If You’re Looking for Devils

Dearest Rachel –

When I was a freshman in high school, I think it was our youth group that went to another church where there was a presentation about the evils of rock music. I heard it all there: the ‘fact’ that the Eagles’ Hotel California album featured Anton LeVay head of the church of Satan somewhere on its cover; the stories about secret messages played backwards and incorporated in the music; the allegations of an actual devil worship permeating the entire industry, and the middle genres metal genres in particular. And of course, they were the titles of some of the songs that seem to buttress the argument: ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper,’ ‘Running With the Devil,’ ‘Highway to Hell,’ ‘Sympathy For the Devil.’ And to be sure, the lifestyles of those in the industry did it come off as pretty salacious. Definitely something not the sort of people that you would want to emulate as a kid (or that you would want your kids to emulate as a parent, which was probably the point of this whole scare tactic). I bought the whole thing; hook, line and sinker, And swore off most forms of popular music for a long time. I wouldn’t even listen to Christian rock until I was a senior, because of the evil associations I’d been taught about.

It wasn’t until later on that I heard the story of General William Booth of the Salvation Army, and how he praised that music at a certain Army meeting he attended, only to discover that the original-sounding hymn that he was listening to had been based off of a popular drinking song of the time called “Champagne Charlie is My Name.” After a brief pause, wherein I could imagine the good General blinking several times in surprise while the music director stood before him looking somewhat sheepish, he burst into a hearty laugh, and exclaimed, “Well, why should the devil have all the good music?” But that was a lesson learned much later, during which time I missed out on some pretty decent (and some fairly execrable, let’s be honest and consider Sturgeon’s Law) music. And these days, I find the hunt for evil – and a fair amount of the music being investigated – fairly ridiculous now, not unlike this sketch:

Anyone feeling like they have to go out and double-park right now?

The point is, if you’re looking for the devil, you’re going to find him whether he’s there or not. And you’re going to waste so much time and allergy and energy stamping out little devils – and looking stupid while you do so – when that energy could be channeled into so much more good instead.

Note that, at the end of the song, there is a snippet that clearly appears to be played backwards that’s been added to this track. Clearly, Petra was aware of these sorts of accusations, and was twigging its audience about it. In fact, this wasn’t even the first time they had done this; on their album More Power To Ya, their song “Judas’ Kiss” included a very deliberate backmasking at the beginning of the track. Reversed, the clip queried the listener “What are you looking for the Devil for, when you ought to be looking for the Lord?”

In fact, I imagine that a fair number of those musical groups invoked that fact to sell more records – even back then, it was well known that ‘edgy’ (even if it wasn’t called it at that time) meant sales. If you buy media just to burn it, you’re still buying it. As long as the cash register rings, it’s not the sellers’ concern what you plan to do with it.

And business – and money in general – is amoral. Not immoral, amoral. There’s nothing inherently good or evil in money or business. It’s how you conduct it that truly matters. You can check out the Proverbs for how many times God condemns practices like using different pairs of weights to measure out goods versus coins, for instance.


But that hasn’t stopped people from looking for – and finding – sinister symbolism in the line of business. I am old enough to remember stories of three sixes being drawn out of the stars in the Procter & Gamble logo.

Garage Sale Finds: The Devil's Shortening and other ...

You may or may not remember – you weren’t involved in the conference at the time, I don’t think – but I do think it was one of my later years in college, so you were around at the time. There was a state wide conference of Baptist Student Unions, and the theme was “One Life, Two Worlds.” I had drawn a logo incorporating a large number one and two circles representing the worlds for our campus newsletter.

The logo in question is in the lower right corner.

One of the organizers of the statewide conference got a hold of it, and asked me to do the logo for the actual conference. I was proud of getting the assignment, and determined to do a good job with it. I went as far as to make both the one and the worlds three-dimensional, and giving them shading and the like. Everybody seemed to like it, it passed muster, and it was published as part of the conference documentation. It wasn’t until later that my roommate (a drama major who was not into religion of any sort) pointed out that by making the number one cylindrical, and posing it in front of two spheres, gave the whole logo a decidedly phallic look. Well, once some thing like that is seen, it can’t be unseen. I didn’t keep a copy of my work; I was too embarrassed by it.

These things happen. If you look hard enough, you can see things in artwork that weren’t necessarily intended, and I speak from the artist’s perspective – even if I wasn’t much of an artist.

But the point is, looking for clues about the evil of an organization in its logo or artwork is a fool’s errand. How they conduct business is a better measure of whether they’re worth dealing with. Certainly from the tales I’ve heard, was better off dealing with Procter & Gamble than the likes of Nestlé, for instance (you can read about their issues with bottled water and baby formula, if you really want to – it may well boil your blood). But no company is without sin, anymore than any individual is. Were we to just stop doing business with every company that does something that we consider morally wrong, we would need to be living completely off the grid, growing our own food, and ekeing out a subsistence not even a medieval peasant would envy.

I recall people claiming when it was first introduced, at the UPC and the UPC symbol on literally every item scanned in a store these days at the bar code for six at the beginning in the middle and the end of the code. Gasp! The Mark of the Beast! And you can’t buy or sell without it!

Mark of the Beast 666: UPC Code 666 caculation

Honestly, I find these moral panics ridiculous these days. It’s some kind of demented crossover between Chicken Little and the Boy Who Cried Wolf; And yes, that means that one day I’ll probably be caught flat-footed when the sky actually does fall, and clocks me on the head.

And the hyper-religious aren’t the only ones who suffer from this. These days, the current moral panic seems to be the assumption wherein literally everybody is racist – or at least everybody white is racist – and therefore completely, utterly and irredeemably evil. Which is strange, because if you think that someone is inherently evil just because of their skin color… isn’t that racist? But these folks go on to find racism in literally everything in life. Why, you can’t even describe a certain kind of food as ‘exotic’ these days because apparently that’s being xenophobic, and therefore racist, and therefore evil. It’s exhausting to keep up with, and ultimately, not worth the effort. If you tried to avoid everything that people said was ‘problematic’ these days – be it racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic (or, and I don’t get the ‘phobic’ bit – who’s afraid of these people, anyway? And why? But I digress) – you will be left with a joyless, boring and unfulfilling life. Oh, and you’ll starve to death.

I was woken from my nap the other night, but before I could get Chompers’ pill ready and take him out for one last pee, Daniel announced to me that “You [and the family] got off lucky.” According to all the people that he listens to, there have been multiple serious side effects to all of the vaccines for COVID-19 – and he did show me a video of someone with a really bad case of the shakes, supposedly cause by the effects of the vaccine (which one, he didn’t specify – maybe the video didn’t, either). According to him, all this is being hushed up by the ‘powers that be.’

Which strikes me is rather odd, as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was put on hold for a couple of weeks due to six people dying from it (out of a vaccinated population of seven million in this country alone. This isn’t even comparable to the fiasco that accompanied the 1976 swine flu vaccine). If they’re trying to hush these things up, so as to get everybody vaccinated, they’re doing a pretty bad job of it. If you ask me, this all seems like a job for Hanlon’s Razor:

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity

Robert J. Hanlon

But the people who he listens to seem to be bound and determined to find sinister motives in just about everything that’s happening. Thanks to them, he seems convinced that everybody in power worships either Ba’al or Moloch/Marduk, and that vast numbers of children are being sacrificed each year to these gods, so that these people can remain in power. All of which strikes me as being similar to the blood libels from the days of the ‘boy martyrs’ William of Norwich and Hugh of Lincoln from the 12th and 13th centuries respectively. Just substitute the term ‘elites’ for ‘Jews’ and it’s the same accusations of child sacrifice a millennium later, and probably with the same amount of truth to it – which is to say, none. But these things go on. Nothing changes under the sun, they say.

So much time, so much effort, so much intellectual capacity wasted. So much potential for good directed in the most ridiculous ways. And some of it right under my nose, and I can’t seem to do anything about it.

You are the voice of reason that he listened to; I know he told you about some of these things back when you were still around. I understand that you responded with a non-committal “I’ll believe it when I see it.” I try to invoke your spirit when he tells me more of these fantastical things, but I think he knows that I disbelieve him.

And why shouldn’t I? Back in March or April, he told me about how so many people that were in power at the time would come to justice – and soon. I told him to make a list of everybody that was so indicted by the end of June, and I would contribute to his savings account accordingly. I even offered to extend that through July, and give him half credit for those (since justice works slower than he thinks it does). July is coming to an end, and nothing much has happened.

But for whatever reason, he seems not to be dissuaded. He continues to tell me that “everything will change” by the end of the year. And once again, all I can do is tell him to list everything that changes, and we’ll look at it again then. Maybe it’ll change his mind. Until then, I can only hope.

And until then, wish us luck, honey.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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