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The Stranger

A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later. As I grew up, I never questioned his place in our family.

Mom taught me to love the Word of God, and Dad taught me to obey it.

But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries, and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family spellbound for hours each evening.

He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad, my brother, and me to our first major league baseball game. He was always showing us movies. You see, my Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions. But this stranger never felt an obligation to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our house-not from us, from our friends, or from adults. Our longtime visitor, however, used occasional four letter words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge the stranger was never confronted.

Over time, he introduced us to more violence in his stories and movies. He had a way of making violence seem justified. I guess you could say that he taught us how to get even. He helped us refine the art of insulting others, too.

His movies almost always showed average people living lifestyles that would have required them to be rich. I guess that normally this wouldn't be bad, but the constant diet of movies added up over the years. Seeing these unrealistic images over and over caused me problems later in life with unrealistic goals, envy and jelousy. I don't blame the stranger. He was just trying to entertain us all, but it did have its effect on us.

His stories often seemed to have a slant that made you almost think that wrong was right and that right was wrong. He could really weave a believable tale. Thinking back, I can see that he was able to make absolute lies seem so real that you would feel like an idiot to ever question them. We must have been hypnotized. He would make it seem that morality and godliness were silly just by telling a simple story. His stories could make you think that breaking the ten commandments was wonderfully exciting and fun.

As the years went on, he grew bolder, introducing us to the occult, to sexual perversion, to a bitter attitude toward anyone who believed the Bible. He really taught us how to look at life differently. To get his point across, he used words like, "science," "reason," and "logic.," but now I can see that he cleverly twisted the meanings of those words. He never felt that lying was wrong anyway. He was coming from a different perspective on life.

My Dad was a teetotaler who didn't permit alcohol in his home-not even for cooking. But the stranger felt like we needed exposure and enlightened us to other ways of life. He offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages often. He made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing.

Oh, he could be very religious at times, too. He could hand out a good deal of truth along with all the fiction. The line between truth and fiction was hard to find, though. Sometimes, I felt like I was swimming up a sewer looking for a candy bar. He had the ability to persuade to the point where anything could be rationalized and it became harder for me to tell what was right and what was wrong because of his influence.

The stranger was an incessant talker. Often, when my Mom or Dad were tired, they welcomed the chance to just sit and listen to him. Sometimes, though, Mom would quietly get up-while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places-go to her room, read her Bible, and pray. I wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave. Sometimes Dad would get fed up and walk out on the stranger, but that never even made the stranger take notice. He just kept on telling stories.

I know now that my early concepts of the man/woman relationship were influenced by the stranger.

As I look back, I believe it was the grace of God that the stranger did not influence us more. Time after time, he opposed the values our parents, yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave.

More than thirty years have passed since the stranger moved in with us, but if I were to walk into my parent's home today, I would still see him sitting there waiting for someone to listen to his stories or watch his ever growing collection of movies.

His name? We always just called him ... TV.

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