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 second letter we were given.
The Most Reprobate Apollyon Pitts
c/o Special Assignments Division
Dear Uncle Apollyon,
Thanks very much for your exellent advice in the last letter. And thanks especially for the help on my bowling! Imagine my amusement when some on the opposing team commented that they would "sell their souls" for a perfect game. They may have a chance sooner than they think. The publicity and admiration I received for my feat was entertaining, but I was amazed at how people gushed (and envied) over such a trivial matter. I mean, I could have understood it if I had successfully fomented a gang war or enabled a drug lord to escape prosecution--but for a 300 score in bowling? It was especially satisfying to see how it puffed up my teammates with pride and made them spend almost an entire Bible class the next Sunday discussing their standing in the league. Dare we hope that worship services might be cancelled if the championship playoffs are held on Sunday night?
Yes, I recognize the great power of the "pride of life," even though the lusts "of the flesh" and "of the eye" are a lot more fun to work with. That's because the latter two are much more palpable than the first; but by the same token, they are more easily spotted and challenged than the pride of life. In fact, the more aware people are of their vulnerability to the inordinate indulgence of their appetites, the less likely they are to succumb to pride. It's the ones who think themselves free of the "grubbier" sins (e. g., sexual misconduct, gluttony, open mistreatment of others) who are most likely to find satisfaction in whatever image of virtue they are able to maintain. I've been on the lookout, as you suggested, for opportunities to use flattery as an insidious reinforcer of both pride and envy. How's this for a potent thrust: "Brother Smoothtongue [an elder];, that was an inspiring talk last Sunday on our missions program. To be honest, I'd rather listen to you than to the preacher. I do wish they would let you speak more often." Or this: "Sister Snugrug, I think Sister Outreach must have been sniping at you last Wednesday in class when she said that we ought to be willing to give more than money to the poor. And after the thousands you contribute to charity!" Both people to whom these comments were made were deliciously torn between self-satisfaction and resentment at those who didn't appreciate them. How am I doing, Unc?
With the minister himself, I have not had much success so far. He's only in his thirties, but if something isn't done he's going to become one of those really tough nuts for us to crack. He spends an inordinate amount of time in prayer (how one can spend more than thirty seconds at that deadly activity--especially alone--I'll never understand); he understands the real nature of the threat we pose, and he knows how to use the power of the Word and of the Enemy's Spirit against us; and he assesses himself rather accurately, even sometimes confessing his weaknesses to the congregation. The only opening I see right now is his zeal itself; he tends to get impatient with the apathy and the preoccupation with comfort in his brothers and sisters. I shall try to persuade him to rely on his own persuasiveness or his own virtue to overcome that.
And finally, as to the "game" of gossip: subtle misconceptions are the more easily spread because the people in this church don't really know each other very well. They're so busy with their careers, their personal hobbies, and even with "church work" that they don't make the effort to really be in touch with each other at a spiritual level. Consequently, they don't offer one another the edification and the mutual assessment that would forestall some of the half-truths that I have promulgated about particular fellow-Christians. I feel like Shakespeare's mischief-making imp, Puck: "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"