While I learned about the true, the good and the beautiful in a secular university and the weird, the bad and the ugly in Christian pop culture, I kept reading and re-reading C.S. Lewis. Here was the one person I knew for sure that had his feet planted firmly in that tiny part of the world where Christianity and culture and history were at peace.
Mere Christianity made clear that every Church put the same roof over believers and people who had some other reason to be inside the building. But that was just the beginning of a life-long habit or obsession with reading Lewis.
Once Lewis showed me that a believer could have a brain, he started showing me the intellectual world is much more vast than the material world.
Then I went underground, or at least into the underworld. Next of Lewis' 39 books was The Screwtape Letters. In each of the 31 missives, Uncle Screwtape, a mid-level bureaucrat in Hell writes a letter of advice to his nephew who is a field agent trying to tempt a patient into Hell.
Letter #4 changed my life. It defined humor from Hell's perspective. I decided after reading this letter to never watch a sitcom again after M*A*S*H went of the air. Since 1983, I have not watched a sitcom or a comedy movie.
You will see the [Joy] among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday...
Fun is closely related to Joy—a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us....it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.
The Joke Proper, which turns on sudden perception of incongruity, is a much more promising field...The real use of Jokes or Humour is in quite a different direction...it is invaluable as a means of destroying shame...
But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny.
Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it.
If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter.
It is a thousand miles away from joy it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.
Your affectionate uncle, SCREWTAPE