Leaked Documents: Ichabod to Apollyon (Letter #10)

Editor’s Note: Administering a website like this occasionally makes editors privy to some exotic and intriguing correspondence. In light of the particularly dark nature of some letters we have stumbled upon—we can’t reveal exactly how—we thought it our duty to share this series of missives. We appear to be in possession of only one side of the exchange of letters—from a nephew to his uncle. The nephew’s name is Ichabod and his uncle’s name Apollyon, who seems to be in an advisory position of some sort. It’s not our intent to demonize anyone by divulging what we have seen, but we feel we are performing an important service by bringing this devilishly cunning correspondence to light. Here is the tenth letter we were given.


The Most Reprobate Apollyon Pitts

Undercover Coordinator

c/o Special Assignments Division

My dear Model of Malevolence,

My apologies for not answering your last letter right away; I will explain in a moment the reason for the delay.  First I want to let you know how devilishly happy I am to have received the promotion you informed me of.  The pin with secret Satanic symbols has already occasioned several comments and questions.  I have decided, however, to be cautious about wearing it to church gatherings.  There are several people in the congregation who are spiritually sensitive enough to be made uncomfortable when they see it; they haven't really identified what makes them respond that way, but I don't want them getting suspicious.  In fact, I try to avoid them when I'm not specifically on the attack.  They make me  uncomfortable, too!  I have noticed that for some people, on the other hand, there is a kind of fascination with the pin that reflects a submerged bitterness and rebellion in their souls.  Thus, your gift has served as a touchstone to identify some vulnerable prospects for future manipulation.

That brings me to the reason for my delay in answering your letter.  There is a movement afoot to establish weekly prayer groups throughout the congregation.  The minister, Brother Whitesoul, preached a powerful sermon about the need for constant awareness of "our" spiritual foes.  You can bet I was squirming inside.  Unfortunately, several people were really moved by the sermon and took his suggestion about forming regular prayer groups.  I have joined the one with the most inexperienced and undeveloped Christians in it so that I can try to derail at least one of these dangerous cells of opposition.  Consequently, I've not only had to attend the meetings regularly, but I've taken extra time to raise questions with people about whether we shouldn't be devoting this time to our families or to some benevolent project.  (I try my best, of course, to make these "active" things and regular prayer meetings mutually incompatible.)  At the meetings themselves, I've found it relatively easy to get people to talking about their problems, their gripes, or even trivial matters like sports, after which there's not much time left for serious prayer.  And lest anyone get into self-examination and confession (which usually means that effective prayer is just around the corner), I try to insert some tidbits about somebody who isn't there, so that people will be afraid of what word might get around about themselves if they drop their heavily protected self-images and are frank about their failings and needs.

It's certainly not helping my work any that a number in the congregation are reading Frank Peretti's novels on battles between spiritual powers.   I've been hoping that some will be turned off by the graphic literalness of his depiction of demons and angels, but he presents so grippingly the interaction between the prayers of the saints and the victories of the forces of God that most who read these stories are being made more sensitive to what it is they're up against.  That's definitely bad news for us!  Much better that "devils" be referred to only in jokes and cartoons.

I have begun to look into the workings of political power in our community.  Evidently the trick to success is to espouse principles without the attendant drawbacks of actually practicing them.  That strategy will not work consistently, of course, unless the electorate themselves have become hardened to dishonesty and cynical about corruption.  One wonderful side-effect of the current emphasis on the relativity of values is that people find it harder to articulate effectively what public standards of behavior ought to be.  I have received some good training in this kind of applied hypocrisy in some of the struggles for power at Broad Way Church.  The difference in their way of going about it and that of businessmen or politicians is that church people seem more often able to convince themselves that they really are acting out of pure and principled motives, rather than out of a desire to gain prestige and exercise control over others.

I must go now and do some heel-dragging by phoning the other members of my prayer group and suggesting that we cancel the next meeting.   Besides depriving them of power to discern what we're doing, cancellation would relieve me of having to sit there and be spiritually assaulted by my "brothers and sisters" if they really do get down to effective prayer.  I'm almost ready to renounce my damnation at the end of one of those sessions!

Yours in resistance to prayer in the church,


Photo: "Before Email 1" J. Atherton. CC License. 

Elton Higgs

Dr. Elton Higgs was a faculty member in the English department of the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 1965-2001. Having retired from UM-D as Prof. of English in 2001, he now lives with his wife and adult daughter in Jackson, MI.. He has published scholarly articles on Chaucer, Langland, the Pearl Poet, Shakespeare, and Milton. His self-published Collected Poems is online at Lulu.com. He also published a couple dozen short articles in religious journals. (Ed.: Dr. Higgs was the most important mentor during undergrad for the creator of this website, and his influence was inestimable; it's thrilling to welcome this dear friend onboard.)