Sympathy for the Devil

I was a little shocked to see a promo on Fox recently for its new show “Lucifer“. The premise of this new series is that Satan decides he’s tired of ruling hell, so he retires to Los Angeles to run a nightclub full-time, and helps a police detective solve crimes on the side. The tagline on the promo spot: “He gives bad a good name.”

I promise I’m not making that up. Check the link.

Of course, the devil has been portrayed numerous times in television and film. Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino have both played him (“Angel Heart” and “The Devil’s Advocate”, respectively). He’s been a reoccurring character on the CW’s Supernatural for some time now. And while sometimes he’s represented as something else initially – a lawyer, an antique store owner, a carnival leader, Jar Jar Binks – he’s usually just the devil, evil personified.

Except now, he’s not, and that’s what bothers me about Fox’s new show. The devil now has his own TV program in which, while labeled as an “antihero” in reviews, he’s still a good guy out punishing crime for the purposes of this show. I’m all about creative license, but in this case it’s gone too far.

There’s an obvious biblical misrepresentation here that goes far beyond just muddying the religious waters. That goes without saying. Satan surely delights in being repackaged, relabeled, and presented to the masses in his new, user-friendly representation.

However, if don’t believe in God, you’re likely to think, “Hey, it’s no big deal, it’s not real anyway.” OK, so let’s take religion out of it. Even if you don’t believe he’s real, Satan is still the personification of evil in popular culture. Think of all the cultural references to the devil and hell – they’re universally bad. Except, now with this show, the symbol for ultimate evil is, well, not really that evil.

We are living increasingly in an age of moral relativism, where there is no objective right or wrong, and disagreements over beliefs can be summarily dismissed with, “That’s your truth. My truth is different.” So, if there’s no right or wrong, only relative truths, then anything goes, and no one has the moral authority on any given subject.

– Abortion is killing babies and is therefore wrong.
It’s not really a baby. Abortion protestors kill people, too.

– People should not be allowed to enter the country illegally.
No human is illegal. Everyone was once an immigrant.

– Muslims should be monitored for potential terrorism.
Christians can be terrorists, too. And remember the Crusades!

– Hiding classified emails on a secret, unsecured server is wrong.
Depends on what the meaning of “is” is. And a woman should be president.

And so on. The point is, if we’ve reached the point where we can’t even say that Satan is evil, where do we go from here? Is anything evil? Are we willing to overlook the wholesale persecution and slaughter being committed by ISIS because, hey, that’s their religion. That’s their truth, it’s just different from our truth. How about the human trafficking of young girls and women all over the world for the sex trade? Sure, it’s horrible, but that’s a different culture. We don’t know where they’re coming from.

I’m sure someone reading this is thinking, “Hey, man, calm down. It’s just a TV show.”  In and of itself, sure, it’s just a show. But it’s also a big slide down a slippery slope. There has to be a point at which we say, “This, right here. This is absolute evil.” It used to be the devil. Apparently not anymore.

For the record, here’s my truth. Evil exists, and we should call it out. We should not excuse it away or sugar-coat it to make it more palatable. And we certainly shouldn’t reimagine it in order to deny its reality.

 

Photo:
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/54169140@N00/6930586632″>Fuentes del angel caido – Fountain of the fallen angel</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

What I want to be

I know it’s a bit behind to be discussing resolutions halfway through January, but, hey, life happens. Besides, I wanted a little bit of time to flesh these out. Introspection is hard, and I thought it important to thoroughly self-examine.

The impulse to change one’s self with the new year seems easy to explain. New year, new you. Nowadays, it’s easy to stumble out of the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s period thinking, “Once things get back to normal, I’m going to make some changes.” Of course, the problem with that is that once things get back to normal, so do we, most of the time, year after year. As the saying goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Making a new year’s resolution goes back as far as the ancient Babylonians, yet history is a series of repetitions.

Maybe we shoot too high. With that in mind, I’ve come up with three resolutions that I can work upon on a daily basis, meaning every moment of every day is a blank slate. Since I was told recently that writing them down increases your likelihood of achieving them, they are:

Get healthier – I list this first only because it’s such a gimmee. Everyone wants to be slimmer and in better shape. I come into 2016 having been previously told that I had an incurable progressive movement disorder. It turned out to be an incorrect diagnosis (understandably), but it’s obviously changed my perspective. While I’m now mostly back to normal, at its worst, I was incapable of standing still without my legs shaking violently. You really don’t realize how many things you do standing until it’s taken away from you.

Now I’m exercising every day, whether I feel like it or not, and thinking about everything I swallow. I feel like I got a reprieve, and I’m going to make the most of it. Our bodies march forward through time into inevitable decline. I intend to go down swinging.


Emulate Jesus
–  Really, this should also be a gimmee, but it’s not, not even for most people that profess faith in him. I’ve been listening to a series of sermons on the apostle Paul, and one thing that’s stuck with me about Paul’s ministry was his refusal to denigrate. Surrounded by pagans and hostile Jews, Paul never sought to convert by tearing others down and telling them how they were wrong, but by patiently explaining the truth of Jesus. Emulating Jesus, he persuaded rather than argued, and showed understanding and compassion for his persecutors.

Lately there seems to a massive lack of patience or understanding for anyone that doesn’t share a similar worldview. Democrat vs. Republican,  Christian vs. Atheist, Conservative vs. Liberal, Muslims vs. everyone else, etc. Maybe it’s always been this way, but I believe it’s worse now than it’s been in my lifetime. We’re all polarized, fed by internet and cable news chosen to reflect and reinforce our beliefs, with little tolerance of anyone who believes differently.

I don’t want to be like that. I can hold firm to my beliefs and still have understanding and compassion for those who don’t believe the same or have the same standards, rather than go for the easy knee-jerk reaction of denigration or derision. I can seek to persuade and build up, rather than argue and tear down.

I believe this is especially important for Christians, some of whom have a habit of ruining Christianity for everyone else. Anyone ever know that “good church person” who looked down their nose at others because they drank, or were divorced, or had non-Christian friends? Jesus met with lepers and tax collectors while the “good church people” of the day rebuked him for it. Would that aforementioned “good church person” have shown kindness to the woman at the well, who had five prior husbands and a live-in lover, as Jesus did, or gossiped about her from afar?

Of course I’m going to fall short. As Paul wrote, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19 ESV). But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to be better every day.

Make time now – I know every parent hears the constant, “Daddy, come look at this!”, or , “Mommy, come play with me!” just as we’re getting into something that needs to be done. I reply with “In just a minute!” most often. However, sometimes that minute stretches into an hour, and sometimes it never comes.

My kids were babies last week, and today they’re six and nine. Soon they won’t care if I see what they’re doing, or want to play games, or ask me to cuddle and watch TV. Soon they won’t even be here.

Surely whatever I’m doing can wait until later, because a moment with my child today, at this age, will not.

 

Photo:
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/44124348109@N01/15977313497″>Last Light of 2014 on America, driving into the clouds from above</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;