I wonder how you reacted to yesterday’s bloggage (if you read it). Did the title make you think, were your worried, curious or simply dismissive of yet another Nick-gimmick?
One of the things that I have pondered since is reason 5, and my answer to it. If believing in God is unfashionable (to say the least) then believing in any sort of devil is really silly. That’s a medieval belief that we have grown out of. Nobody believes in a red man with a pointy tail, horns and (perhaps) a goatee beard.
I don’t. That is a silly caricature that makes it easy for us to dismiss or ignore him. But don’t you sense that evil is around?
I believe that there is more than just God in our world. One of the problems people have with God’s existence in the face of evil and bad stuff happening is that if we have jettisoned any sort of evil malevolent force in the Universe (call him the Devil if it makes it easier for you) then we have nobody else to blame but God when things go wrong in the world. And yet we seem instinctively to know that there is evil in the world as well as good. We know that there is darkness as well as light. Think about films:
Star Wars – the good Jedi against the evil Emperor (light and dark sides of the Force).
James Bond always seems to have a baddy to fight.
Superman has Lex Luthor.
Batman has evil supervillains.
The Autobots fight against the Decepticons (Transformers).
And most horror films have a recognition that there is evil out there: Dracula, Nosferatu, Hannibal Lecter, Freddy Kreuger…
And so on, and so on. Evil usually has a face in the way we experience the world, too:
Osama Bin Laden
Dr Harold Shipman
Josef Stalin and the Soviet Union
People traffickers, child abusers, abusive partners…
And so on, and so on. There is always a baddie.
And don’t we know it in our own personal experience too:
Sometimes we do things we know will hurt those we love but do them anyway and can’t seem to stop ourselves.
Can’t you almost ‘hear’ yourself being tempted to do what you know is wrong and having to wrestle with it?
Haven’t you regretted something you have done but not known (in the cold light of day) why you did it?
Have you been on the receiving end of someone else’s evil?
And so on, and so on. We all experience evil.
We seem instinctively to divide the world into good and bad (and we usually want to believe that we are on the side of the good). So why is it so hard for us to accept that there is an evil malevolent force in the world that is responsible for so much of the suffering and pain and death and destruction that we see every day in the news that causes us to cry out “Why?”? Why have we done away with the Devil?
I think it goes back to the halloween-esque caricature of the red man with a pointy tail, horns and (perhaps) a goatee beard. That has reduced evil to something akin to a pantomime villain and has diminished its significance because we can write it out of our experience as simply being a cartoon villain like Dick Dastardly.
And because we don’t want to give ‘him’ any credit or undue attention Christians have tended not to talk much about him: we depersonalise things and talk about ‘evil’ and ‘sin’ and ‘temptation’ because that sounds more plausible and have a quick tilt at a windmill* during Halloween.
I really don’t believe in a red man with a pointy tail, horns and (perhaps) a goatee beard. But I do believe in evil. And I do believe that it is a malevolent force in our world – you can call it the Devil if you like – that is destructive and distracts us away from God by hiding in the shadows and making us blame the Creator when things go wrong. Evil is alive and well.
So I think we need to bring back the Devil. Not to celebrate him in any shape or form, but to recognise that evil is real and malevolent and hideous and cruel and vindictive and disgusting and despicable and, and, and… you can fill in many other words.
And we need help in the face of that evil because we can’t help ourselves. We are part of the problem.
Lent is not primarily a period of fasting and giving up luxuries in the same way we make New Year’s Resolutions – it is a period leading up to Easter when we realise that we need to take evil seriously and recognise that God did and does and has dealt the mortal blow so that we are now in the final act with the death throes of evil.
If evil worries you, then look to Good. If you are frightened by what lies in the shadows, look to the Light.
Be blessed, be a blessing
* see this Wikipedia page if you don’t know about that English idiom