If I Were the Devil, A Pastor’s Take on Paul Harvey’s Great Rant

About 15 years ago, I began working on something I called Reflections of a Church Kid. At different times, I considered writing a book with this title, but I later thought it best to keep it as a blog. Reflections was inspired by a book at the time that told stories of some of the most ridiculous things churches and church people put up with and are often guilty of perpetrating. These include bad leadership, bad doctrine, bad philosophies, and in general, the many things that cause churches to stop reaching people for Christ.

Over the last 15 years, I drafted and deleted many rants, thoughts, and so-called “reflections.” I started a WordPress blog that over several years only saw a few entries while many bloggers and writers became famous writing about many of the issues I once hoped to address. Only in the last few months, did I realize why many times, I simply deleted these entries rather than joining the growing trend of bloggers who love to tell us about the “10 Things” wrong with the church.

The truth is that there are issues that need to be addressed in many of our local church ministries here in the United States. So, today, I have come to this point where I would like to close Reflections of a Church Kid with a retelling and rewording of Paul Harvey’s If I Were the Devil. From there, I hope it encourages conversations and puts an stop to the endless nonsensical ramblings of every Christian blogger trying to go viral.

When Paul Harvey wrote and delivered his If I Were the Devil speech on radio, the year was 1964. While I call it a “rant,” it is better described as a form of social criticism. In it, Paul Harvey stated, “If I were the Prince of Darkness I would want to engulf the whole earth in darkness.” From there, he went on to say that he would set about to take over the United States.

In my retelling of this great rant, I will disagree with Harvey. I do not think the devil needed to take over the United States.

If I were the devil, the Prince of Darkness,  I too would try to engulf the whole world in darkness. But, rather than go after any country, I would go after the church. Just to be clear. When I say “church,” I don’t mean the church of Rome or the largest denomination in the United States. When I say church, I mean the only church that a man or woman in your community knows, your local congregation.

First, I would convince each congregation’s members that “church” is in fact a building and a piece of real estate. I’d use common language meanings to convince them a church is meeting place even though the original languages of scripture define it as a gathering of people.

With that, I’d convince church members that they worshiped in sanctuaries where hats must be removed and nothing can be done except what they consider to be sacred. They will tell their children not to run in the “House of God” and forbid even the drinking of coffee telling visitors that they are on some type of holy ground when the truth is coffee stains the carpet and the no running rule for children applies to every home and building for safety reasons.

Then, next, I would set out to diminish the work of every local congregation in their communities.

First, I would develop the idea that church and everything in it is for members only. In this way, churches will offer discounts on building and property usage for weddings and funerals for church members, sometimes making it free, but charge fees and rental to everyone else.

Next, I would convince church leadership that any funds collected to help the poor, first belongs in a benevolence fund that is only available to church members in need.

As a local congregation shrinks, I will wait for the speculation to start and then do everything to keep the church members from discovering the truth, that they have no idea what they are doing.

They will blame their congregation’s decline on the changing American culture, blame it on the changing times, and even blame their previous pastor.

I will convince unfriendly congregations that they have always been friendly, but encourage gossip, division, racism, and opposition to anything that might cause normal wear and tear on the building and property.

To the young, I would whisper, “the elders don’t care about you.” I would convince them that they can do church better than their parents and grandparents.

To the ears of the older generation, I would whisper, “you are the tithers and look how much of your money is being spent on children and youth.”

Then, I would get organized. I would push a Christian subculture that further separated any last remaining Christian from being able to help his or her fellow man.

I’d start with making sure frauds and fakes present false information as sociological data and no one will question it since it comes from reputable ministries, pastors, and polling groups.

I’d also educate well known pastors on how to publish dozens of books with their names as the author even though they failed to write a single word while paying ghost writers to write for them. For bloggers, I will keep them single issue focused in areas beyond their actual knowledge and expertise so they can tell people how messed up the church is without actually serving in their local communities or making a positive difference in any life.

Finally, I’d take the focus of the average church goer off of the greater problems of the culture telling them the problem is immigrants, liberals, and whatever bogey man politician I can prop up in office.

In this, I’ll peddle narcotics in the form of FDA approved prescription drugs and get mind altering street drugs legalized by a vote of the people. As this happens, I will turn the anger of the church man and woman to the fact that they now have to pay 10 cents per plastic bag at the grocery store.

You see, if I were the devil, I do not need to take over the United States. There are already many congregations and whole church denominations that have abandoned the gospel, proper doctrine, and scriptural ethics and morality. I need to do nothing more with those groups. If they die off, no loss. If they thrive, they only draw people into their nonsensical doctrines and away from God.

It’s the congregations that are faithful to scripture that I will target. There is no need to change their doctrine, their high view of scripture, or their faithful church attendance. I only need to get church people to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others, make them think being American is the same as being Christian, and help them fall back into being the selfish people they were born to be.

 

So, where do we go from here?

In closing finally the negative nature of Reflections of a Church Kid, I would ask anyone reading this to remember that every point in this rant is based on personal observations of churches I have attended and served. Not all of these points reflect the leadership of each church. Sometimes, though, a couple of the points in this rant were expressed by supposedly respected members of a church.

But the real question is, where do we go from here?

The truth is that while each of the points of this rant are personal observations, they do not represent and did not come from the most loving and kind people I have known in my life. The most loving and kind people I have known, I also met while visiting, attending, and sometimes serving in their church.

The sad thing is that many of us church kids have been burned by churches by being pushed aside, overlooked, and in some cases erroneously kicked aside. Some have actually been victimized by churches and church people.

But, when I take an objective look at the nearly 40 years of my life, I find that the number of loving and caring people I have met along the way far outnumber the bad. Some of these people are responsible for who I am today. They showed me what it means to love another person unconditionally.

So, each time I began writing a “reflection,” I found at each negative entry I would instead remember names and faces like Nap Clark, Millie Horton, Caye Cook, Keith and Sheila Jeffries, Curt and Mindy Shirey, Butch Simmons, Wesley Hannah, Richard Grubbs, Bob and Katie Swanson, Daryl and Carol Feil, and many other people that overwhelmingly drowned out the negative. The amazing thing is the names I just listed are those who showed me love and kindness long before my 18th birthday. If I were to list those of my adult life from 1995 to today, I think my list would take up a sermon length blog entry.

In thinking about these, one scripture reference comes to mind.

3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart…

Philippians 1:3–7 (NASB95)

The second half of verse 7 makes it clear that the author, Paul, is writing from prison at a time of persecution against Christians in the Roman empire.

The reason this passage comes to mind is there were times when the Apostle Paul, during those earliest years of Christianity, was frustrated. He not only suffered persecution at times, but many times church people of his day hurt him by their disregard for scripture and sometimes their disregard for him and anything good.

But, at his most trying time, Paul stated “I thank my God in my remembrance of you.”

So with that, I close the idea of and my original intent of “Reflections of a Church Kid.”

I hope my take on If I Were the Devil encourages conversations between church people. I hope it at least helps church leadership begin to realize that the only reason a local congregation fails to thrive is the local congregation pushes people away.

But, most importantly, I hope this will bring “church kids” together in a way that we celebrate the people in our lives that made a positive difference and pushed us to be more like Jesus.

 

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