Classic and contemporary excerpts.

No joke

Flippancy is the best [kind of joke] 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.… If prolonged, the habit of flippancy builds up around a man the finest armourplating against the Enemy [God] 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

C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters

Sinners all

Journalists miss the point when they keep asking, after each new church scandal, if a preacher’s fall has shaken the believers’ faith. Sin rather confirms than challenges a faith that proclaims human corruption. The drama of salvation is played out against the constant backdrop of original sin.

—Garry Wills in Under God

Imitating the real thing

It should always be noted that the more excellent something is the more likely it will be imitated. There are many false diamonds and rubies, but who goes about making counterfeit pebbles? However, the more excellent things are the more difficult it is to imitate them in their essential character and intrinsic virtues. Yet the more variable the imitations be, the more skill and subtlety will be used in making them an exact imitation. So it is with Christian virtues and graces. The devil and men’s own deceitful hearts tend to imitate those things that have the highest value. So no graces are more counterfeited than love and humility. For these are the virtues where the beauty of a true Christian ...

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