This article originally appeared at Baptist News Global on August 22, 2023.
Note: This article includes an explicit discussion of sexuality.
Desiring God’s latest installment of cheap Screwtape Letter knockoffs features Greg Morse attempting to mimic C.S. Lewis’ classic novel by writing a letter from a “marriage counselor” demon named Grimrod to his dear nephew Globdrop.
In a letter titled “Keep Them From Sex: A Demon’s Plea for Abstinence,” Morse pretends to be a demon attempting to get a married couple to stop having sex. In doing so, he exhibits how evangelical sexual ethics create the idolatry of sex they demonize, the dissatisfaction in sex they fear, and the subjugation of women they sacralize.
After one of Morse’s earlier imitations, New Testament scholar Laura Robinson demonstrated what makes Lewis’ novel the humorous and surprising work that it is and why impersonators such as Morse obsess over issues Uncle Screwtape never would have cared about.
“American evangelical imitators seem to struggle to create a tedious, mid-tier demon who brings the humor and surprise that Screwtape brings to the letters of his novel,” Robinson observed. “The stark apocalyptic instincts of American evangelicalism don’t allow for demons to shuffle papers in the realm of mid-tier, dull, interpersonal sins. This means there is no surprise (evangelical Screwtapes are always worried about exactly what you think they’d be worried about), but even more criminally, there is no lack. There is nothing boring or grim about the demon life that makes the story funny. Rather, the demons all have, from the author’s perspective, big and important jobs.”
She points out: “Greg Morse’s increasingly stupid column features Globdrop out in seminaries trying to make the men into sissies” and “also makes women want to get educations and jobs instead of having babies.”
What Robinson is highlighting here reveals that by making the demons out to have big and important jobs, patriarchal men are ultimately glorifying their own importance. As protectors of the realm at the top of God’s gender hierarchy of honor and submission, men like Morse see themselves as having the big and important job of making men into rulers and women into their sex slaves.
The powerful opportunity of primal sex
Morse’s musings are focused on how to get a married men to have sex with a woman other than his wife.
“I understand your natural aversion with the physical and primal urges of the humans,” Uncle Grimrod tells his nephew Globdrop. Describing sex as “bodies enmeshed and limbs flailing,” Grimrod salivates: “But oh, how much it means to them! What opportunity sex presents.”
To Grimrod, sex is a passion of the flesh that “‘wage(s) war’ against their souls” and through its sensual beckoning takes them “down to death, as the father once tried to warn.”
“It’s ironic how men so obsessed with sacralizing their power over women present themselves as powerless before them.”
To Morse, sex is a deadly threat with a primal power that must be warned against by authoritative males. His word choice is reminiscent of Preston Sprinkle’s interview with Sheila Gregoire and Rebecca Lindenbach when Sprinkle talked about men seeing a woman wearing yoga pants “and almost literal slobber coming from their mouths” while making gargling sounds. It’s ironic how men so obsessed with sacralizing their power over women present themselves as powerless before them.
Morse begins his narrative at the honeymoon. “The honeymoon season is setting — now is the time for the paint to begin to chip. Little quarrels start to creep in; mice move in the walls,” he writes.
To Grimrod, directly after the honeymoon is the opportune time for demons to initiate their “Marital Abstinence Program (MAP).”
The impossible expectations of evangelical sexual ethics
To understand why Morse focuses on the initial post-honeymoon phase as the time to begin tempting a man, it’s important to remember how evangelical sexual ethics shape expectations of the honeymoon.