The Neophyte sat in the chair looking across the desk at the Bishop. The chair was well padded, but had one spring poking the Neophyte in the left buttock. The Neophyte didn’t give it a second thought, but the chair was trying his best to give him a warning. “Beware of the Bishop. He’ll bite you in the ass.”
The Neophyte scanned the large, cedar desk. On one corner were a mouse, keyboard and monitor. On the other corner was a large Bible. It was nearly 6 inches thick and was covered in red leather. It sat upon a small pile of handwritten notes. The heft seemed the sole justification for the imposing pulpit sitting a few hundred yards away in the sanctuary.
Behind the desk was shelving containing several thousand books. The books knew it was just a sham. The Bishop wasn’t a man of letters. When he did occasionally consume a book, it wasn’t for knowledge. He was merely analyzing its form for techniques to use to communicate his messages, which were more showmanship than substance.
Behind the imposing desk sat the Bishop, rocking back and forth in his black leather chair. The Neophyte casually glanced at the Bishop’s stern face and gold glasses, but then his eyes were fixed for several seconds on the Bishop’s suit. The sheen of the fine silk glimmered in the light beaming through the office window. The light hit the Bishop’s ring—solid gold with diamonds surrounding a ruby.
The ring emanated a rainbow. The Neophyte was beguiled by its gaze. He peered at the ring and the ring appeared to stare back.
The Neophyte’s concentration was broken by the booming voice of the Bishop. “So, you’re the one.”
“Um, . . . ah, I-I-I don’t know.” The Neophyte felt sure the tremors in his stomach were a moving of the Holy Spirit. After watching the Bishop for years from a distance, the Neophyte was sure every aspect of the Bishop’s ministry emanated from the Holy Spirit.
The Bishop sat up in his chair and proclaimed in a slightly louder voice, “So, you’re the one.”
“I’m, . . . n-not sure what you mean by that.”
“The Elders have told me about you. You’re quite a charismatic young men.”
“Yes, yes. You have the look. You have the voice. You have the strut. You have what it takes to increase my ministry.”
The Neophyte wasn’t sure what to say. He sat frozen.
“Do you know what I’m offering you?”
“I’m not sure.”
“You’ll be my anointed. You’ll help to shepherd the flock. With you in my stable, we will build the fold—bigger and grander. You’ll be my right hand man.”
The Neophyte wasn’t sure what to say. He stared at the Bishop.
The Bishop stared back. “Are you in?”
“Huh? I’m, . . . um, . . .”
“Take a breath young man and listen.” The Bishop stared him in the eyes. “I’m offering you the role of being my right hand man. Are you in?”
“I, I, I guess so.”
“No guessing. I need a firm commitment. Are you in?”
The Neophyte sat up in his chair. The chair tried its best to give one last warning, digging deep into his backside. By this time the Neophyte was too beguiled to even notice. He stiffened his spine, looked the Bishop straight in the eyes and forcefully said, “Yes!”
“Good, good. Now, before we go any further, I have to tell you a secret.”
The Neophyte felt God’s hand must be moving. “A secret from the Bishop”, he thought. “It must be a message from God.”
“I want you to listen closely. Everything you see, I mean everything, is an illusion. My preaching, my ministry, the miracles are all an illusion.”
The Neophyte was stunned. He sat listening in silence.
“It’s all about control and power. It’s made me a wealthy man.”
“I, I-I’m, . . . not sure.”
The Bishop reached his burly paw across the desk and grabbed the Neophyte by the collar. “You tell this secret and you’ll be ostracized. If I disown you, your family and friends will disown you. You will be all alone—no connection, no help and no guidance in this world.”
The Neophyte grimaced as the Bishop’s paw tightened his collar. The Bishop let go and sat back in his chair. The two stared at each other for several minutes, like two prizefighters measuring up their opponent.
The Bishop broke the silence. “I know what you’re thinking. How could this all be a lie? Well, it’s not a lie. It’s a reality that I’ve created. There’s nothing like power, son. Nothing!”
The Neophyte was again beguiled by the Bishop’s ring.
“That’s twenty-four karat. And, the ruby is real. Feel it.” The Bishop took off the ring and handed it to the Neophyte.
The Neophyte was shocked by the heft of the ring. The ring glimmered—a prize to be had, an object to be coveted.
The Bishop chuckled. “Oh, there’s more. There’s so much more to power than just things. Power is erotic.”
The Neophyte sat in silent contemplation.
The Bishop leaned back in his chair. He cocked his head and peered quizzically at the Neophyte for several minutes. He was measuring him up.
The Neophyte was bewildered. “Could this all be a lie?” he thought to himself. “I couldn’t be that easily deceived.”
The Bishop broke the silence. “I know what you’re thinking. I couldn’t possibly be that deceived!”
The Neophyte was shocked and a little scared. Could the Bishop read his mind? He continued to sit there, motionless and in utter silence.
The Bishop again broke the silence. “That’s the secret of control. Yes, yes. The secret is people won’t admit they’re deceived.”
That last statement was so shocking, it broke the Neophyte’s silent contemplation. He had to engage the Bishop at this point. Curiosity was pushing him to find his voice. “No? How can that be?”
The Bishop chuckled. “Son, you need to understand human nature if you want to control them. It’s really quite simple. People are prideful. And, people are self-serving slackers. But, people don’t want to admit to those things. So, it allows one to control others. You just have to learn a few techniques.”
The Neophyte forcefully responded. “So, you’re just, . . . a performer!”
“Well, that’s one way to look at it. Let me just begin with the statement that people won’t admit they’re wrong. What’s at the root of that?”
“Um, . . Pride? Pride is the root of that.”
“Right. And, what does the Bible say about pride?”
“Pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
“Exactly. And, what do they fall for?”
“Well, I don’t know.”
“I’ll give you a hint. You’re holding it.”
The Neophyte had completely forgotten the ring in his hand. He held up the ring and looked at it. The ring, in the most beguiling way, looked back at him chuckling.
“It’s all about the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.”
The Neophyte was confused. “But, all those things are in the Bible.”
The Bishop peered at him for a few seconds. “Yes, it’s all in the Bible. Why does that surprise you?”
“Aren’t we supposed to use the Bible for good? To help people? It’s not a manual about how to manipulate others!”
“Well, it depends on your perspective, now doesn’t it? There are all kinds of commands for people to do good. And, you can use that to control people as well.”
“That’s not my point. The Bible isn’t about controlling others. It’s about loving our neighbors.”
The Bishop stared the Neophyte in the eyes for a few moments. It was the beguiling gaze of a serpent before it delivers its deathblow. “You don’t understand young man. The Bible is both. It can be used either way. It can be used to serve others. There are many that do that. Just look at all the small churches in the area. Lesser men with lesser ministries may use it that way. But, the Bible teaches us about human nature. And, when you understand the nature of man, you can control him. You can harness him, just like a farmer harnesses a mule. Or, a jockey harnesses a horse. Or, a butcher leads cattle to slaughter. You can turn him left or right. And, you can do it all for your own glory.”
“But, that’s not right!”
“Put on the ring!”
The Neophyte stared back at the Bishop incredulously.
The Bishop rose, slamming both hands forcefully on his desk and uttered in a shattering voice, “PUT ON THE RING!”
The Neophyte put on the ring and stared at it. The ring gleamed back, smiling like a beguiling serpent. The cool metal caressed his skin. The heft spoke of power. The Neophyte was intoxicated.
“You may keep the ring.”
The Neophyte was taken by surprise. “Oh, no, . . . I-I-I couldn’t possibly . . .”
“Keep the ring!” The Bishop sat back down and watched the Neophyte stare at the ring. “Can you see why I call power erotic?”
“This is a nice ring!”
“Now, see that picture on my wall?” The Bishop pointed at a picture of the Politician.
“Yeah, I see it. What about it?”
“Do you know who that is?”
“Well, sure, that’s the Politician.”
“What do you think of his policies?”
“Well, I don’t know. Good and bad I guess?”
“Good and bad.” The Bishop chuckled. “Okay, are you happy about the war the Politician started.”
“Well, no, not really. It all seems to be about oil and power.”
“Are you happy the Politician gave all that money to the banks.”
“Well, no. I mean, we really needed that money and he gave it to the rich.”
“Are you happy about the scandal?”
The Neophyte was a little confused. “Which one?”
“How about the one where he gave arms to the Terrorist.”
“Well, no. Those people want to kill us.”
“How about the one where the Corporate Head poured toxins in the river?”
“Well, no. People drink that water.”
“What about the one where they lost all those files on the government computers?”
“Well, no. That was a huge security breach.”
“So, what has he done that you’ve liked?”
The Neophyte sat silent for several seconds. He then boldly proclaimed, “Yeah, but he’s still better than the other guy!”
The Bishop laughed maniacally.
“What’s so funny?”
“You voted for the Politicians, didn’t you?”
“Of course I did. We all voted for the Politician.”
“So, why did you vote for him?”
“I told you. He was better than the other guy?”
“Why? I don’t know. The other guy was an idiot.”
“See, see, here’s my point. The Politician has done nothing but evil. Yet, you still defend him. Why don’t you just admit you were duped?”
“I wasn’t duped!”
“And that, my young friend, is a huge part of controlling people. You won’t admit you were duped. You were, but you won’t admit it. You’re too prideful.” The Bishop rocked back and forth in his chair for several seconds and smiled at the Neophyte. “So, how did he dupe you?”
“I wasn’t duped!”
“Okay, okay. You weren’t duped. So, how did he dupe all those other people?”
“Well, he told lies.”
“Okay, he told lies. But, what kind of lies?”
“I’m not sure what you’re getting at. What do you mean what kind of lies?”
“What exact lies did the Politicians tell?”
“Well, he promised us jobs.”
“And, he promised us wealth.”
“Good, good. What else did he promise?”
“Healthcare. And, um, . . . a return to national pride?”
“Safety from our enemies.”
“I’m sure there’s more, but that’s all I can remember right now.”
“Okay, think about that list: jobs, wealth, health, national pride and safety. Does that sound a lot like the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life?”
“I guess so. What are you getting at?”
“He told lies, but not just any lies. He told the lies everyone wanted to hear. That’s where the self-serving part comes in. Promise people what they want and you’ll hook them. You don’t have to hook them for long. So many people out there are just like you. They won’t admit they were duped, but they were. And, the only real commitment they made to the Politician was one or two votes. Just a few seconds in a voter’s both and that commitment is enough to make them defend the man.”
“That can’t be true!”
“Oh, it is. Get people to believe a lie they already want to believe in. Once they make the smallest of commitments, their pride stops them from admitting they were duped. Pride and self-centeredness work in tandem. You work one side, you’ll fail. But, when you work them both you can lead people around by the nose. That’s what the Politician did.”
“This all seems so unreal.”
“Yes, but there’s another part to it.”
“So, it is more complex.”
“Well, yes and no. This next part really isn’t all that complex. Remember what I told you about people?”
“Um, . . . which part?”
“Well, they aren’t just self-serving, but they are self-serving . . . ?”
“They’re self-serving slackers.”
“Right. People are slackers. They’re lazy. They don’t want to be responsible for their own actions. They want the easy way out.”
“What’s that got to do with power?”
“People hand over the reins?”
“I’m not sure I get you. Hand over the reins?”
“Okay, let’s say we were to drive across the entire country—from New York to Los Angeles.”
“That’s a long drive.”
The Bishop chuckled. “Sure is. So, if you had the choice between doing the driving or kicking back as a passenger, which would you choose?”
“I suppose I’d be a passenger. That driving is a lotta work.”
“Right. There you have it.”
“Driving is a lotta work.”
“What? I’m not following. How does this apply to controlling people?”
“People don’t want to be behind the wheel. They want someone else to do the driving.”
“You mean, they hand over control of their lives, because being in charge is too much work?”
The Bishop glimmered at the Neophyte. “Now, you got it.”
“So, wait, it’s all about manipulating pride, self-centeredness and laziness.”
“Those three are the trinity of control. And, here’s another dirty little secret.”
The Neophyte leaned in close to hear.
The Bishop whispered. “Deep down, people know they are being prideful. They know they are being self-serving. They know they are lazy. And, all those things make them feel guilt. And, guilty people are far easier to neuter.”
The Neophyte sat in silent contemplation.
The Bishop gave him several minutes to let the truth sink in. “Okay, here’s the biggest lie.” The Bishop took a long pause.
The Neophyte held his breathe, waiting to here this.
“I’m the biggest lie.”
“I’m the biggest lie.”
“You like that ring, don’t you.”
The Neophyte stared at the beguiling serpent caressing his finger. “Yes!”
“People look at me and they see the ring. They see the suit. They see the Mercedes. They see my lovely wife. Hell, that damn woman doesn’t even love me, but she’s a great piece of eye candy. And, they want what I got. It’s as simple as that. I can take what they have, because they want what I got. I control them through this lie I’ve created.”
The Neophyte continued to stare at the beguiling serpent.
“Do you know what that ring is worth?”
“Um, . . . ah, . . . I have no idea.”
“Easily fifty or sixty grand.”
“Now, young man, you have a choice to make. We’ll meet again in a week—same time, same office. If you take my offer, the ring is your. You can sell it, pawn it, wear it, it’s yours to do with whatever you want. That ring is a new car. That ring is a beautiful woman. That ring is fine clothes. That ring can be yours. Or, in a week you can reject my offer and return the ring.”
“Wait, so if I keep the ring then I’ll be your assistant.”
“Not just assistant. You’ll be my anointed. You’ll share in all my wealth, all my power, all my influence. Everything the world has to offer will be yours.”
“And, if I give back the ring I reject your offer.”
“That’s right. If you reject the ring, you may be that do-gooder you see in the Bible. You can serve your fellow man. You can make the world a better place. You can feed the hungry and clothe the homeless. That’s the choice the Bible leaves you with. You can either serve God and your fellow man; or, you can use it as a tool to control others. You have a week to decide.”
The Neophyte continued to stare at the beguiling serpent. He felt the Bishop’s large paw grasping his elbow and lifting him from his seat. He is escorted towards the door.
As the door closed, the Bishop’s booming voice is heard. “One week. You decide.”