By Curtis K. Shelburne: Local Columnist
Back in Genesis 3, just before the account of mankind’s fall to sin in the Garden of Eden, the biblical writer explains, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.” I suppose that was true at that time of the breed in general, but I know it was true of one souped up Satanic snake, a demon-possessed viper with venom oozing from his slick tongue a good while before he actually sank his fangs into our gullible first parents and spoiled paradise. Yes, Satan was evil and twisted and cruel, but he certainly was also crafty.
He still is. And it is maddening to realize how often he plays us like a drum and we march to his beat.
“Go on to church,” he whispers in our ear. He’s perfectly happy for us to go if he can get us thinking along the way about how much better we are than the folks who don’t go.
And once we’re there, opportunities abound for just a little venom injected here and there to poison our attitudes and twist our thoughts and make sure that 99 percent or more of the time we’re in God’s house we’re focused on ourselves and not above. It’s so easy for the old viper to direct our gaze downward! Anything from Sister Smithers’s weird hat to Brother Gunther’s strange prayer to the preacher’s foibles or the pianist’s missed keys will do the job quite well.
“Go on to church. It’ll do you good,” he whispers. Did you notice a little lisp? He hides it well but it’s caused by a slit in his tongue and the need to speak around fangs.
“Go on! Go.”
He’d love for us to go to church if we go not because we need anything or might receive anything but just as a sort of favor to the poor, unenlightened souls there we might be able to sprinkle with our wisdom and bring around to our way of thinking. Strange. That snaky lisp is never more apparent — all those S sounds, you know — than when Satan whispers in our ears, “Be self-sufficient.” But when we’re all wrapped up in self-sufficiency, we rarely ever realize that a ssssssnake is close enough to put a fang through our ear lobes.
Why would he take a big bite when a subtle but poisonous little pit viper drip will do the job every bit as well?
“Why not go to church?” he asks, knowing that he has done some fine work there.
Of course, the opposite has also worked admirably, too, from his point of view. He’s equally happy for ol’ Joe Blow to blow on about “all those hypocrites at church” if it helps Joe to forget about the hypocrite under his own hat.
The serpent is not all that particular about the type of poison he uses or the rate of its effect, just as long as it is deadly.
Crafty he is. And too close for comfort. A snake of the subtlest sort. Hmm. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard him whisper in my ear once or twice as I’ve been trying to write this column.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at