Congratulations—you survived last night’s “perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system.” This is the technical term for the closest full moon our planet has experienced since 1948, a phenomenon known as the “Supermoon.”
What happened to you as a result? Your body experienced a rise in lunar pull equivalent to about 1/9th the mass of a paper clip. I doubt you noticed. Studies also show that, contrary to folklore, you weren’t at greater risk for epilepsy, psychiatric trauma, or an emergency room visit.
Nonetheless, it would be easy to think that something strange is happening these days. Three cows in New Zealand were stranded by earthquakes and had to be rescued. Similarly, Bruce Springsteen’s motorcycle broke down last Friday, and he had to be rescued by a group of bikers returning from a Veteran’s Day ceremony.
Especially troubling is what The Washington Post calls “the post-election hate spike.” More than any election I can remember, this campaign has left many in our country bitterly divided against those with whom they disagree.
In light of such vitriol, a perceptive reader reminded me of a relevant quote in which an unknown internet author writes in the voice of C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. This classic book contains advice from a senior tempter to his apprentice. Its backward logic brilliantly unmasks some of Satan’s most subtle strategies. While not Lewis’s words, this quote takes on the voice of Screwtape:
“Be sure that the patient [the person being tempted] remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration, and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure the patient continues to believe that the problem is ‘out there’ in the ‘broken system’ rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.”
This was the devil’s first strategy, tempting Eve to blame the serpent and Adam to blame Eve (Genesis 3:12–13). Such spiritual transference blinds us to our responsibility for the state of the world. Whether we blame the Supermoon above or the political activist next door, we focus on what we cannot change while ignoring what we can.
This strategy is lethal because the first step to solving a problem is defining it correctly. When a newspaper posed the question, “What’s wrong with the world?”, the Catholic thinker G. K. Chesterton reputedly replied: “Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely Yours, G. K. Chesterton.” As Tim Keller notes in The Prodigal God, “That is the attitude of someone who has grasped the message of Jesus.”
What is the solution to spiritual transference? “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23–24).
In what things do you delight today?