Darkness and Strife
** So, obviously the format of this is a blatant rip off of C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. I wrote this as part of an assignment in my congregation to try to describe a year of us living life together in a “miserly” or fundamentally “withholding” manner. This is what I somehow came up with. I don’t know really if it’s right (though I think a couple of the paragraphs are pretty ok). I post it for enjoyment, or you know, whatever. Stay tuned for the Malaphar Family Christmas Special.