The Withertongue Emails: Part X


My dear Filthpit,

I am encouraged that your client has been befriended by some young men in the congregation. They are just the sort of people you must persuade your pastor he ought to know. Young, married, superficial, skeptical about the world, distrustful of any kind of authority. Better yet, they are politely xenophobic. They have a habit of belittling as immoral, condemnable, or evil anything that seems to threaten the comfortable life they’ve carved out for themselves. This will prove to be a remarkable benefit for us. Put this to good use not just socially, but on Sunday morning too. Urge your client to include references in his sermons to whichever group troubles him and his flock most; foreign, religious, political, it doesn’t matter. Turn his attention from the Enemy’s babble about grace and charity to pride, fear, cynicism, and skepticism. In no time, especially because of the company he keeps, he will turn into the man he pretends he isn’t. 

Keep him blind to the temptation. Make it appear as if these new friends are improving his mood, his attitude, his outlook on the world. Soon enough he will embrace their ideas. He too will fear those who seems strange and alien. He will criticize anyone who is not like his social or religious group, who doesn’t share his political convictions. He will become a different man altogether in no time. He will appear to be the same man as always, yes, the same pastor his congregation has come to know. But in his imagination a different man, a more God-fearing Christian, will emerge driven by fear. He will laugh when he should correct his friends lack of charity. He will be silent when he should preach forgiveness. He will sneer when he should pray for peace. He will condemn those whose religion, skin color, and political ideology differ from his, instead of proclaiming the power of the Enemy’s promise to make friends out of enemies. 

Make this a pleasurable experience for him. Exploit his self-loathing. Appeal to his sense of self-preservation. He can be taught to enjoy prejudice, you’ll see. In my experience, it doesn’t require much effort on our part before humans identify an enemy who can provide a convenient justification for their shame and vanity. To this end, Filthpit, you can tempt the young man with the Enemy’s own words. Remind your client about “filthy Mammon” and about the importance of the company he keeps for his faith and well being. All that will lead him to pray for the destruction of anyone who looks, believes, or thinks different than him. He will become permanently preoccupied with thoughts about who deserves mercy and who should be cursed. This will induce him to spend more and more time with his friends, and less and less time in meditation on the Enemy’s words, prayer, and consideration of the suffering and affliction of displaced people. His alarm, fear, and aggravation will only continue to grow. The tension of self-satisfaction and shame will be an undercurrent in your client that will eventually drive him to suspect and fear not only Muslims, liberals, and the media, but even his own mother.

Your proud teacher,

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'. He is pastor of Saint John Lutheran Church in Webster, MN. A graduate of Concordia Universities in St. Paul, Minnesota and Portland, Oregon, Pastor Riley received his seminary and post-graduate education at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He colloquized into the LC-MS from the ELCA in 2008. He is married to Annie, and is the father of four children: Owen, Alma, Hoshea, and Hallel.
Twitter @DonavonRiley