The Scintillating Gifts of Evil

Serpent lips2

He passed away several years ago and he was my friend. People who lived through the sixties would know his name because at that time he was a Hollywood film star. I knew him much later when his stardom had long faded.  We were talking one day and he told me how utterly lost he was while in the middle of all that success. There is no other way to put it, looking back he viewed himself as a slave to evil.  When you are very gifted and enslaved often there are some amazing “perks”.  My friend told me a story that I wouldn’t have believed if it hadn’t come from him.   I know how absolutely truthful he was and he told it with sorrow.

What kind of evil “perks” did he enjoy?

One day he was flying to a distant city.  Of course, he always flew first class. Serving him was a beautiful flight attendant. There was little interaction between them during the flight. When the plane landed neither of them spoke. They got off together, went to a hotel together and spent the night together.  The next morning they parted, all without having any conversation whatsoever.  My friend told me that this was hardly the only experience of its kind in his life. There were many others.  Now, a lot of very stupid men would consider this a dream come true, beautiful women and great sex without the slightest obligation.  My friend would tell those fools that there is no such thing. Evil, selfish acts are never free.  There is always a price to be paid because what we sow, we reap. When you do evil things, it may take long and there may be an extended period of pleasure and apparent fulfillment, but you will never be satisfied. Eventually the web will strangle you.

My friend came to a point in his life where he was so low he did the thing that only desperate people will do. He understood who he really was, utterly lost and without hope. He gave his life to Jesus Christ.  In deep sorrow, he asked forgiveness for his many sins and received that forgiveness because that’s why Jesus came, to pay the price for our sins with his own body and blood on the Cross. My friend’s life was transformed.  No, he wasn’t a major star anymore. He had entered a different Kingdom and no longer served the Kingdom of Evil.  He married a wonderful woman and they became witnesses together to what Jesus Christ had done in their lives.

But I have to tell you something more, something he told me.

With each act of selfish pleasure it was as though he had driven a nail into his own body. There were a lot of nails.  Jesus removed those nails and healed him, but the scars remained. My friend told me that often he thought of all the women he had used without a single concern for who they were as human beings. Of course, they were all “consenting adults”, but as he looked back that didn’t matter. He knew what he had done.  He told me that as he drove around Los Angeles, he would see the places where he had taken his pleasure with women and was filled with deep sorrow. He wondered what had happened to them. And he prayed for them.

In the Bible, the writer of Hebrews tells us that sin gives pleasure for a season, but that season comes to an end.  And St. Paul in his letter to the Romans says that the “wages of sin is death”. There is always a hellish payday someday.

As I write, we have gone through months of press coverage revealing the evil life of multi-millionaire, Jeffrey Epstein. Much more is yet to be told. Several weeks ago, Mr. Epstein was found hanged in his prison cell. It was the brutal end of a life that had appeared to have everything, vast wealth, beautiful women, powerful friends, and acceptance in the highest circles of the world. For many years, his money bought him everything including little girls that he abused. It was a web of evil and finally he was caught in it.  His many foul friends are scrambling to escape.  The wages of sin is death, not just in this world, but living death in the next. Jeffrey Epstein escaped nothing by dying in that cell.  Death was the doorway to a prison where he will suffer forever.  (I have written about this in two blog essays entitled Flight Out of Darkness.  They are available to read on this site.)

During my career in Hollywood, I knew a few extremely evil and powerful people.

They were different than others. Most people vacillate between being good and bad. They are insecure and try to cover it with aggressiveness or charm or just plain blather. However, you aren’t with them long before you see through the camouflage.  They’re like you, just human.  But that isn’t the way of extremely evil, powerful people.  In their presence you experience the total confidence of absolute self-absorption expressed in a kind of condescending charm. There is no insecurity in them at all, just the smooth calculating knowledge that they will always get what they want no matter what it is. They look at you with the mesmerizing eyes of the serpent, measuring, determining how best to take control and what they can get when they do.

There is something about real power that can create a kind of flattering trance in those who enter its presence.  Your guard goes down. Why does it go down?  Because you want something that this person can give and you are flattered. Without the words ever being spoken, you know that you have received the great privilege of the inner sanctum where few people are allowed to enter. Your own soft lust, disguised as “self-interest” or “creative ambition” whispers that you should do anything necessary to show that you are capable and worthy to receive what you desire. You want the powerful person to like you.  I can tell you that it is very difficult to keep your head straight in the presence of real power.  It is hard to remember that Lord Acton’s famous dictum is always true, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.  Why is it so difficult to remember? Because greatly corrupted power is very scintillating and can disguise itself with a wonderful charm that can even appear to be an honest concern for your welfare.  But beneath the facade lives a serpent.

In the early 90’s, I created a television series for such a person.

From the first time we met, I did not like him. But I had entered into an “overall deal” and was exclusive to his studio before I met him.  I didn’t know anything about the man and you don’t have to “like” every person you work for.  But each time we had a meeting there was just something that didn’t feel good at all.  My work for him was very successful.  The series I created was the only new dramatic series picked up by that major network for their fall schedule.  Anyone who knows the Hollywood television business understands how unlikely that is to happen, especially during the period in which I was working.

I had spent almost four years working on The Equalizer series with all the support anyone could hope to receive.  Very quickly I realized how my situation had changed. Evil, powerful people can sense very clearly when you are resisting their control.  It wasn’t long before our business relationship came to an end.

The man with whom I had been dealing went on to become one of the most powerful CEO’s in all of media.

The true depth of his evil was finally revealed at the end of 2018 when the world learned that he had been sexually abusing women for many years. He was a sexual predator who used his power to get whatever he wanted.  I had not known of those activities while I was working for him.  But his evil was not just sexual.  He did great damage in other ways as well. Those who stood against him experienced destruction in their careers.  I was one of them.

There is no joy in writing this. I have prayed for the man for many years.   In the most humiliating way he was brought down in front of the entire industry where he had wielded so much power. He retains his great wealth, but he is now a pariah.  Knowing him, I am certain that every single day he is filled with rage, bitterness and self-pity. I’m sure he hates with a terrible passion the women he abused who were courageous enough to reveal his evil.  But even more, he must hate those who did not support him in his own organization.  What ingratitude, when he had given that pack of wolves their power and wealth.

I began working for the first truly evil man I had ever experienced just before I entered Hollywood.  He was a multi-millionaire who owned his own company and I came on as marketing director. I had never known anyone like him. He was a WWII veteran and as an infantry captain had won a Silver Star for bravery in Europe.  He was very intelligent, but his intelligence was shrewd and calculating, motivated entirely by lust and greed. I know it sounds odd, but you could see all of this in his eyes.  He was in the direct mail business, selling a training course to teach people how to start their own import/export companies.  He employed several of his wife’s family and there was something wrong with all of them. You got the feeling that they were there for one reason, to suck as much from him as they could, while he used and manipulated them to get what he wanted. Just delightful. When he hired me, I think he had the idea that because I was a combat veteran we had something in common.  We didn’t.

Looking back now, I understand so much more about the gifts of evil and how you can discern them.  Entering the man’s office was an experience in itself.  Like his life, it was large, luxurious and filled with expensive, but rather odd decorations. Also like his life, it was dark, slightly sinister and had no windows.  Going in for frequent meetings, did not feel good. Soon a lot of things became clear. The man was a serial adulterer and his wife was one of the angriest women I have ever met.   She was married to him because he had left his first wife and children during an affair with her. Now it was her turn and she handled the rewards of her evil with a lot of alcohol.  After a period of time, I realized that what the company was selling was like the man himself, an expensive and subtle fraud.  Finally, things came to a head and I left.  Ten years later, his wife murdered him and went to prison for it. For him the partial wages of sin was bullets from a gun in the hands of his wife.

From these and other experiences, I learned about human wolves.

But you can’t know about great, human wolves without understanding the lesser wolves who serve them and the sheep that are their prey.  I learned that rarely will lesser wolves defend their alpha if it is clear that he or she is going down. They don’t want to go down with the dying predator.  However, the sheep who follow wolves will continue to do so straight into absolute destruction. Nothing will turn them back.  They will grow angry and defensive of their wolf if you try to warn them.  This is the scintillating power of evil that takes control of the human mind and intelligent people fall victim to it all the time.  Often, those most under its control are the most vociferous in claiming that they are absolutely free and grow enraged when you suggest otherwise. Humans are sheep without a shepherd and we are prone to following any powerful, evil shepherd who tells us what we want to hear by appealing to our fear and self-interest, which really means our greed and lust.

I do not believe that it is possible to live “shepherdless” through this world.

We will have a shepherd, even if it is ourselves. Many of us think that we can be our own shepherd, and for a time that may seem to work. But a “self-shepherded” sheep is just a sheep with a big ego. Even after great success, ultimately, we find ourselves wandering and lost. One of the reasons that powerful, evil people can gain so much control over others is because deep in our hearts we yearn for a shepherd.  We may call that person a mentor, or a mother/father figure, whatever the term, especially when we are young we want someone to guide and protect us when we need it, who will always have our best-interests at heart, and who will not abuse and selfishly use us.  Over and over, we may think we have found that person, but at the very best, it doesn’t last. At the worst, we come away from such a relationship feeling betrayed, bitter and angry, vowing never to trust anyone again.  And so we wander until we are old.

I am not an easy case in this regard.  As a sheep I have long horns and I love to use them. It took a lot for me to stop trying to be the shepherd of my own life, a lot of failure, anger and frustration.  I understood a long time ago that, left to myself, I am not a nice person. I would much prefer to cut anyone to pieces who got in my way and consider it a necessary form of deconstruction.  But there came a moment when I gave up trying to run my own life and handed it over to the truly Good Shepherd.

Now, to be honest, I wasn’t happy doing so. It was no sweet, holy religious moment with church bells and choirs singing. Nowhere near. It was more like, “ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT, everything I do with my life turns to crap, so let’s see what YOU can do with it.”  That was the beginning of a great adventure.  By adventure, I don’t mean a fun, easy vacation.  Certainly there have been many wonderful times. I have been given so much that is good.  However, there have been many experiences that were brutal and full of wounds. But they did not destroy me because the Good Shepherd was there every step of the way, giving me strength, going through it with me, always guiding and healing.

The path of forgiveness is only for blood-stained feet.

It is up that path that Jesus leads His sheep, giving us the forgiveness of God and requiring us to forgive others. Even evil people who damage our lives. (Yes, try to do good for them.  Try to overcome evil with good, which includes speaking truth to them.  But when that doesn’t work, you don’t have to stick around and let them abuse you.)  Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd who loved His sheep and would lay down His life for them. And that is exactly what He did for you. Take it from a tough, old ram who is experienced in “head-butting combat” and who doesn’t suffer fools lightly, Jesus is the only one to be trusted with your life.  No matter how smart you think you are, or how much success you have experienced, a different day is coming. And when it arrives, you aren’t intelligent enough or strong enough to handle it on your own.

Two paths are presented to each of us.  One path may appear to be just what you want and need. We could call it the Jeffrey Epstein Memorial Highway. It is full of people.  As you travel, for a long period of time there may be scintillating gifts of pleasure that seem to confirm you made the right choice. But they will fade and where that wide road leads you do not want to go.  The other path is narrow, hard and rocky, but there is a Shepherd waiting to guide you.  And where it ends there is joy forevermore.  If you are on the wrong path, it is not too late to change directions.

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