There are two weeks left in the semester, and I’ve been writing papers. Not to belabor a point that I have probably beaten to death already, but writing in the evangelical Christian voice is not my favorite thing. I was reminded of this quote from C.S. Lewis, talking about his ease of writing in the diabolical voice for The Screwtape Letters:
Though I had never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment. The ease came, no doubt, from the fact that the device of diabolical letters, once you have thought of it, exploits itself spontaneously… It would run away with you for a thousand pages if you gave it its head. But though it was easy to twist one’s mind into the diabolical [evangelical] attitude, it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp. The work into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst, and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness, and geniality [critical thinking, truthfulness to my nonbelief, any trace of my actual self] had to be excluded. It almost smothered me before I was done. It would have smothered my readers if I had prolonged it.
(from the Preface to the 1961 edition of The Screwtape Letters)
The fact that I remembered some random portion of a preface to The Screwtape Letters while writing final papers probably tells you what kind of Christian (or what kind of Wheaton student) I was– the kind who was constantly reading or re-reading one C.S. Lewis book or another. Anyway, I remember that when I read The Screwtape Letters as a Christian, I had the same kind of reaction as a reader that Lewis said he had as a writer– I really liked it, but there was still something about it that crept under my skin and made me feel depressed. Like a good dead baby joke. (Yeah, I’m an atheist. I like dead babies.)
I wonder if my professors can tell, when I write in the evangelical voice, that it’s not my real voice. So much of evangelical culture is like that anyway, requiring fluency in the language, that they probably can’t. Like people who stand up and raise their arms during worship at all-school communion– some of them are just regurgitating choreography. But you can never tell.