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Hell and handcart

04 January 2013

David Winter assesses a conspectus of evils

The Devil Has No Mother: Why he's worse than you think - but god is greater
Nicky Cruz
Hodder & Stoughton £11.99
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FIFTY years ago, the young Nicky Cruz was rescued from the life of a street fighter in New York by the ministry of David Wilkerson. His story became a best-selling book and a film. He has spent the ensuing years as an evangelist and preacher, writing a bestseller himself (Run Baby Run), and acquiring a reputation for hard-hitting, Charismatic, fundamentalist proclamation.

This book is, if anything, even more strident than his earlier writings. He believes that we are selling our souls to the devil - sometimes by default and often by compromise - and that "we" is all-encompassing, including many of his fellow American Evangelicals, the wider Church, and the whole of Western society.

Cruz sees demons everywhere; but his greatest concern is that Christians generally are apathetic about the satanic infiltration of our daily lives. "The devil is worse than you think," he warns, though he adds reassuringly, "but God is greater." "Pornography, drug use, child abuse, adultery, murder, rape" are evidence of satanic influence. So, he argues, is the widespread failure by church leaders to denounce gay practices (the UK gets a specific black mark here).

All of this is backed up with lengthy speculative reconstructions of the "war in heaven" between Lucifer and Michael, selected biblical texts, and "statistics I have recently discovered". These report, among other things, that 40 per cent of pastors admit to having an affair since the beginning of their ministry, and 70 per cent suffer from depression.

If you like being hectored for 244 pages, are fascinated by other people's sins, own a demon-possessed dog, or need to know what to do when you meet someone whose eyes glow orange, this book is for you. Otherwise, it's probably not.

Canon David Winter is a retired cleric in the diocese of Oxford, and a former Head of Religious Broadcasting at the BBC.

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