Leaked Documents: Ichabod to Apollyon (Letter #24)

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-fourth letter we were given.



Dear Uncle Apollyon,


I'm glad you approve of my efforts in linguistic perversity, and I welcome the examples of your own contributions to that realm of endeavor.  In regard to the little congregation I spoke about in my last letter (pitting the young zealots against the new preacher), I'm afraid the entirely bad results I was hoping for have been modified:  the "Prayer Warriors" have been at it again.  Neither the preacher nor the zealots were listening much to me when I left, because they had all begun to develop two qualities that make it very difficult for "us" to get through to them: humility and remorse.  One of them mentioned to me that he had read in his devotional some biblical claptrap about "counting others better than yourself."  The whole thing was threatening to degenerate into a huggy-wuggy reconciliation, but Asphalt will have to worry about that.  (I just hope he gives me credit for sowing seeds of dissention while he was gone.)  I had to get back to Broad Way to encourage some twisted thinking that has developed there.

It seems that once again we have a delightful clash of good intentions in the congregation.  This time it has to do with how much of the mess humans often make of their lives is to be dealt with as "sickness," over which they have little or no control, and how much as willful acts of sin, for which they are to be held fully responsible and even punished.  Once again, I see the opportunity to drive people into mutually exclusive camps.  The "sickness" group, who pride themselves on compassion, will easily be persuaded to set aside any imperative to deal with sin when it "comes with the territory," so to speak; and the "sin" bunch will settle in comfortably behind the impregnable defense of their theology, looking only at the activities that are problems for others but not for themselves.   Addicted smokers and eaters can thus point to factors that make it impossible for them to change their behavior; those engaged in sexual misconduct will say that they are merely "doing what comes naturally"; and all sorts of crimes will be justified by social conditions which dull or eliminate individual initiative and responsibility.  There is enough truth in these excuses (given the corruption of creation brought about by our Infernal Father) for one to insist that, in all fairness, people ought to be let off the hook for their peccadillos.  But, on the other hand, the judgment-hounds have plenty of scripture to back up their contention that every person must answer for his or her own deeds, whatever the circumstances.  I hope the debate gets so hot that nobody remembers such mysteries as the love, grace, and sovereignty of God; for to introduce these qualities of the Divinity would undermine a mistaken assumption which is absolutely necessary to our program of deceit: that purely human standards and understandings of fairness constitute the final court of appeal for interpreting evil in the world.  If I were as weak, messed up, and vulnerable as humans are, I would be concentrating on seizing whatever deliverance from my condition the Great Thunderer is offering, rather than quibbling over whether I should be regarded as needing it or not.  But, fortunately for us, they seem mostly determined to ignore how bad off they are, so intent are they on preserving what they quaintly call their "self-respect."

Did you notice all the shallow and foolish rhetoric flying about in the media during the election?  Everything and everybody must "move forward" --which always means a particular candidate's or party's agenda for perfecting the world, of course.  How salutary for our cause that politicians hardly ever get into office by merely using common sense to define their objectives; that has no imagination to it, and it usually requires people to give up some of those things which they consider to be their rights or legitimate comforts.  How prosaic merely to match up income and expenditures, when there are so many pork barrels clamoring to be filled.  And isn't an entertaining sound-bite to be preferred over boring discussions about what we have to give up to preserve the integrity of both our social and our natural environment?  Ah, yes, election years are the Devil's workshop.


Yours in obfuscation of the truth,




Image: "Where everything begins" by yomo 13. 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.)