“Rather reign in hell than serve in heaven.”
-John Milton, paradise lost
After strolling around the Tidal Basin to mock the cherry blossoms, the devil soon finds himself atop Capitol Hill. The Capitol Police assume the devil is some high-level lobbyist, congressman, or agent provocateur, so they willingly invite him in. The devil is not lost that day. He has a specific person in mind.
In fact, the lower demons of Hell had already informed their dark prince of an aspiring young Senate clerk – a young man so renowned for his sanity, common sense, and honesty that even long-since veteran US senators would trust him Boyish logic and truthfulness showed respect. Of course, these senators also respect that they could never trust such an honest man in their midst for too long and are happy to point the devil in the young employee’s direction.
The devil approaches and says, “Son, let me tell you something. I hear your logic and honesty are as sure as Christ’s seat in heaven. In fact, several senators to whom I’ve already promised pawns in Hell don’t seem to shut up when it comes to you and your amazing qualities. That’s all they seem to talk about at our weekly Demons Anonymous meetings. You are hell my son and it annoys me to no end to hear their incessant babble about you. Seriously, I haven’t been this upset since Job. That being said, I’d wager that for all your vaunted logic and love of truth, you’ll eventually prove to be just as stupid as the rest of humanity. So I’ll bet you.”
“All right,” says the employee, “but before I hear you out, can we discuss this over a drink?” I think the best way to discuss bets is over a beer.”
“Sure,” says the devil, “but I only drink Chardonnay.”
You walk a few minutes in silence to a worn local bar not far from the Capitol complex.
“Ah, Ted Kennedy told me about this place,” says the devil as the two nestle in an alcove.
“I’ve heard the stories. So what’s your bet?” asks the employee.
“Let’s both run for President,” says the devil.
“OK?” says the young man with a raised eyebrow.
“Never mind the practical details of such an endeavor,” the devil continues, “I have not come to rule my own kingdom without certain special abilities. I guarantee that we are the only two candidates on the ballot and that we will both have adequate resources – money, manpower, access to the media, etc. If mere men can manipulate the electoral process, you know the devil can too . That means you’re at least 35 years old, right? Not even the devil himself can change the US Constitution these days.”
“I’m 36. What’s the catch?” asks the young politician while sipping his drink.
“The condition is this: you may go out armed to the teeth with your cherished honesty, logic and appeal to human reason. but that’s all you can use. Whereas I will go out and only appeal to people’s emotions. I will play with their fear, envy and lust with all sorts of lies, deceit and false promises. These will be my exclusive weapons. So what are you saying? Honesty versus falsehood! Truth vs Lie! The light of the Logos against the prince of darkness! Just remember! The American people will love the spectacle! Think of the advertising revenue! My buddies in the media are going to make a kill! Of course, whoever gets the most votes in the electoral college wins.”
“And what is at stake?” asks the young man.
“You win, and I will torment the poor souls of the earth no longer for the rest of eternity. Mind you, that’s quite a long time. I win and your soul will be mine to torment relentlessly for all eternity. Also one very long time. What are you saying?”
“No, not today, Satan,” says the clerk, finishing his drink and rising from the table, “I’d rather try to serve heaven than ever try to rule this hell.”
The best way to win a devil’s political bet is not to gamble at all—unless you’re willing to be a little like the devil himself.
You can chat with the devil, you can walk with the devil, you can even share a drink with the devil, but a truly wise and honest man knows that he will never try to beat those devils who hold the power in their own worship game.
Joey Clark is an Alabama native and is currently the presenter of the News and Views radio show on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV from Montgomery, AL MF, 9am-12pm. His column appears every Tuesday in the 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking engagements and feedback, please email [email protected]
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policies or position of 1819 News. To comment, please email [email protected] with your name and contact information.
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