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 fifteenth letter we were given.
Dear Uncle Apollyon,
Your last letter was sobering. I shall certainly try harder to see the bad side of everything and I will review my notes on the Great Falsehoods of our calling. In particular, I need to be continually reminded that the only guaranteed rewards come from the single-minded exercise of power. Accordingly, you will see this devil devoting himself from now on to carving out a prominent place in the Infernal Kingdom!
Now to my reporting. The political plans are coming along very well. Several prosperous and ambitious people in the congregation have latched on to my campaign as a means of boosting their own fortunes, along with the influence of the congregation in the community. And my standing in the church adds a certain aura of moral concern to my image. Of course, I have to be careful to refer only vaguely to any actual religious beliefs. People get nervous when they hear a politician talking too openly about his religious convictions, especially when they might dictate the way he acts. I want to be seen as having enough religion to be respectable, but not so much as to make me odd or quirky. I'm happy to observe that Brother Whitesoul is getting left out of this enthusiasm at having a budding politician in the congregation. He is regarded as rather naive and simplistic about politics, since he preaches that no particular political system or party is given God's special endorsement, not even the ones that seem to champion certain church "positions." Nor does he think that the church's objectives should necessarily be promoted by political power. I'm using the situation as deftly as I can to undermine his credibility in the congregation, by speaking seductively about the attractions of being able to legislate a "Christian society" (with special places of influence, of course, for those who support my campaign).
I've gotten acquainted with someone who is turning out to be as good a source of "juicy" information as Sister Snugrug. His name is Horace Linguaflap, and although he is more subtle than Sister Snugrug, he is quite as effective in spreading unsavory news as she is. He especially delights in bringing in a hypocritically regretful sour note on someone who is being lauded and openly admired. "Yes," he will say, "Brother Eddie Fyer is good at teaching classes, but it's too bad about his troubles at home. I understand he and his wife haven't been getting along lately, and that their teen-age son was picked up drunk one night last month. I don't know that a man with those problems ought to be teaching at church." I happen to know that in reality Brother Fyer found he had to pull back on some of his activities because his wife was under too much pressure, and the son had a brief run-in with the police because he was picked up with a bunch of rowdies one night (after which he ceased to hang out with them). But I was delighted that Brother Linguaflap was able to put serious doubts in some people's minds about the quality of Brother Fyer's Christian life.
Another insidiously malevolent story I got from the lips of Horace was about Rosie, a married woman in the congregation, who was found to be having an affair with her best friend’s husband, Ralph. Naturally the scandal occasioned contrasting responses from the Sanctimonious and the Sorrowful. The Sanctis urged the elders to “purify” the congregation immediately by reading a declaration of disfellowship from the pulpit the next Sunday. The Sorrowers, who seem not to know how to enjoy a good public shaming, advised the elders to speak with the offenders and seek to bring them to “repentance and restoration.” I will, of course, do all I can to promote the expulsion of the erring couple from the congregation, lest they be tempted to turn their backs on the immediate pleasures of romantic “love” which now enthrall them. For good measure, if separated from the congregation, they are likely to become bitter about the harsh treatment they have received at the hands of a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites. And with the contention within the congregation about how to deal with these sinners, there is the prospect of an all-out split in the fellowship, if I play my cards right. I couldn't have arranged it better myself!
Yours in unholy glee,
Image: "Mailboxes" by S. Ganapati. CC License.