If I were the Devil — Paul Harvey 1965

Paul Harvey Aurandt (1918 – 2009), better known as Paul Harvey, was a conservative American radio broadcaster for ABC News Radio. From 1952 through 2008 his programs reached as many as 24 million people per week. Paul Harvey News was carried on 1,200 radio stations, 400 Armed Forces Network stations, and 300 newspapers. Here’s his commentary from 1965. Title: If I were the devil:

If I were the prince of darkness, I’d want to engulf the whole world in darkness and I would have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree, thee. So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first.

I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve, “Do as you please.” To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what is bad is good, and what is good is “square”. And the old I would teach to pray after me, “Our Father, which art in Washington.”

And then I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves, until each in its turn was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellects but neglect to discipline emotions. Just let those run wild until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every school house door.  

Within a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing. I’d have judges promoting pornography. Soon, I could evict God from the courthouse, and then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress. And in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.  

If I were the devil, I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg and the symbol for Christmas a bottle. If I were the devil, I would take from those who have and I would give to those who wanted, until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. And what will you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich.

I would caution against extremes in hard work, in patriotism, in moral conduct. I would convince the young that your marriage is old fashioned, that swinging is more fun, that what you see on TV is the way to be. And thus I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed with diseases for which there is no cure.

In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.

Paul Harvey. Good day!

If Paul Harvey were alive today, I wonder whether he would add a COVID-19 comment, labeling coronavirus as a tool of the devil designed to interrupt the churches of our land, along with the schools, businesses, stock market, governments, economy, commencements, weddings, funerals, and life in general.

Maybe he would point to China as a political tool of the devil in developing and spreading the virus. Or perhaps he would recognize it as a chastisement from the God of the universe for the wayward wanderings of people in our country and world.

I wonder. But if I were the devil, I’d never tell.

An Unexpected Blessing

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Credit: MustangJoePixabay 

This past week I spoke with several fellow pastors, as I often do. One reoccurring question asked by almost every one of them was what I expected church to be like after the COVID-19 pandemic is slowed to the point that life might return to some semblance of normality.

My answer was a prediction that when people are allowed to gather in groups larger than 10, the return to public worship services will probably be gradual. Slow at first because of lingering anxiety about exposure to the virus. Then, over time, the number of worshipers might grow.

My further prognostication was that pastors and other worship leaders who have been live streaming or pre-recording worship services dare not stop that practice. Why? Simply but significantly because the audiences reached by the medium of video are proving to be much larger than the number of worshipers who used to sit in the pew on a regular basis.

Pastors tell me that the Easter Sunday online audience was twice as large as the typical Easter Sunday in person attendance. They also tell me that the online audiences include both active members, previously delinquent members, and non-members. It also includes strangers who call or email with words of appreciation for the music, the message, and the medium.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise. But it is. An unexpected blessing!

The Green Thing

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We’ve been hearing and reading lots of stuff about COVID-19 the past few weeks and I really have nothing new, insightful, or creative to add. So I decided instead to share a bit of subtle yet pointed history with a slight dash of humor. So here we go with The Green Thing, author unknown:

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the much older lady that she should bring her own grocery bags. Plastic bags are bad for the environment. The woman apologized to the young girl and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.” The older lady said that she was right. Our generation didn’t have the “green thing” in its day. The older lady went on to explain:

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles, and beer bottles to the store, which sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day. 

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable besides household garbage bags was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags. But, too bad we didn’t do the “green thing” back then.

We walked up stairs because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But you are right. We didn’t have the “green thing” in our day.

Back then we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days.

Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But you’re right. We didn’t have the “green thing” back in our day.

Back then we had one TV, or just one radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Montana.

In the kitchen we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. But no “green thing” back then.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But you’re right. We didn’t have the “green thing” back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blade in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the “green thing” back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s $45,000 SUV or van, which cost more than a whole house did before the “green thing.”

We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the “green thing” back then?

This brought a smile to my face and a nod to my head. I lived during the no “green thing” days. And so did many of you. At the risk of chastisement from some of my “green thing” friends, I must admit that I don’t yet bring my own grocery bags to the store. Guess I’m still stuck back in the day when I covered my books with grocery bags.

God bless your day!

COVID-19 and Resurrection

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Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Obviously the greatest impact of COVID-19 on life in the world today is the death of thousands of people. Lots of medical researchers and hypothesizers are trying to figure out the best ways to flatten the curve, to save the lives of those infected, and to create a vaccine that works.

Another notable result of this pandemic is that many events have had to be postponed, such as weddings planned for months in advance and funerals that allow little if any pre-planning. Brides and grooms can be flexible. But it’s painful to delay the grief process as the world waits for coronavirus to be brought to its knees.

In the midst of these new but hopefully temporary realities, Holy Week is upon us. The customary worship experiences of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday are replicated online, from empty sanctuaries, by small choruses of disbursed voices, softly and remotely spoken words from Scripture of the life and death of Jesus.

Then, on Easter Sunday morning, the responsive greetings, this year also spoken remotely: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”

Especially at Easter, those of us who have lost loved ones from this life on earth cannot help but recall the joys and sorrows, difficulties and blessings that were fruits of the relationships we experienced with those dear people. That list includes beloved parents, grandparents, spouses, children, grandchildren, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and dear friends.

They are gone but not forgotten. At this Eastertide, we give thanks for the love we shared with them, and they with us, during the times of our togetherness.

Even more importantly, we look forward to that day of reuniting with them, of seeing them again, of occupying that immortal, spiritual, imperishable body of which Paul in 1 Cor. 15 so intriguingly speaks. All because of our hope and God’s promise of resurrection.

Resurrection. I say that word with conviction when I speak The Apostles Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting!” And I speak that belief when I conduct a funeral: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:54-57)

COVID-19: Where is your sting? Where is your victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Terry and I pray for each of you a blessed Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord!

The True Spirit of Giving

The impact of Coronavirus/COVID-19 is still foremost in the minds and lives of the world and our country these days. We’ve all read, heard, and seen reports and prognostications regarding the present and future impact of this virus on our lives. Today I have nothing new to add to what continues to be said about that topic. Life goes on.

So I’ll relive a true story from my past of a little girl I saw in church one Sunday, crying during the offering. I quickly determined that she had been distracted when the offering plate came down the pew where she was sitting with her mother. The distraction caused her to miss the opportunity to place her handful of coins in the plate. She was sorely dismayed as a result.

Across the aisle from where she sat, I observed her looking back at the ushers, who had passed her pew. They were by that time finished with their task, preparing to walk back down the aisle to return the now full offering plates to their proper place in the chancel near the altar.

I could see in the little girl’s eyes the anticipation of another opportunity to give her offering. She moved to the edge of the pew near the center aisle, with her coins ready to go into the offering plate when the ushers passed by on their way up to the altar. Alas. The usher was looking straight ahead at the altar, didn’t notice the young lass, and walked right past her.

She started crying again, which prompted me to stand up, cross the aisle, and ask her mother in a whisper whether it would be OK for me to walk with her young daughter up to the chancel where she could add her coins to the other offerings in the plate. Her mother readily agreed.

So that little girl and I walked together, hand in hand, down the aisle toward the altar. When we got to the plates, I bent down, picked her up, and helped her do what she had so fervently tried to do for several minutes. She placed her handful of coins into the offering plate. Then she smiled.

When preparing to write this week’s article, that story popped up again into my mind. I can talk all day about the different ways people like you and like me can make a significant charitable gift to our church or other favorite charity. We call that legacy giving.

But at the end of the day, if the burning desire to give is not present, I’d be talking to the wind.

So remember these words as you contemplate your life and possessions in the face of COVID-19:

  • God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Cor. 9:7
  • Freely you have received; freely give. 10:8
  • It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35
  • Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 6:21

Heeding these words will help enhance within your heart the true spirit of giving.