A Rabid Fundamentalist Column
John W. Cowart

Once upon a time there were three little devils: Rancid, Thrill and Sweet Little Gloria.

They were consultants.

The boss devil, Old Granddad, gave these three a problem to solve and they sat on a slag heap down where devils live and racked their brains about it.

Rancid, a fat scaly creature with bad breath, ate manhole covers as though they were cookies while he thought over the problem. He scratched constantly. As the groups resident intellectual, he expected to come up with an answer first.

Thrill, a slender nervous spirit, picked at plaque between his fangs with the steel point of a second-hand syringe as he pondered the problem. Oral hygiene was important to Thrill. Where he lived, if you're without fangs, you're nobody. He really could think better while he was driving but the others refused to ride with him -- devils have better sense -- and he found it difficult to think while sitting still.

Sweet Little Gloria brushed her golden hair a hundred strokes as she wondered about an answer. Today, she wore her blue dress, the one with the lace collar and the full skirt. Her smart black pumps were polished to a mirror finish and if you looked at the reflection just right you could see that she was not wearing... Well, never mind that. As usual, she looked radiant, an angel of light.

"Well, hello, little girl," said Old Granddad. "Would you like some candy? A new car? An executive position?"

With a toss of her curls, she said, "Bug off you pathetic limp -- Er, I mean imp. I prefer strong young men; they're so cute and they get so upset when the sores start running pus."

"Well, I tried," the boss devil said. "Now down to business. What have you three come up with about the problem? What is the best method to keep humans from repenting their sins, straightening out their lives, loving their neighbors and living for God?"

"I've got it," said Rancid brushing metal flake crumbs from the manhole covers off his fat belly. "What we'll do is whisper in their ears that there is no God. If they think there is no God, then each person will live only for itself."

"That's a stupid idea," snapped Old Granddad. "They may be human but they're not fools.

"Why, they know God is. They see order in the universe He made. And even humans know that where there is a plan, there has to be a Planner. They even feel love every once in a while and even the dumbest of them knows that where there is love, somewhere there has to be a Lover.

"Your idea will not work," Old Granddad said. His tail lashed out and knocked Rancid's manhole covers onto the floor. "No more desert for you until we find a way to keep people from Christ," he snarled.

"I know how," Thrill said with a happy smirk. "What we'll do is sneak up there and whisper in their ears that there is no Hell. If they think that there is no Hell, no accountability, no consequences for what they do, then they will live exactly as they please, never knowing they have to answer for it."

Old Granddad seethed.

"Your idea is dumber that his," he shouted. "People know that Hell is. Why some of them have already had a little taste of Hell on earth. Look, up on the earth, that woman in the office there was molested as a child. And that man over there by the lamp was in Viet Nam. And see that girl who is trying to decide about having an abortion; her heart is breaking whichever way she decides. And look at that executive; every night he goes home and finds his wife drunk. They have been hurt so bad already; how can you convince them that there is no Hell? It's just not possible."

Old Granddad whacked Thrill in the mouth chipping a fang.

Thrill pouted.

"I know what to do," purred Sweet Little Gloria.

"What," asked Old Granddad, "What will keep people from repenting their sins, straightening out their lives, loving their neighbors, and living for God?"

"It's easy," Sweet Little Gloria said with a bright smile. "We can't tell them there is no God because they're not fools. We can't tell them there is no Hell because they see too much suffering already. so what we'll do is..."

The other three demons leaned forward to hear.

"We will whisper in their ears that there is ... no hurry," she said.

"Let the humans dribble out their lives a day at a time. Let them always intend to stop smoking, loose weight, read a good book, repent sins, love neighbors, live for Christ... but let them always intend to start -- Tomorrow.

"Tell them there is no hurry," she said.

The other demons regarded their baby sister with envy.

In the Bible, Saint Paul might have had this angel of light's argument in mind when he wrote, "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."

That's fundamental.



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