The Devil’s Data Plan

Dear Nephew,

Your incapacity for strategic thinking never ceases to astound me! Even I, the long-toothed Luddite that I am, have more electronic ingenuity than your poor pajama-footed self. Have you not considered the wealth of distractions at your disposal in the twenty-first century?

Your charge is swimming in a world of stimulation — valuable media for communicating a message, for sure, but equally valuable media for communicating no certain messages at all, which is even better. All you must do is direct that inundation of irrelevancy into his head by all possible avenues — and the avenues are abundant.

You can set him up with an RSS feed that is sure to keep him informed of all the important events of the day. Since we have some inside connections with those who determine what is important, you can rest assured that most of these messages will motivate very little war-waging for the Enemy. Saturate him with “news” and he will not be able to meaningfully examine any of it. It will dull his senses and shrivel his heart.

Your patient lives in a pivotal era — the Information Age. Given the right information, things could go very badly for us. Fortunately, these humans are self-congratulatory about how much they know, while knowing very little of anything important.

Continue to convince him that what is really important is that which comes to him quickly and second-hand. The more media, the weaker his capacity to make observations on his own and, therefore, the less likely he is to uncover our traps.

And I have not yet even touched on “social media” — the evidence of the human’s dullness is contained in that very description. Help him remain blissfully convinced that what it means to be social is to blab on (they call it “posting”) about every meaningless event from morning until night.

Nothing is more destructive to human “society” (and here I mean that close-knit sharing of life that is characterized by the Enemy’s weapon of self-sacrificing love) than the “me-monster.” What a delightful oxymoron social media is!

Oh, and keep him at it. Make sure he has as much technology at his disposal, so as to keep this stream of noise flowing without interruption. Your letter boasted that your charge had recently purchased a texting plan. You are way behind and must do better. Make sure that when he is at home, school, work, or play a screen is on and in front of him — especially when he is in the presence of other people.

Hell-forbid (that means it’s your job) that he becomes an empathetic listener, or a thoughtful respondent, or that he engages an actual person face to face. Face to Facebook is far better. Replace the sounds of the Enemy’s more delightful birds (let the humans not consider the sparrow!) with the incessant ping of Tweets (your old uncle surprises you, don’t I!). He carries a “smart” phone with him everywhere in his pocket, Nephew. Your task has never been easier.

You must admit that the Enemy is very creative. His image is certainly stamped on his crowning work. Look how they have created all of these great ways for communicating! It is left to us to twist those avenues as subtly and violently as possible, or at least drown the Message in a cacophony of noise. We’re doing quite well, I think — so long as imbeciles like you don’t mess the whole thing up.

Your Uncle Screwtape

(@ryangriffith) (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a pastor at Cities Church in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and a Senior Fellow at the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies.