“Satan’s Smoothest Trick”

sermon

The Rev. Jasper Alexander, sermon, August 17, 1954, Seven Hills Baptist Church, Liberty, Tennessee. “Tonight I’m going to talk about Satan’s smoothest trick. Satan’s smoothest trick is making us believe that he doesn’t exist. But he does. I’m here tonight to tell you he does. Satan is not a big red monster with horns and a tail; No, beloved, Satan is a vapor, a cold, clammy vapor that penetrates every corner of your heart and your mind. He seeps in slowly, like a fog, a poison fog, and little by little he fills every crack and crevice, he clouds up every vein and artery, he winds around every nerve, he creeps in and infects every thought, every impulse, every dream, every desire. That’s why you can’t fight him with your mind, your reason – he infects your reason, the vapor is already there, down in the very foundation and cellarage of your mind. of your thoughts. Now, reason itself is not bad, you understand; reason is neither good nor bad. Reason is just a tool – but Satan is a master craftsman. You can’t fight him with reason. You can’t fight him with emotion, because he’s there too, that poison vapor surging in the raised blood. You can’t fight him with desire, you can’t fight him with imagination, for there is no tool in the arsenal of human understanding that he cannot infect and turn against you. You can’t fight him at all. He can’t be fought, he can’t be wrestled with, he cannot be defeated. He is far, far stronger than you. He is an ancient power, older than earth, a mighty power, the power of evil, the power of negation, the thing that says No to the Yes of God’s creation. And we are sick with it, we are sick with this vapor, it is inside us, it has consumed us, it has eaten us away. We are trapped with it, forever, in the dark, choking cave of our minds, in the storm and churning mud of our hearts, and there is nothing inside us, nothing, nothing we have that can relieve us from this sick and burning pain.

“Something must come from the outside. And that something is grace. Grace doesn’t fight, grace doesn’t do battle, grace doesn’t rage and make war; grace…cleanses, like that autumn wind. Grace heals. Grace is a light that dispels the vapor, it comes like the sun in the morning to burn away the fog and spread life-giving warmth across the earth. Little by little, it starts to heal and cleanse the infected quadrants of your soul; little by little your thoughts become clearer, your feelings become sharper, more directed. And beloved, I’m here today to tell you what was imparted to me: this grace is there for everyone to have. It’s not some kind of mystical thing, some miracle reserved only for the elect. It’s…Oh, I don’t know how to tell you, I don’t know how to put into words what was given to me without words, but beloved, it’s a natural thing, it’s everywhere, it’s lying in the grass at our feet, and all we have to do is reach down and scoop it up. It’s a… a natural process, you see, like the planting and tending and harvesting of crops. And what it does is not transfigure you into something else, but rather, it gives you back your own self. It gives you back your own mind, your own feelings, your own soul, as murky and imperfect as that is. It sets you free – not to be become an angel or a saint or some sort of perfect creature, but to become nothing more and nothing less than a human being.

“And when it’s there, when that grace comes, beloved, you’ll know it. You’ll know the difference between making an ordinary, awful, stupid, hurtful, human mistake and acting out of the… the infected impulses of that evil vapor. Why, it’s like trying to run with a fifty-pound ball chained to your leg. When they take that chain off, you still might not be able to run very fast – you still might be slow or lazy or old – but, by God, you’ll know the difference. It’s like that.

“How do you get it, how do you find and plant and tend and harvest this grace? Beloved, you’ve got to emulate Jesus. Emulate Jesus. Do you understand? Belief is a knotty thing, I know. There are many stumbling blocks, and some of them, I confess it, are beyond my ken to resolve. But you don’t have to resolve them. You don’t even have to believe in every jot and tittle of the Holy Scripture – although I do, beloved, I most potently and powerfully do. But what matters most is not that you believe on Jesus but that you emulate Him. Who are you going to emulate, if you don’t emulate Jesus? Who are you going to emulate, if you don’t emulate the Lord? He was humble, he wept, he was in no way proud, he turned away from earthly power, he gave away his worldly riches, he committed his heart, his work and his life to the poor, the oppressed, the despised, and the rejected.”  Pencil sketch.

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Lois Kaminsky

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“Lois Kaminsky (1936-2017). Originally a leading Freudian psychoanalyst, she ‘turned apostate’ and later became a noted philosopher of science. Although her groundbreaking work on conceptual spaces in the processes of cognition is considered her most important contribution, leading to new paths of research in neuroscience, she is probably best known for her controversial 1978 bestseller, ‘The Freudian Vagina: A Mythos of Misogyny.'” Pencil sketch.

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Map of the Cosmos: Damascus, 1097

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“Carpet adorned with maps of the cosmos, Damascus, 1097.” Circular pen, digital paint.

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The Angelic Heralds

190309_115146_kindlephoto-53745163“The Angelic Heralds at the gates of Gil-gal, demanding the city’s surrender to Joshua and the Israelites, lest it be destroyed and all the people in it.” Ink brushes, digital paint.

 

 

 

 

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Len Crawford: “The Lost Wise”

IMG_20190201_131111“There was once a being, a human, who in form and wisdom surpassed all others, even the Buddha. In this creature’s heart were understandings of how to achieve unshakeable inner peace and make society a garden where every flower flourished in its own way, in balance with one another, steeped in passion and comedy, warm with the full heat of flesh and blood. There was such a person, on this earth, born among us in the usual way, living as we lived, subject to the same laws. But when this great soul was still a youth, before all these gifts of understanding could be made manifest, a troubled time overwhelmed the land, and took many down to be forgotten by time, their treasure uncounted and lost to us.

Who knows how many times this has happened?”

Len Crawford, excerpt from his 1966 collection of essays, Pale Green Heart. Pencil sketch.

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Thomas Fowler: “The Ancient Pseudoscience”

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“Thomas Fowler, American poet (1921-1965). Born in Sevierville, Tennessee, Fowler ran away from the family farm at age 14 and rode the rails around the US for years. After serving in the Merchant Marine during World War II, Fowler settled in Greenwich Village and began to write. Taken up by local poets such as Frank O’Hara and Barbara Guest, Fowler published two collections, ‘Confusion and a Little Luggage’ and ‘Beatrice and the Acceptor.’ He died at age 44 after struggling with rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments for several years. Below is a poem from his last book:

Behold the ancient pseudoscience.
Let me choose in the right way.
Teach me even if I’m not safe.
Teach me even if I’m not good.”

Pencil sketch, digital color.

Art and text ©2019 by Chris Floyd
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Jesse and Jezebel: Low-Rent Capers and an Ink-Drawn Heart

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“Jesse and Jezebel, the name given to outlaw couple Jesse Weathers and Janice Lister after they began a sporadic crime spree in Arkansas, robbing a few gas stations, hijacking a truck and trying (and failing) to hold up a bank. Newspapers desperate for lurid copy just weeks after the death of Bonnie and Clyde seized on the couple’s low-rent capers and blew them up into a ‘national menace.’ With Janice’s sister Mavis in tow, the pair tried briefly to live up to the hype, first with a couple of insurance office robberies, then a brazen daylight attack on an armored payroll truck, which ended in a shootout on the streets of Fayetteville that left two bystanders dead, although it was never clear if they’d been hit by the robbers, the security guards or the police. Shaken by the incident, Lister and Weathers abandoned the life of crime, fled to Mexico and lived incognito for three years, then moved to Arizona using false identities, living out their lives as John and Sally Watson, a quiet, diligent car mechanic and a secretary for an insurance firm who ended up as head of administration. Jesse died in 1963 of congenital heart failure. The indomitable ‘Jezebel’ lived another 35 years, dying in her sleep at the age of 88. As for Mavis, who had returned to her parents’ home before the final job and was never formally charged with a crime, she parlayed her notoriety into roles in a couple of Hollywood B-movies, then spent a few years as an exotic dancer in dubious Chicago clubs. But with the advent of drive-in movies, she came into her own as a raucous, hard-bitten character actor, contributing memorable roles in films by Roger Corman, Russ Meyer, William Castle and others. She always claimed that she had never heard from her sister again after Janice fled to Mexico, but when Mavis died of lung cancer in 1974, a shoebox was found under her bed containing dozens of postcards with an Arizona postmark, left blank except for a small ink-drawn heart.” Pencil sketch, digital paint.

art and text ©2019 by Chris Floyd
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