I was just seventeen-years-old when I had my first brush with evil. It was a very creepy feeling, too. Blood, guts, and maggots-slithering-over-a-dead-corpse kind of feeling. We’ve all encountered evil in some form or another, the creepy-crawly feeling we get when we’re watching a Halloween movie or as we sit listening to a black-cat-walking-over-our-grave ghost story.
Only I encountered evil at a Christian concert at Pershing Auditorium in downtown Lincoln. As the youth leader of a Havelock church, I was there with 50 youth groups from the local churches, listening to the Jesus-praising Cowboy on stage. Reverend Birdwell’s daughter, Sandy, and I had just started our Christian rock band, and we were not overly impressed by the country music. Sandy had just whispered, “This guy is turning kids off with his yodeling–” when suddenly, this long-haired, bearded man leaped out of the audience and sprang up onto the stage! Christian Cowboy stopped his playing and looked down at the grubby, shaggy-haired man kneeling before him. “I want to be saved!” the man cried. “Can Jesus save me?”
Almost at once, six suit-wearing preachers gathered around the man and like a company of over-protective FBI agents they promptly escorted him off stage. Twenty minutes later, Reverend Birdwell appeared at my side in the darkness of the auditorium and whispered, “Would you come with me? This man is not relating too well to the pastors. Perhaps you can get through to him.”
Me? A long-haired, seventeen year-old kid versus the counseling skills of six clean-cut, suit-wearing pastors? Nevertheless, I followed Rev. Birdwell backstage where the baffled pastors surrounded the shaggy-haired guy seated on a chair in the center of their prayer circle. The moment the man saw me, he leaped up out of his chair and dropped to his knees before me, shouting, “I knew you would come! I knew you would come!”
I almost laughed out loud, for I thought maybe in his drunken state, the man thought I was Jesus. But then the distressed man said, “I’ve seen you before down at Havelock Park, playing your guitar and bringing kids to Jesus! I knew you would be here tonight! Thank you for coming!”
Reverend Birdwell and the six pastors left the room, and as I sat down there alone with the man, he began to tell me a bizarre story. “They are after me,” he said, tears rolling down his bearded cheeks. “I left them and they are hunting for me. They want me dead, so I don’t tell anyone what I saw. My name is Larry Nichols. I was once a Christian before I joined the cult. Once I started worshiping the Devil, I felt powerful and I could not stop myself. It was like a demon had control over me. We had a coven, thirteen members, who worshiped Satan. We stole cats and dogs from people’s homes and sacrificed them to Satan. We drank their blood, and then tossed them into the swimming pool that cops finally discovered across town.”
Larry then began to cry, and in wracking sobs, he said, “It was the last sacrifice they did . . . that made me . . . want to get out. I couldn’t–I wouldn’t–I could never do what they did to that . . . baby. . . they burned a candle on its stomach . . . and they burned it to death! It was crying and squirming and screaming . . . I still hear those screams even now! Oh, Jesus, make them stop! The screaming goes on inside my head!”
I got the chills as I sat there, appalled by his story, but wondering if he was just making this all up. Larry began to weep, shaking his shaggy head back and forth. Of course, in those days, my answer for everything was to get people saved by declaring Jesus as Lord of their lives. He had changed my life at 14 when I ran away from home and spiraled into the juvenile justice system, and so I prayed with the guy. After he had accepted Jesus, I sent Larry on his way, asking him to come to church regularly and avoid those people who were after him. That was the last time I saw Larry Nichols, because one month later, I read his obituary in the Lincoln papers. No cause of death was listed, and there were no sensational stories of a Satan-worshiping cult murdering him, but I often wondered if maybe “they” had finally caught up with him.
I did not think about Larry again until twenty years later when I read Senator John Decamp’s book about the Franklin Credit Union conspiracy. Decamps’s book listed several prominent Omaha business men and several Omaha kids involved in a sex ring. And the hair on the back of my neck stood up when I read about one of his account of a Devil-worshiping cult who had sacrificed cats and dogs, and had actually burned a baby alive by placing a candle on his stomach, just like Larry had described to me.
I learned later that the private investigator looking into this case was killed, along with his 10-year-old son, in a plane crash at the height of his investigation. Before flying home from Chicago, Gary Carradori told his wife, “I have something that will blow this case wide open!”
What Gary found will never be known, for his plane went down over Iowa, and later I learned that it was Gary who had discovered the real-life witch who had been leading the Devil worshiping cult in Omaha. He had made arrangements for her to go into hiding here in Lincoln, as she had stepped down as high priestess of her coven and wanted nothing more to do with her Satanist believers, for they had threatened to kill her to keep her silent about their doings, just as Larry had feared they would do to him. Though some might claim Decamp’s books is a “cleverly crafted hoax,” it makes me quite curious that Larry’s story was so similar to this witch’s story, for they both went into hiding, fearing for their lives. Now Larry is dead, and who knows where the witch is?
I used to tell folks who would listen that, “Lucifer was once the Chief Minstrel, who led the angel choir who sang praises to God. But one day Lucifer, a beautiful angel himself, became jealous and he and a third of the angels rebelled. God cast him and his rebellious angels out of Heaven, and they fell to the earth, where they roam as spirits seeking a body to inhabit. Satan means accuser of the brethren, and he has been launching a crusade against anyone who believes in God ever since.”
What prompted me to write this particular piece is I received a Facebook message from my Christian friend who asked me to write a song as a memoir for a 13-year-old girl who took her own life over her sexual orientation issues. The girl and his daughter were best friends, and I wondered if my friend would be tolerant and understanding if he discovered his own daughter had the same issues, unlike that pastor who made nation-wide news by declaring all homosexuals should be placed behind electric fences, and all gays should be killed by the government. Or the pastor who stood in his pulpit and declared, “If your son is limp-wristed, snap his wrist! If your daughter wears mens clothing force her to come to church in a dress! It is a major sin to be gay or lesbian, and God will punish you if you do not repent of this lifestyle. Turn to Jesus, confess your sin, and God will make you whole! If not, you will burn in the fires of hell!”
Call me a heretic if you will, but I have read a wide range of books since the old days of being on fire for Jesus, and I have seen a different kind of evil. My eye-opener came when I began research for my book on AIDS. I read 50 books before I wrote the one. Beyond the Wind was published in 2003 by a Publisher in New York, and ended up selling over 15,000 copies. While researching this book, I learned a lot about well-meaning Christians who outright persecuted those with gay/lesbian orientations.
The Lords of Night, agents of the Catholic church in Great Britain, would ferret out those who were gay and burn them and hang them. Their arrests involved literally thousands, oftentimes teen-aged boys. The Inquisition, not only resulted in thousands of gays being burned, hanged, and tortured, they included those suspected of witchcraft and Devil-worship, and anyone with a heretical view. The Cathar and the Merovingion Crusades were prime examples of what happened to fellow Christians who did not see the same way as the Catholic Church. In Church history, this was the first time Christian slew Christian in the name of God, because of heresy, the label the Church placed on any idea that was contrary to Scripture.
Of course, the Church believed they were obligated to correct, chastise, even stamp out anyone who did not conform to God-breathed Scripture. If it says so in the Bible, then it is the way it must be. Stoning was a commandment of the God of the Old Testament, so therefore killing to rid the Church of anything evil and cancerous was justified behavior. Yes, in the New Testament, God shows mercy and Jesus forgives, but woe to the wayward believers and unbelievers alike.
I have since read about the countless suicides of gay and lesbian teens who killed themselves because God did not change them. The reason being, they saw absolutely no hope, alienated from their families, their churches, and even from God, because of words spouted from the mouths of so many representatives of God on earth. As a reader, I have no clue what you believe or don’t believe. You may believe there is a God out there in the universe who cares greatly about you. Or you may no longer even care. A Believer would say your doubt, your apathy, your agnostic attitude comes from Satan, but I wonder how many of them have been the cause of your disconnection by the way they preach and prattle.
I am sure if there is a Devil, he snickers every time some well-meaning Christian feels obligated to quote Scripture to correct, change, or “repair” others that they are so concerned about. But I would warn them from a quote out of their own book that they often use to bash those they focus their attention on: Second Peter Chapter Three, verses 16-17: “There are some things hard to understand, which the ignorant and the unstable twist to their own destruction , as they do other scripture. You therefore beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your stability.”
In other words, If you’re basing your condemnation of same-sex unions on scripture, be careful that you don’t twist those scriptures out of context . Do not deceive yourself into thinking you have Godly authority to win your case based on translations that might not mean what you think they do. In Matthew, Chapter Eighteen, verse six, Jesus says, “But whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believes in me, it would be better for him that a millstone be hanged about his neck, and that he be drowned in the sea.”
Of course, my sense of humor kicks in here and the old joke comes to mind, “What do you call a lawyer at the bottom of the sea? A good start!” And of course, my new twist on that same joke would be, “What do you call a Bible-bashing, self-righteous Pastor at the bottom of the sea?”
If there is a Satanic being who spreads his evil, perhaps he has found a like-minded counter part with all the misguided, foolish sons and daughters of the Race of Man. Or perhaps, Man himself creates his own forms of evil. Most Humans do not need much demon-inspired motivation to commit evil in some fashion or other. Maybe we give the Devil too much credit. Man is capable enough of creating enough evil on his own. One section of the prayer of Jabez in the Bible states, “Keep me from evil that I may cause no pain.” I wonder how many Christians pray this prayer and still have no clue about the pain they are causing others by just declaring their beliefs, dealing out of their condemnations, and justifying themselves with Scripture back-up. I wonder if they realize the pain they leave behind them in the rows they hoe.
The old Irish proverb states: And may you be in Heaven three days before the Devil knows you’re dead, as if the running of life is a race, and we’ll never be free of Satan’s threat until we reach God at the end of the rainbow. But how many of us even live a life that causes the Devil that much concern? How many of us would have to even worry about the hounds of hell nipping at our heels as we raced for those pearly gates? How many of us are really doing the things we were destined to do?
As for me, when it comes to dying and death, my greatest fear is not that I am one day going to die, it is, “Did I really live a life that made a difference to anyone?” Because while I am not sure there is a Satan, I am confident there is a God, and he will hold us all accountable for our acts and our lives one day.
Mel Gibson was once asked, “What would you like to hear God say to you when you stand before him one day?”
And Mel replied, “Well done.”
Me, too, Mel, me, too.