My dear Globdrop,
Excuse my prolonged absence. Works darker and more disgraceful arrived on my doorstep. The agency needed to issue a cease and desist, let’s call it — a resistless commission. I return to your misshapen mount of letters stacked upon my desk, with more vice and vitriol than ever.
From the few entreaties I survived this afternoon, it appears much has transpired — little for the better. Your man is married, is he? To a Christian, no doubt. And in my absence, he began — no, wait, here it is — he graduated from an unapproved training facility. Of all things, nephew. Am I to report you as a double agent?
Your man “aspires for ministry”; let’s begin here. As you know, several types of shepherd meet the approval of our Headquarters. Our favorite, no doubt, wins the Enemy’s protest, “You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep” (Ezekiel 34:3). A demon’s glory, Globdrop, winged upon undying sneers of howls: to create a shepherd who enjoys lambchop and wool socks.
But given your archery of late, you must aim at a bigger target. If not feasting on the flock, then he at least must be unarmed and unwilling to guide or protect her. Softer than ewe’s fleece, he must think it amiss that he would be required to confront anyone — whether other shepherds or sheep or wolves or robbers. He must never goad straying sheep or strike at bears, never raise his tone or lift the rod. Paint him in green pastures with warm colors and carefree expressions — no wanderers or predators or violence.
But I’m guessing you have already enrolled him in N.I.C.E.?
It appears not.
Honestly, Globdrop, you will not last the century if you can’t manage your wits at the front line. You should have enrolled him in the N.I.C.E. program years ago. This is for all of the Enemy’s cows, but especially the males.
Commit the fourfold essentials of N.I.C.E. to your quaking mind immediately.
Smooth shepherds stand in high demand, fitting especially well with this generation’s chief end: the self. Liberated from the chains of “objective truth,” they are self-made and self-making. No objective “me” — vulnerable to the opinions of others — exists. To disapprove of or contradict someone’s self or chosen path is a high offense — how can anyone else know what’s best for me? Disagreement, dear nephew, is dead. Assert your truth on anyone else, and you declare war on a sovereign state.
Do you fault an Enemy’s man, then, for being susceptible to speak that singular message of our favorite wartime pastors of old: “Peace, peace”? Why Paul would warn of ravenous wolves from without and perverse teachers from within, he cannot tell. Compelling speech — beat it into his head — is never confrontational speech. His staff is a mere walking stick. Let the straying or snarling or sleeping damned lie, undisturbed.
Once his speech is sanded, smooth it further. If your man becomes “helpful” because of his soft words and silken tone (even to a few), let him hear the good news immediately. This, in turn, tenders him to criticism and reinforces his own reluctance to offer anything else. Let him leave his neighbor with spinach in his teeth or a log in his eye or idols in his heart.
At first, he may resist the temptation, it is true. But how quietly do we turn the rudder of crude words like “godliness” into “the appearance of godliness”? “The Enemy’s ministry” into “my ministry”? He may think he asks, What does the Enemy say? But under all this, the quiet and fragile purr: Will everyone be happy with me? Will they be impressed?
What surgeon refuses his scalpel, what demon his darts — and will your man really lay down the Enemy’s blade or his staff? He will. For to do so is humility, after all. Behold the puppet show.
The rule runs thus: he must never operate on sins that haven’t scarred him. Nathan told David, “You are the man!” — without having stolen any poor man’s sheep. He spent no time confessing his many faults to keep he and the sinner on level plane. Not so with modern Nathans. Hear him, after blurting his many sins, bashfully suggest, “And maybe . . . I’m not certain, but just possibly — and don’t take this the wrong way — but you could be the man . . . well, a man, really. . . . But of course, we all are . . . I especially.”
It must remain the height of arrogance to help someone out of a pit one hasn’t first lived in. Reproving uncommitted sin is worse than the sin committed. Seriously, nephew, how can any man tell a woman what she cannot “do with her own body”? This is the kind of lowliness we support.
In summary, desex his teaching. We have worked tirelessly to train this generation to despise language associated with the male sex . . . gender . . . thing. Direct speech, forceful speech is always naughty speech. Shave the chest, blunt the blade. Think apes in the circus: cap his head and teach him to juggle.
Make the general’s cry, the trumpet blast, the call to arms seem excessive, aggressive, impolite. Such naked conversation is most irregular, improper, and ungentlemanly. Not to mention proud. He may share but never preach. “Thus saith the Lord” reeks of ancient bigotries and that old sock of patriarchy. Concerning their tongues, we still remember, and agree with, Paul’s exclamation: “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12) — though we would never speak this crudely, of course.
Brunch with the Queen
Visualize his Christian life and “ministry” as a sunny afternoon sipping tea with the queen. Remind him to keep good posture, mind his manners, and not talk warfare at the table — pinky finger out. Oh, he is still a soldier — no denying that. Look at that clean, creased uniform, that sharp, pointy sword tucked neatly at his side. Those sewn-on badges nearly blind us in the sun! This polite man requests our admiration — and fear, even — we must render honor its due.
But what of the prophets, apostles, and the Enemy himself, you wonder? So few today seem to ask. Rascals of the old guard threw spears at our training. Rabid tongues of men like Paul, John the Baptist, Peter, Elijah, and the Enemy himself lashed out against our rules of decorum — so we silenced them.
Style him our kind of N.I.C.E. — more the smiling mannequin than man or minister. Make him shrink back before the bleat of the sheep’s and goat’s displeasure and refuse the unpleasant work of warning, correcting, or laying down his own life. There exists a broader, kinder, easier way. If he ever suspects cowardice, let him censure the dead.
Your returned savior,