Leaked Documents: Ichabod to Apollyon (Letter #23)

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 twenty-third letter we were given.



Dear Dark-browed Uncle,

Your brooding encouragement always darkens any light which I may be tempted to let in.  Thank you for pushing me on to greater depths of linguistic perversion.  I shall try to make sure that the pitfalls of prattle and the sloughs of slander are continual traps for those in my congregation.

I'm going to take a break from Broad Way in this letter and tell you about some work I've been doing in a neighboring congregation that has a new, rather high-powered, intellectual preacher.  He's eager to put all of the newest techniques of church growth into effect, but he's viewed with some suspicion by a group of zealous young men who are rather self-consciously "drunk with the Spirit" and are on the lookout for "unsound" preaching.  I just couldn't resist getting in and meddling with a situation where well-intentioned and committed people are at odds with each other, especially since that congregation has been given only part-time attention by our agent, Asphalt, who is occupied elsewhere right now.  I've been talking with one of the young turks and encouraging him not to give an inch in demanding that the "pure gospel" be preached--which means, of course, only that part of the gospel which he has already understood and mastered and with which he feels comfortable.  If I get a chance to talk to the preacher, I will urge him to be self-righteous and unyielding on his side, as well; that ought to set up a very satisfying confrontation between them where both are standing on principle and neither can afford to retreat.

Naturally, I don't give a hoot about which of them is correct, so long as both sides are convinced that holding to their perception of truth is more important than working things out between them.  Nevertheless, it appears to me that the preacher, for his part, is correct in concluding that the congregation as a whole has no desire to be any different from what they are--that is, 95% comfortable, middle-class, and white-Anglo-Saxon.  Since most of the truly needy people in our society (the ones most desperate to hear some "good news") don't fall into those classifications, the prospect of reaching out to "bring in the sheaves" is decidedly less attractive to the congregation than tending to their own walled garden.  Now the young spiritual inebriates don't fall exactly into that class, but I think with a little coaching they can be made as walled-in and protective as the others.  In their case, it would be protecting spiritual "good feeling," rather than material and social comfort, and in the process failing to understand that the avenue by which they came to that "good feeling" may not be open to people who have no religious background at all.  The preacher should be prodded to view them as narrow unsophisticates who create spiritual elitism out of ignorance and immaturity.  The young turks, upon seeing this attitude, could then easily be persuaded to dismiss him as an over-educated snob who thinks more of social theory than he does the Bible. The really scary possibility is that the preacher, with his desire to cross cultural boundaries and develop a different idiom of communication to reach the unchurched, and the "Spirit-filled" bunch, with their zeal and recklessness, might sit down together in a mutual desire to serve God and discover the power of combining their respective strengths.  That must be prevented at all costs!

I'll get back to Broad Way in my next letter.  It ought not to take long to break this little congregation wide open.


Yours in false light,




Image: The Pulpit by B0US1 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.)