Monday, January 4, 2010


The Devil's Work
Greenberg, Paul
December 31, 2009
My dear Wormwood,Our work is never done, but now and then your activities up there come to my attention down here in the depths. This time heartiest congratulations are in order. I'm proud of you, nephew. You've been mentioned in dispatches, and I fully intend to put you in for promotion the next time your efficiency report is due.The killing of that Salvation Army major in little North Little Rock, Ark., by a couple of thugs apparently bent on robbing him would have advanced our cause even if it hadn't so disheartened our enemies. For he was the kind of cheery soul who is always helping others and generally undermining our cause in the best -- or, from our perspective, worst -- way."He was a big guy," as one of his friends described him. "A big, old teddy-bear kind of guy." That's the worst combination we can come up against, as you well know. We covered it in Deviltry 101 -- an early lecture on the dangers of a happy spirit. I trust you were paying attention, dear nephew. If not, there'll be hell to pay.It's one thing to show up some old sourpuss who's always doing good in the most solemn, pompous, grudging way, complete with a long sermon on the faults of the undeserving poor. That's no trick; that type is our best advertisement, for nothing makes evil more attractive than those who do good self-righteously, squeezing every nickel of self-promotion out of their meager gifts to charity.It's the jolly Santa types that really undermine us. Like this Philip Wise of the Salvation Army. Somebody who goes into tough neighborhoods, ministers to the needy, plays the tuba, loves sports and kids, and generally brings the Good News. That sort is a walking, talking, smiling threat to our satanic Master.Major Wise never stopped doing the Enemy's work, and when he was gunned down in the presence of his three children, what a testament to the real, inescapable existence of Evil in the world.The major was just returning to the Army's community center after dropping off a couple of bell-ringers at their homes on the last day of its annual kettle drive. That'll show the skeptics that no good deed goes unpunished. Major Wise had done so many of them over his 15 years with the Salvation Army that we hated to see him coming with his beaming countenance. We knew he was up to good.It wasn't just his loss but the shocking nature of it, and the anger it set off, that was such a boon to our work up there. All the years of good he had done, all the troubled and hungry he'd offered succor and a second chance, all the desperate families he'd helped, all the hope he'd revived and the grace he'd shared ... all that was obscured for at least a day by the way he died. Good work, Wormwood, or rather bad work. I can think of no greater compliment.These mortals forget. They may be so taken with the major's loss and the circumstances surrounding it that they forget all the good Philip Wise did in his 40 years. His was a life all should celebrate and be thankful for. Instead, it was the fleeting shadow of evil that captured the headlines for a day. Damnable fine job, Wormwood. I'm proud of you. This is the kind of bad news our demonic fraternity thrives on, not the Good News the major spread. His sort of news just makes my tail curl.The news about the major's death has spread through the whole state and will make us more cynics than we could ever hope to attract by just irony and wit, a couple of our favorite instruments. Of course those have to be handled with caution. For the other side has its wits, too, and they're blessedly clever. (All the works of G.K. Chesterton should have been banned long ago; instead, we've found a far more effective way to handle him: Just ignore his books.)This time, Wormwood, old boy, you've pulled off a real coup. You're a credit to all deviltry, and next time you get leave, we must have a cup of fire and brimstone to celebrate. We'll put it on your tab, naturally, at Lucifer's Inn, which never closes.Here's the problem, nephew. And it hasn't changed a bit since we were both imps. Weeping and wailing may tarry for the night, but joy cometh in the morning. Did you see what the widow Wise, also a Salvation Army major, had to say at the funeral? "I believe I have peace today," she told the mourners, "because I know the work is not done here yet." She said she'd continue to give "hope to the hopeless ... so, together, we will minister to this neighborhood."These people are dangerous, Wormwood; they never tire of doing good. They are strong as lions, swifter than eagles to do His work, even when we deliver the most crushing of blows. It is at such moments that they show their real strength. Bowed low, they rise up higher than ever. We face a formidable foe, Wormwood, and sometimes I despair -- which is the mood we must inculcate in our victims. They must come to believe resistance is useless.Instead, someone like Cindy Wise offers unkillable hope and even forgiveness: "I know that deep down I have to forgive them," she said of the killers, "for taking my husband away from me, and that's the way it has to be done -- to forgive them and continue to pray for their salvation."What's a poor devil to do when faced with that kind of spirit, that kind of faith and determination? Just continue to do what you've been doing, dear Wormwood -- plant doubt, sow cynicism, and surely we will be rewarded with more bad news, the kind that needs to be spread far and wide, accompanied by cries for blood and vengeance. Or even used to make political points. That would be a real boon for our hellish cause.Burn this letter, Wormwood, lest our confidences be leaked. It's maddening the way some C. S. Lewis type is always sharing my correspondence with the curious. The mortals must never be given an inkling of what we have in store for them in exchange for their pitiable souls; they must be kept ignorant of even having souls.Your affectionate uncle,Screwtape(Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. His e-mail address is

Salvation Army major has sad W.Va. homecoming
Philip A. Wise was shot to death in Arkansas on Christmas Eve
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- Salvation Army Maj. Philip A. Wise and his three children arrived at a community center in North Little Rock, Ark., on Christmas Eve to pick up his wife and prepare for their 16-hour, overnight drive to West Virginia, where he was born and raised.
As he and his children left their car, two men armed with handguns approached Maj. Wise and demanded money. They shot him. His wife called 911. Maj. Wise died near the center's back door.
Maj. Wise's murder, just feet away from the building where he had devoted himself to community service and pastoral duties, has shocked the national Salvation Army family.
But the collective pain is especially acute in his home state, where he first heard the call to become a minister more than 15 years ago and went on to spread the word of God in Charleston, St. Albans, Moundsville and other communities.
"You would never have taken his heart away from West Virginia," said Salvation Army Maj. Bob Cornett of Morgantown, one of Maj. Wise's closest friends.
Yesterday, Maj. Wise, 40, made his final journey home for a funeral at the First Presbyterian Church in Morgantown. He was buried in Center Point Christian Church Cemetery in Center Point, W.Va.
Dozens of relatives, friends and colleagues packed the church to share memories of Maj. Wise, a big, bearded man who dedicated himself to his family and the Salvation Army center he and his wife, Maj. Cindy Wise, ran in a poor North Little Rock neighborhood. Together they oversaw a youth music program, Sunday school, religious workshops and social service outreach efforts.
"He never had to prove himself or his abilities," said Maj. Lewis Reckline, who first met Maj. Wise at the Salvation Army's officer training school in Atlanta. "He did just what he was supposed to do, day in and day out."
Maj. Wise was born on May 8, 1969 in Weirton, and his youth was filled with hardships. Health problems prevented him from playing football at Weir High School, so he joined the band and became a tuba player.
His Christian faith helped him overcome past personal struggles, friends said.
"He would readily give credit to the Salvation Army for saving his life," said Maj. Ken Luyk, who worked with Maj. Wise in Arkansas.
Despite the pain of leaving behind family and friends, Maj. Wise and his wife took a new assignment in Arkansas three years ago. They immersed themselves in their new community, eventually adopting three children 18 months ago: Vincent, 8, and Dorothy, 6, Thomas, 4.
The children, all siblings, were a joyous addition to the Wise family.
Maj. Ken Luyk recalled seeing them together at the North Little Rock center the Saturday before Christmas. The children and their mother were watching videos and preparing for a musical performance the next day, while Maj. Wise counted money from the Salvation Army's annual kettle fundraising drive.
"Here they were, much like any other Salvation Army family, trying to balance family and ministry," Maj. Luyk said.
Maj. Wise was eager to come home to West Virginia for the holidays, said Maj. Cornett. He'd made plans to see a friend in Morgantown and then head to his mother's house in Weirton, 30 miles west of Pittsburgh, for Christmas dinner.
The Cornett and Wise families also had plans to drive to Pittsburgh last weekend to take their children to the zoo.
Still, even on Christmas Eve -- just hours before his long journey -- Maj. Wise was working. He dropped off two Salvation Army bell-ringers at their homes before coming back to the center to meet his wife at 4 p.m.
After the two gunmen shot Maj. Wise, they ran to a nearby housing complex. No one has been arrested.
"I think everybody's outraged, shocked," said Sgt. Terry Kuykendall of the North Little Rock police department. "For someone to lose their life is bad enough, but to lose it on Christmas Eve, and for it to be in front of your three children ..."
Police have few leads in the case. The North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce is offering a $10,000 reward for information.
When another friend, Capt. Tony Perez heard the news about Maj. Wise's death, he was overwhelmed by feelings of "anger and rage," he said.
"Then I thought for a moment -- Phil wouldn't want that," he said.
Maj. Wise would forgive his attackers, Maj. Cornett said.
"If Phil could do it himself, he would lead them to Christ," his friend said. "He would tell them about the savior."
As Maj. Wise's casket was carried from the church yesterday, Mrs. Wise stood outside in the bitter cold, wearing her blue Salvation Army uniform and clutching her children.
"Now we're going to take him where his body will rest forever," she told them.
In addition to his wife and children, Maj. Wise is survived by his mother, Dorthy Wise, of Weirton; two sisters, Jeannie St. Clair of Hagerstown, Md., and Patty Monk of Palmyra, Pa.; and one brother, Ancel Greg Wise, of Empire, Ohio.
Donations in Maj. Wise's memory may be sent to the Salvation Army's North Little Rock youth music program at 1505 W. 18th St., North Little Rock, Ark., 72114.
Jerome L. Sherman can be reached at 412-263-1183 or
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Police: ‘Relentless search’ for Wise’s killer By Jeremy Peppas / Staff Writer / jpeppas@nlrtimes.comThursday, December 31, 2009 10:47 AM CST
Salvation Army Maj. Phillip Wise had Christmas plans.All he had to do was drop off the Christmas Eve donations at the Salvation Army headquarters in North Little Rock, pick up his wife, Cindy, who also is a Salvation Army major and was in the building waiting on him, and head home, to West Virginia, for the holidays.His three young children — 4, 6 and 8 — were with him.Then the unthinkable happened.Wise was robbed at gunpoint and as his children watched. He was then shot and bled to death in the parking lot at 1505 W. 18th St., in the Baring Cross neighborhood of North Little Rock.
Wise was 40.He had been with the Salvation Army for more than 15 years, said Salvation Army Maj. Harvey Johnson at a somber press conference in Little Rock on Christmas morning.“We often serve in places that aren’t often safe,” Johnson said. “We do our best to do things to protect ourselves, but we go to places to bring light to dark places. To offer hope to those who might be hopeless.”North Little Rock Chief of Police Danny Bradley, public information officer Sgt. Terry Kuykendall and Capt. Donnie Bridges, who is commander of the investigations division for the department, joined Johnson at the press conference.
“Our entire community is saddened by this horrible crime,” Bradley said. “Particularly because it is a gentleman who has given so much to the community.”Wise, who lived in Maumelle, was supervisor of the North Little Rock, Maumelle and Sherwood operations the past three years. He was also active in the Rotary Club, a member of the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce and was a familiar face in Central Arkansas.Bradley wouldn’t go into specifics of what happened, as he said it was ongoing investigation, but he did pledge that investigators would be engaged in a “relentless effort” as they searched for the killers.According to police, two black men, both armed and wearing all black, approached Wise. Police didn’t give a description of either man other to say that they were in their late teens or early 20s. The incident happened around 4:15 p.m. and a Pulaski County coroner pronounced Wise dead at the scene later that afternoon.
Bradley said the motive was “attempted robbery” and declined to say how much, if any, money was stolen. He added that an award is being offered for any information “on who committed this horrible crime.” The department can be reached at 758-1234.Bradley also said he didn’t believe that the homicide was connected to a robbery of a Salvation Army donation kettle at Sherwood Wal-Mart earlier in December.In that incident, a black man wearing a black jacket stole the kettle and fled the scene in an older white BMW. Police have obtained photos of that incident.After that incident, Johnson told reporters that the robberies of Salvation Army kettles were rare.“In my 30 years, I have seen it twice,” Johnson said.Wise also served as the pastor of the Salvation Army church in the group’s building in North Little Rock.


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