Thursday, April 29, 2004

Satan and the Easter Bunny
Evil is a tough subject for mainline and left-leaning Christians. We acknowledge that evil exists in the world, but we’re uncomfortable talking about where it comes from. We don’t like to believe that Satan actually exists. Satan fits into the same category as the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus – an imaginary character useful for, illustrating concepts, telling stories and motivating children (albeit a very different type of motivation than Santa is used for).

I’ve always been in the camp that believed evil is a necessary consequence of free will. It’s not that God wants evil world, or even that God can’t prevent evil in the world, but that evil has to exist if we’re going to be given the choice to live a Christ-centered life. For the possibility to choose Christ to exist there has to be the possibility of choosing a life of evil.

But that’s not always a satisfying answer. There are times when it certainly seems there is an active, evil force at work in the world. But is it Satan or demons? I almost hate to admit it, but I’ve read all of Frank Peretti’s books. Peretti describes a world of “spiritual warfare” in This Present Darkness where demons and angels battle for the future of humanity. Christian “prayer warriors” provide strength for angels to combat the insidious efforts of Satan to weaken believers and unbelievers alike.

Even Stephen King provided a vision of an active, demonic force in the world in The Stand. Randall Flagg seems to be an agent of Satan, if not Satan himself. Certainly there are a lot of literary examples of evil, probably most of them better written than The Stand and This Present Darkness.

The reason I’m thinking about this is that I overheard a conversation at work where a colleague (who is Christian) was saying that he felt the Devil was working against several people in his church involved in a new program. Several bad things (break-in at the church, a car break-in, and an accident at home that injured a friend) had happened to people, but a couple of good things (purse was recovered from the car break-in) were starting to happen. His interpretation was that God was striking back against Satan.

I’m not saying I think my colleague is crazy or that he might be right. I have no idea. What worries me is that those who believe in an active Satan tend to attribute everything bad that happens to them to the Devil and everything good to active intervention on the part of God. But what if it isn’t the Devil? What if the break-ins are the result of poverty or drug-induced crime? Is our response to step up evangelism and recruit prayer warriors, or work in mission to address systemic injustice in society and other roots of crime?

I don’t know the answer. Maybe it’s a combination of spiritual and worldly intervention. I guess I just hope that we don’t write off hope for changing the world we live in because we’re waiting for God and his angels to vanquish Satan and his demons. I’m afraid that end times theology and the idea of an “activist” Satan tell Christians that we can’t hope to change our world. Who cares if we wreck the environment, throw the developing world to the wolves, and ignore social and economic inequity? Jesus will fix everything when he returns in the final showdown between good and evil. I’d like to think that we can advance the Kingdom of God on earth and we don’t have to wait for the second coming.



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