The Hell You Say

I’ve been chewing on the Sikh temple killings, especially poignant coming on the heels of the massacre in Aurora.  For Dr. Keith Ablow’s take, here’s the link:

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/08/07/did-mental-illness-fuel-wisconsin-massacre-or-was-it-terrorism/

A Sikh family lives just a few doors down.  They are friendly, super-nice people, although their Shih Tzu is a mean little troll.  Admitting some ignorance here: I thought Sikhism was a branch of Hinduism, like Lutherans and Baptists are Christians, but Sikhism is a separate religion, actually started by a disaffected Hindu about 500 years ago.  There has been a lot of conflict between Sikhs and Hindus over that time, although they’ve mostly patched things up and have been in relative harmony since the early-1980s.  Please everybody, write this sentence 100 times: Sikhs are not Muslims.

What would a prominent atheist like Richard Dawkins or Dan Barker say about this incident?  Undoubtedly they would add it to their evidence bag as a proof of how religion itself causes pain and disorder in the world.  Me, I would say it is evidence of the opposite, which so much rejection of God in a fallen world is resulting in all the chaos and carnage.

After reading Dr. Ablow’s article, I propose this food for thought: Satan.  If Dr. Ablow had offered that the hand of Satan might be behind the shootings, his career of appearing in print and on TV talk shows would probably be over, except for the 700 Club.  According to the organization Religious Tolerance, as of 2001 only 17% of Catholics believed Satan was a living entity, the lowest of any of the Christian denominations polled; Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Methodists barely outpolled Catholics.  Only Mormons and Assembly of God polled a majority belief.  Their conclusion is “Belief in the personhood of Satan appears to be gradually dissipating.”

http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_sat4.htm

I find these fascinating numbers, because any serious reader of or listener to the Gospels knows that Jesus believed in the Devil.  Not only believed, but He had a relationship with him.  Is there no greater evidence of Satan’s bottomless pride that he attempted to tempt the Son of God?  A major bullet point on Jesus’ agenda was the casting out of demons.  I see no evidence in the Gospels that Jesus actually was a master psychiatrist who cured mental illnesses couched as exorcisms because that was what the Jewish culture of His time could intellectually handle.  A recommended book on this subject is “An Exorcist Tells His Story”, by Fr. Gabriele Amorth, who was appointed as the chief exorcist of the Diocese of Rome in 1986 by John Paul II.  It’s not a lurid read with spinning pea-soup spouting heads, but an understated, philosophical reflection. What does the Church teach? From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

II. THE FALL OF THE ANGELS

391 Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy.266 Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”.267 The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: “The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing.”268

392 Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels.269 This “fall” consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign. We find a reflection of that rebellion in the tempter’s words to our first parents: “You will be like God.”270 The devil “has sinned from the beginning”; he is “a liar and the father of lies”.271

393 It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. “There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.”272

394 Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls “a murderer from the beginning”, who would even try to divert Jesus from the mission received from his Father.273 “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”274 In its consequences the gravest of these works was the mendacious seduction that led man to disobey God.

395 The power of Satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that providence should permit diabolical activity, but “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him.”275

So to not believe in Satan and his minions and say you are Catholic is clearly “cafeteria Catholicism”.  I would stop short of calling it “cafeteria Christianity”, because I would be surprised if there was not a Christian group that “the Devil is only a symbol” is one of their tenets.  If you think about it, what would please the Devil more than to be considered a symbol?  It would only make his work easier, and it certainly would add to his pleasure of the initial meeting of his new subjects upon entering his domain, their surprise at being ushered into his office, seeing the picture of him, Stalin, and Pol Pot golfing on his desk, or all the Penn State memorabilia.

It seems reasonable to me that as long as you are cruising along enmeshed in the world and the flesh, Satan sees little need to get involved.  If he sees the occasional far-gone wanker he thinks he can push over the edge to precipitate a deliciously evil act, no doubt he goes for it.  But if you are a good citizen – “basically a nice person” in the lexicon of our day – who just doesn’t get too involved in the God thing, you most likely would be considered “safely in Our Father’s house”, as Screwtape would say.  It’s when you step upon the path in quest of holiness that he gets really fired up, that meetings are held in Hell’s Conference Room A, with PowerPoints and light refreshments.  A plan is drawn up focusing on your weakest points.  In my case, I probably didn’t merit a full-blown meeting, but the Father of Lies would just have his admin assistant Florinxzball send out the standard email, highlighting my predisposition for lust and lack of patience.  So I think as many lust-inducing and patience-testing things are put in my path as a human could possibly endure.  In my case the Catfish Charlie of Sin might be following a beautiful redhead in a Miata going 30 in a 45 zone and unable to pass.

Back on point, what happened in Colorado and in Wisconsin are terrible things: let us pray for the victims, their families, and for the tormented souls of the perpetrators and their families.  Prayer and loving response is the face of horror is Satan’s greatest rebuke.

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