A Letter from a Senior Devil on Texas

Dr. John Mark Reynolds | The Torrey Honors Institute | Friday, September 4, 2009

A Letter from a Senior Devil on Texas

The Texas Board of Education, the nation's second largest purchaser of public school textbooks, is revising its K-12 social studies curriculum and deciding how to characterize religion's influence on American history. Three consultants have recommended emphasizing the roles of the Bible, Christianity and the civic virtue of religion.

While installing some operating software, I found a version of the following letter accidentally embedded with the instructions. The importance to the topic of the Texas Board of Education decision is obvious, and since I had no way to contact the authors I decided to pass it on to you. Why a software company has access to infernal e-mail is a question that I will leave to their representatives at Wolfram and Hart. The e-mail follows:

From: Alcibiades
T Baalette

Subject: Texas Bible Decision

Sometimes the attitude of you junior devils fills me with worry about our future success. Your delight in the decision of the Texas Board of Education to teach the Bible for a year is understandable, but superficial. We can usually rely on politicians to muck things up, but this decision is a decidedly mixed bit of work for our general policy.

Of course, you hope that the same schools that have made that sickening saint Shakespeare stultifying or absent altogether in their curriculum will be able to do the same for the Bible. Your plans to get our "religious" friends to volunteer to teach the classes, especially those most likely to turn off high school students, is acceptable, but lacks imagination.

May I suggest that a better strategy is to get administrators to drop this new requirement on an already overburdened and underpaid teacher struggling with yet another demand from an out-of-touch legislature?

Such a policy can do two things at once. It will give us a bad class on the Bible (almost as good as no class!) and one less altruistic teacher.

Given our long-term strategy of making education as ineffectual as possible, placing the Bible in schools may do to religious comprehension what we have done to mathematical literacy.

However, you have grossly underestimated the danger of the class. First, it has students reading an important book that is part of their heritage. Surely, many of them whose minds are numbed by consumerist entertainment will be turned off, but it will present quite a few students with exposure to ideas.

How many hedonists have we lost by an unfortunate exposure to Jane Eyre? Our near total replacement of great texts with textbooks has been a great victory on this front. We might lose a student to reason if he meets Plato's Socrates, but what tempter has ever lost a soul to a textbook?

What will happen to our work in Texas if people start to understand their heritage? We have played up the bad parts, but what if will happen they come to see the religious side of someone like John Locke? What if they read the good bits of the Bible, the parts that formed their nation, as well as the parts that we have made difficult?

Don't forget that just this summer a group of such students in Houston were caught in an art gallery actually understanding and enjoying classical art. If this sort of thing spreads, demonic heads will roll. Make sure your head is not one of them.

If they must read the Bible, let me suggest three strategies.

Encourage the teachers, especially the Christian ones, to try to make the Bible relevant and cool. Talk should center on students' felt needs and not the text. Get your teachers to show many videos. Nothing has done us better service than to teach Americans to avoid pursuit of beauty for being cool. Endless meaningless consumption is the inevitable and (to them) frustrating result.

Don't forget that the up-to-date teacher is always hopelessly dated and will turn off more students than the eccentric (how I hate them!) who might show them something authentic and real. Don't forget the rich harvest gained when we turned Their youth pastors into hipsters.

Never overlook the sin that damns them and provides Our Father Below a good sneer.

In dealing with this class, by all means encourage the notion that the interpretation of the Bible is only academic when critical of the Bible. In other words, try to get our people in Texas to propagate the idea that the only fair readers of the Bible are the people who hate it. Play up the fact that most Texans are Christians.

Few will make the logical error that this means it is likely true, but many can be convinced to make the opposite error that it this indicates that Christianity is likely false!

Do not worry that we have adopted the opposite strategy to dealing with discussions of science and ethics in public schools. There our policy is to suggest that the only person fit to teach science textbooks is the one who agrees on every essential point with the textbook and majority opinion.

Remember the rule we have pounded into them: where people siding with Our Father Below are the majority, they reflect a hard won consensus, where the majority of people side with Him, they are the complacent dogmatists.

Our work in reducing critical thinking protects us. Shout the word "theocracy" in the minds of Americans and your work is almost done. Many really will believe that a government like that of Iran is just around the corner if students read the Bible in a literature class. If only that were true!

Finally, by all means encourage dogmatic attitudes during Bible reading. A great ally is the Christian who will read the Bible in school as if he is in Church. Encourage by all means an inability to read the Bible like any other book. The fact that it has survived for centuries without his pious protection will not occur to him since his school has taught him little actual history. Put him in a class with a dogmatic secularist and our safety is assured.

Make the class like one of those delightful television programs where people shout at each other and a little bit of Hell will be unleashed on earth.

There is nothing more dangerous to us than a Christian or an atheist who follows an argument where it leads. Next to a really holy man, the most dangerous person to us is anyone who will allow best evidence to guide their thoughts. Your tendency to think those who disagree with them agree with us is irritating.

Those who are not openly for us are always in danger of discovering "God" and us. The reaction to such discoveries is rarely favorable to our Cause. Any great love or any reason is always favorable for Them. Better a lukewarm "Christian," by far, than a thinking secularist who will calmly follow the evidence where it leads.

Remember, however, that these students are reading and thinking critically about a book that matters to their heritage, and discussing issues of importance. None of this is good for us and may do great harm.

Remember that we are not here to educate them, but entertain them. Hell will not be filled with those who thought too much, but with those who amused themselves to damnation.

Texas can be a dangerous place for us. Make sure as a secondary strategy to play up stereotypes about the state as much as possible. Outsiders will feel better about having their students read textbooks instead of real books through their bigotry, and some Texans are sensitive enough to such things that they will change their views.

Never overlook the tools of ethnic, cultural, and racial stereotypes. Other departments down here have worked hard to create them and their use almost always results in sin.

In the future, please make sure to continue our policy of discouraging reading, critical thinking, and discussion of issues actually relevant to their lives in government schools.

Your lack of diabolical imagination is, perhaps, a sign that the Demonic Educational Board has adopted our policies for human education and is thus impeding our own program. I will need to have words with your trainer about this issue.

I hope to see better things from you in the future or Demonic Resources will be getting a note for your file.


Associate Department Head for Texas:
Department of Counter-Intelligence
United States Lowarchy

(With apologies to C.S. Lewis and his brilliant Screwtape Letters.)

John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, and Professor of Philosophy at Biola University. In 1996 he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Rochester. John Mark Reynolds can be found blogging regularly at Scriptorium Daily.