Published May 8, 2012
I've written in the past that the late Paul Harvey was one of my "radio heroes." I grew up listening to him. And a family visit with him in his Chicago studio during his live midday network broadcast on June 6, 2000, was unforgettable.
One of his most popular essays, presented in various forms over the years both on the air and in his syndicated newspaper column, was one called "If I Were The Devil." Recently I came across multiple versions of his column which he updated several times over the years and was struck by how appropriate it is even today.
So what follows is an edited adaptation, using mostly Paul Harvey's own words, but with material drawn from two versions, one published in 1964 and the other in 1996, with the latter providing the basis for most of it. See if you don't agree it's as timely today as ever perhaps even more so.
"If I Were The Devil"
- If I were the prince of darkness, I would want to engulf the whole world in darkness.
- I'd have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree. So, I would set about however necessary to take over the United States.
- I'd subvert the churches first, and I would begin with a campaign of whispers.
- With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: "Do as you please."
- To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I'd confide that what's bad is good and what's good is outdated.
- I'd convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that what used to be called "living in sin" is more fun and that what you see on television and in movies is normal.
- Then I'd educate authors in how to make lurid literature so exciting that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. And I'd get the fawning media to fan the flames.
- In the ears of the young married I would whisper that work is debasing, that cocktail parties are good for you. I would caution them not to be "extreme" in religion, in patriotism, in moral conduct.
- And the old, I would teach to pray after me, "Our Father, which art in Washington..."
- I'd peddle narcotics to whom I could. I'd sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I'd tranquilize the rest with pills.
- I'd infiltrate unions and urge more freeloading, less work. Idle hands usually work for me.
- I'd take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. Then my police state would force everybody back to work.
- If I were the devil, I'd soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves and nations at war with themselves until each, in its turn, was consumed.
- If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellect but neglect to discipline emotions. I'd tell teachers to let those students run wild. And before you knew it, you'd have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.
- Within a decade, I'd have prisons overflowing and judges promoting pornography. Soon, I would evict God from the courthouse and the schoolhouse and then from the houses of Congress.
- In God's own churches, I would substitute psychology for religion and would deify science. I'd lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money. I'd work hardest on pastors, tempting them with forbidden things, because even one example of a pastor caught in sinful hypocrisy would be very productive for me.
- If I were the devil, I'd take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. What'll you bet I couldn't get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?
- In other words, if I were the devil, I'd just keep right on doing what he's been doing.
PS: A very interesting current video commentary presented in the same spirit as the above can be found here.
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