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 credit: <a href=”″>Fuentes del angel caido – Fountain of the fallen angel</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;