The Deceiver
by Mike Fischer
(from "The Hangman" by Maurice Ogden)

Into our town the Deceiver came,
Veiled in the cloak of Jesus' name,
And he saw that our souls were unaware
And he came to our church in the village square.

Our church was small, but we stood for Christ,
And the Word of God for us sufficed.
Our hymns were simple but honest song,
And the youngest of us knew right from wrong.

And we wondered, whenever we saw his tools,
Who the victims (what simple fools!)
That Deceiver would take with a subtle twist
Of holy truth in his clammy fist.

And innocent though we were, with dread
We passed those eyes of buckshot lead:
Till one cried: "Deceiver, who is he
For whom you make your heresy?"

Then a twinkle grew in the buckshot eye,
And he gave us a riddle instead of reply:
"He who serves me best," said he,
"Shall learn the depths of my heresy."

And he stepped down, and laid his hand
On a deacon who for the truth would stand.
He fell at the touch, and for some time after,
That deacon could not speak for laughter.

"He's blessed," the Deceiver said, "and more,
For soon he'll learn to bark and roar!"
And we praised the Lord, for the deacon's grief
At Deceiver's hand was our relief.

And the "Purpose" sign on the church front lawn
By tomorrow's sun would be struck and gone.
So we gave him way, and silent we,
Out of respect for his Ph.D.

The next day's sun looked mildly down
On roof and street in our quiet town
And stark and black in our place of prayer,
The heresy in the churchyard square.

And Deceiver stood at his usual stand
With a paraphrased Bible in his hand,
With his buckshot eye and his jaw like a pike
And his air so knowing and businesslike.

And we cried, "Deceiver, have you not done
Yesterday, with the laughing one?"
Then we fell silent, and stood amazed,
"Oh, not for him was my falsehood raised."

He laughed a laugh as he looked at us:
"...Did you think I'd gone to all this fuss
To fool one man? That's a thing I do
To stretch a truth with a word or two."

Then one cried "Liar!" One cried "Shame!"
And into our midst Deceiver came
To that man's pew. "Do you hold," said he,
"with the 'saved by grace' tomfoolery?"

"You don't need repentance -- that's dreary stuff.
Just do your best -- that's good enough."
And the young man nodded, and no one spoke,
Thinking Deceiver had made a joke.

That night we saw with dread surprise
Deceiver's power had grown in size.
Scorning the truth in disrepute,
The heresy had taken root.

Each of us sat in our usual pew,
But many were doubting the truth we knew.
We sang about victory, talked of grace,
But joy was missing from many a face.

His third attack from the pits of Hell
Was aimed at the Word. "You know quite well
That the Bible's an old, outdated book.
Am I wrong, young lady?" Her head she shook.

And we all cried out, "Is this one she
Who has served you well and faithfully?"
Deceiver smiled: "It's a clever scheme
To boost the size of the worship team."

The fourth day, he spoke about our song.
"The words are old, and the tone is wrong.
If greater attendance you would see,
You must look and sound like MTV."

The fifth. The sixth. And we cried again,
"Deceiver, tell us, is this the end?"
"It's a trick," he said, "that we preachers know
For bringing in goats when the sheep run low."

And so we ceased, and asked no more,
As Deceiver raised his ungodly score:
And sun by sun, and night by night,
The heresy grew to monstrous height.

Each Sunday, fewer held their pews
As they stayed home to read the Sunday news.
Some sought the mega-churches' truth,
While others sought Oprah and Dr. Ruth.

Then to the church Deceiver came
And called in the empty aisles my name --
And I looked at the falsehoods soaring tall
And thought, "There's no truth left at all

For twisting. And so he calls to me
To help set right his heresy."
And I went out with my hope of heaven
To Deceiver's lies and Deceiver's leaven.

He smiled at me as I came down
To the churchyard square through the worldly town.
And supple and stretched in his clammy hand
Was the score for the hard-rock worship band.

And he whistled his tune as he skimmed through Acts,
And filled a wastebasket with Gospel tracts.
And then with a smile of awful command,
He laid his hands upon my hand.

"You tricked me, Deceiver!" I shouted then.
"That your lies were invented for other men,
And I no friend of yours," I cried,
"You lied, you Deceiver, foully lied!"

Then a twinkle grew in the eye of lead.
"Lied to you? Tricked you? Of course I did.
But I answered once and I told you true,
My best disciple is none but you.

"For who has served me more faithfully
Than you with your silence?" gloated he,
"And where are the doctrines that once stood
To help you to know and choose the good?"

"Changed," I whispered, and hatefully,
"Corrupted," Deceiver corrected me:
"Bible, salvation, Spirit too...
I did no more than you let me do."

In the silence, Deceiver said with a yawn,
"My work is done here. I'll move on."
And he left me scornfully in the lurch,
And no prayers rose from the empty church.

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