Spirituality for Today – July 2012 – Volume 16, Issue 12

Peanut John

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

In this season often spoken of as "hot as hell," it is not the oppressive heat that ought to be of concern but the allusion to hell. In the gospels, Jesus refers to the devil and to hell many times. No one in his audience thought his words to be allegory or fable, but the presence of an evil force and an eternal punishment to which all are liable.

A photo a face with red eyes on a red background

Face to face confrontations with those whose thoughts have been twisted by this evil influence often occupied Jesus' ministry. One could use images such as "living in darkness" or a "brood of vipers" to describe the ill-willed audience that Jesus encountered. He spoke directly to those who had deluded themselves and he challenged them to examine the state of their souls.

You are from your father, the devil, and you prefer to do what your father wants. He was a murderer from the start; he was never grounded in the truth; there is no truth in him at all. When he lies he is speaking true to his nature, because he is a liar, and the father of lies.

– New Jerusalem Bible, John 8:44

Nurturing a true faith is hard work. You have to cope with the vagaries of human nature which introduces confusion and error to the effort of clear thinking and spiritual awareness. The current culture supports any obfuscation to belief and an ethic based on Christian principles. This is human nature seeking self-worship and license. Life is so much easier that way. Or is it? Debates over the personification of evil notwithstanding, let us say that the devil, being the Father of Lies, plays to all that is base and thoughtless in the human psyche not merely to win a hearing, but to conquer a soul. Considering the personages in history who have ravaged mankind by their rule of evil, typically, you find individuals filled with righteous indignation and passionately focused on world domination and the destruction of all that block his path. Christian faith, ideals and moral accountability do not fit in their world view. Christianity is a hindrance that must be stamped out. In its place is a totalitarian dogma of fear and coercion. Whether from Lenin or Lennon, the lyrics are the same: a utopian existence for humanity requires desiring nothing but adherence to the magnanimous dictates of the state and selling one's soul for its deceptive goals. There are no dreams, no hopes, no ultimate meaning to life, and no reason to reach for the stars. In the manner of Lindsay,s Leadened-Eyed, people live in a homogeneous, zombie-like state of ambulation, but going nowhere. Initially, all evil offers temptations that illuminate like a display of fireworks, but like those glittering explosions leave only ash. Imagine a world of Godlessness, and look deeply into the soul of despair, look intently at the world of the Father of Lies.

Learn the lesson of "Peanut John" Burroughs. It is the night of April 14, 1865, Good Friday. Within the darkness of Ford's Theater, John Wilkes Booth had just assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Leaping from the Presidential box to the stage, he breaks a bone in his leg. Rushing from the stage, passed the actors, he exits to the back alley where Ned Spangler, stagehand and carpenter, has entrusted to care of Booth's horse to a young boy, John Burroughs, affectionately called Peanut John. He knew nothing of Booth's devilish act and was hoping to receive a nickel for holding his horse. Instead, Booth franticly climbs on the horse and gives Peanut John not a coin but a kick in the face. [Recommended Reading: Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed the World by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard] No matter where evil reigns, the result is the same.