Leaked Documents: Ichabod to Apollyon (Letter #20)

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 twentieth letter we were given.



My dear Model of Malefaction,

Thank you for all of your encouraging commendations.  I must say that much is going our way at the moment.  Brother Whitesoul is under attack by several in the congregation for his presumption in telling people how they ought to act toward fellow-Christians for whom they have contempt; Sister Snugrug has stirred up suspicion about one of the male youth workers who has been counseling a female teenager in danger of being hooked on drugs; and my presence on the City Council (yes, I won!) has brought pressures on the church to exult in its newly-found prestige as a power in the community.  In reference to the last situation, I naturally try to focus the congregation's attention on such issues as whether the uses of the property around the church building are likely to increase or decrease the value of church property.  If I can get them preoccupied with the purely material side of their "stewardship for the Lord," they aren't likely to be very receptive to the presence of any land usage that will be of benefit to the poor and disadvantaged, such as low-cost housing, foster homes, or half-way houses for people released from institutions.  Fancy shopping malls, expensive housing, and a golf course, on the other hand, will not only increase the value of our property but assure us of the right kind of clientele for the church.  After all, if things were to deteriorate too much around the church property, we'd have to move out, wouldn't we?

As to the maligned youth worker (a married young man in his late twenties), no one thought anything about his sessions with the drug-threatened girl until I put a bug in Sister Snugrug's ear about their sitting together in the auditorium to talk a couple of times after services.  He has been doing this work long enough to be cautious about meeting with young women alone and in private, and no question has ever been raised about his morals or his sincerity.  But the girl has responded to the obvious empathy which he exhibits toward her and other wayward young people, and the combination of her distress and his earnest concern in their contacts with each other are easily misconstrued by those who have nothing better to do than stir up scandal.  I had only to raise the possibility with Sister Snugrug that these fairly public conversations between the two might be indicative of a cozier-than-proper relationship between them for her to take to the phone to spread the images spawned by her quite productive imagination.  I am happy to report that not only have the young man's efforts to help this particular young woman been aborted, but his entire ministry with the youth group has been seriously compromised by the loud complaints of a number of parents who were already not too happy with his emphasis on the responsibility of the church to show compassion toward those in embarrassing kinds of trouble.  His "entanglement" with this soul in danger merely confirmed their argument that one should not encourage such people to hang around the church.

And, finally, there's the delightful trouble of Brother Whitesoul, the preacher.  According to his detractors (scum with whom even I would not associate, by the way, were it not necessary), he has the gall to urge from the pulpit that no member of the congregation is to be regarded as inferior.  Really, now!  Doesn't that fly in the face of common sense?  What satisfaction is there in attaining social, economic, or intellectual superiority if one can't be condescending toward others?  Doesn't God expect us to be the best we can be, and doesn't that mean that some are going to be better than others?  And how can we maintain quality in the work of the church if inferior people are to be treated in the same way as those with more to offer?   Even though I encourage the preacher's detractors to consider these  rhetorical questions to be unanswerable, I laugh behind their backs at the pompous hauteur with which they dismiss people who are a much more serious threat to the Infernal Objectives than they are.  I try also to offer the preacher some "comfort" in his troubles by observing that such haughty people are themselves the contemptible ones, beneath his concern and beyond the pale of his pastoral responsibility; but I have heard from some of his close friends that the foolish man insists on praying for his tormentors, invoking some silly doctrine of Jesus the Invader about its being the sickest people who ought to get the physician's most solicitous attention.  I think we'd better get a Job-attack going on this man.

Yours in the spirit of detraction,



Image: "post_te" by fedewild. 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.)