If I Were the Devil

Most of you young people will not know who is the author of the words that form the basis for this editorial, although some of you older young folks quite possibly are familiar with his identity. So a bit of background is in order.

Paul Harvey (1918–2009) was a well-known radio personality for many decades, and perhaps the most famous of all commentators. Beginning in 1951he broadcast a show called Paul Harvey News and Comment, a fifteen minute mix of news and his opinions on a wide range of topics. At the height of his popularity, he was heard by 24 million people on 1200 radio stations. His show was broadcast mornings and mid-days during the week, and Saturdays at noon. Almost everyone made it a point to tune in to the correct station long enough to hear what he had to say. No matter where you were, you heard his mellifluous tones emanating from multiple radios. Ask your parents or grandparents—they will remember. His popularity continued unabated through the years until his death in 2009 at the age of 90. A quick internet search will produce a great deal of information on him, as well as examples of his broadcasts.

Harvey was politically conservative. He was not in favor of big government, and he frequently and unabashedly criticized the foolishness and waste of the government, pointing out examples of waste and ineptness. His tongue was sharp when he spoke of a lack of common sense and a departure from traditional values, especially on the part of political leaders and other influential people.

Harvey was also religious. By no stretch of the imagination was he Reformed, but he was generally evangelical, although late in life he converted to Seventh Day Adventism. It was apparent from his speech that he knew the Scriptures and the major doctrines of Christianity. As with politics, he was not afraid to speak out on religious topics, often lamenting the general deterioration of morals and opposing the compromising of biblical values. He had a knack for doing all of this in a pointed and pithy manner, leaving his listeners to draw their own conclusions from the implications that he often left unsaid. Often he was humorous, and always he was entertaining.

What follows is a transcript of a portion of Harvey’s broadcast on April 3, 1965, 48 years ago. His words are uncannily prescient; they almost partake of the character of prophecy. Most, if not all of what he said has come to pass and is still happening today. In order to understand this, we need to remember that the world in 1965 was very different from what it is today. The Vietnam War about which you read today in the history books today had not yet happened. One hot issue of the day was whether or not stores should be open on Sunday. Another was the dispute about banning pornography versus freedom of speech. Computers were unknown, and most televisions were black and white. Examples could be multiplied.  Many more observations can be made about these words, and against this background I will make a few of them, interspersing them in italics for purposes of clarity.

If I were the Devil . . . I mean, if I were the Prince of Darkness, I would, of course, want to engulf the whole earth in darkness. I would 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 should set about however necessary to take over the United States. Harvey is perhaps a little low in speaking of a third of earth’s real estate, but his point is correct. The devil already had most of the world under his influence. Places such as China, India, and much of Africa were largely unknown to the rest of the civilized world, and therefore not under the influence of Christianity. But the United States was at least a nominally Christian country, more religious than it is today, and therefore not as much under Satan’s control. I would begin with a campaign of whispers. The devil is so subtle! With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.” “Do as you please.” Here we see the allegedly free will of man, his self-exaltation, and his rebellion against God, arising from a totally depraved nature. This must be understood against the background of the social upheaval that was already beginning to happen, and which would increase during the remainder of the 1960s. These were the days of the hippies, of protests, of violence and riots in the streets, of campus sit-ins, and of a generally independent and rebellious spirit. To the young, I would whisper, “The Bible is a myth.” He did, and they listened. The result even today is that few believe that the Bible is the infallibly inspired word of God. I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. Satan got the job done. The result was that liberal theologians declared that “God is dead.” The consequence today is the almost universal acceptance of the theory of evolution. I would confide that what is bad is good, and what is good is “square”. “Square” in those days was an insult. It meant that you were conservative, probably a Christian, but with the implication that you were hopelessly out of touch with present reality. It was the opposite of “cool.”  In the ears of the young marrieds, I would whisper that work is debasing, that cocktail parties are good for you. Alcohol was the drug of choice in those days, not only for young couples, but also for young people, who could illegally obtain it with the same ease as young folks can today. I would caution them not to be extreme in religion, in patriotism, in moral conduct. For “extreme,” read “conservative” or “upright.” And the old, I would teach to pray. I would teach them to say after me: “Our Father, which art in Washington . . .” People were becoming increasingly dependent on the government, especially in the context of the creation of Medicare in 1965, which is the reference here.

If I were the devil, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull an uninteresting. I’d threaten T.V. with dirtier movies and vice versa. And then, if I were the devil, I’d get organized. I’d infiltrate unions and urge more loafing and less work, because idle hands usually work for me. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. Drugs such as meth, heroin, and cocaine were popular only among a few, and marijuana was just becoming generally known. Apparently Harvey saw the drug problem coming. He certainly recognized the devastating consequences of drug use. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. And I’d tranquilize the rest with pills. How true! America is a nation of pill-takers for every ailment, real or imagined. If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellects but neglect to discipline emotions . . . let those run wild. The result is the massacres that are taking place today. I would designate an atheist to front for me before the highest courts in the land and I would get preachers to say, “She’s right.” The reference is to Madalyn Murray O’Hair, a leading atheist activist who was largely responsible for removing Bible reading from the public schools. From our viewpoint, it did not belong there to begin with, but for completely different reasons. With flattery and promises of power, I could get the courts to rule what I construe as against God and in favor of pornography, and  thus, I would evict God from the courthouse, and then from the school house, and then from the houses of Congress and then, in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion, and I would deify science because that way men would become smart enough to create super weapons but not wise enough to control them.

If I were Satan, I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg, and the symbol of Christmas, a bottle. If I were the devil, I would take from those who have and I would give to those who wanted, until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. Is this not precisely what is taking place today? And then, my police state would force everybody back to work. Then, I could separate families, putting children in uniform, women in coal mines, and objectors in slave camps. This is what will happen when the kingdom of antichrist shows itself in all its power. For one who has eyes to see, that kingdom is not far off. In other words, if I were Satan, I’d just keep on doing what he’s doing.

What should we take away from Paul Harvey’s comments?

We should see the signs of the times. Scripture mentions various signs, but two stand out in this context. One is a great increase in wickedness as the end approaches. This includes abounding and accelerating apostasy in the sphere of the church, as well as increasing wickedness in general. It is especially this general increase of which we are here reminded. When by such a monologue as this I am reminded what the general situation was in 1965, and compare then with now, the change is astounding. There are so many more ways to sin today than there were nearly 50 years ago. This trend will continue unabated until the end of time, and the speed of its development will do nothing but increase. The other sign that stands out is that of the social upheaval among the nations. Scripture teaches that there will be such a general unrest, both within the nations and between the various nations. It is the former that stands on the foreground here. This is necessary to pave the way for the antichrist because there must be a justification or a reason that he arises. He does not arise in a vacuum, but comes as a savior to fulfill a need for peace and stability within and between the nations. Now more than ever the way is being made ready for his arrival.

Further, I am struck by the increase in the difficulty of life today versus five decades ago. Today life is so much more complex and sophisticated than it was then. Consider only one example: the seemingly omnipresent computers in various forms and their universal use. There is more computing power in our fancy phones than there was on the Apollo mission to the moon. All of this can be properly used as a significant force for good. But it also can be (and is) used as a huge power for evil. This implies that there are correspondingly great temptations; we have a wide array from which to choose. This is true to one degree or another for all of us, but especially of you young people. You have many choices to make, most of which will affect you for the rest of your lives. The sheer number is daunting, to say nothing of the many spiritual and ethical matters that arise.

Do not misunderstand. As young people, we had our problems too (I was in high school in 1965). We too had choices to make, and it was often bewildering to face them at a time of great change and unrest. Life for us was not a bed of roses. Nevertheless,          I believe that it is harder to be a young person today than it was back then. If given a choice, I would prefer 1965 over 2013.

Yet in light of Harvey’s comments, it is striking that when you get right down to it, life is fundamentally the same today as it was then, as he implies in his last sentence. Surely there are outward and formal differences, but essentially the principles of life have not changed. The battle of the antithesis is still the same, the antagonists are still the same, and the outcome will be the same, for God is in his heaven. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Thus, a word of warning to you, young people. Beware, for the devil goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. And he is after you more than anyone else. Keep up your guard against the multiplicity of temptations that you must face. In prayer ask God for his sustaining and strengthening grace, that you may be able to stand.

And a word of encouragement to fight the good fight of faith. The war is difficult, and sometimes winning looks like a lost cause. But in Christ we are already assured of victory. In the power of that assurance, go forth and live your lives for him.