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Fearing the Devil more than Honoring God

Not all Christians – or  “religious people” in general – fear the devil or the occult. Many enlightened mainstream Christians view the devil as a metaphor, and the occult as mere superstition.

The types of religious people who do fear the devil and the occult are usually found among fundamentalists who seem not to really take seriously the efficacy of Jesus’ redemptive ministry. Jesus is reported to have said, “Fear not, I have overcome the world.” But most fundamentalists don’t seem to take Jesus at his word.

Instead they fear “the world,” dancing, dating, gambling, secular education, evolution, women’s rights, television, mass media, the Internet, movies, alcohol use. They see Satan lurking in nearly every nook and cranny of ordinary existence. Worse yet – unlike the relatively enlightened approach of the Catholic Church – they see “evidence” of demonic possession in such trivial things such as nervous tics and habits, swearing, anger, normal sexual attraction and interaction. Not for them are the exacting “signs of possession” so well documented, for example, in The Exorcist novel and film. After all, if Satan is manifest in nail-biting, there is no need to go to elaborate ends to establish his – or any other- supernatural interventions.  Paradoxically, due to this seeming universality, the devil and his minions become as common and mundane as migraines or toothache.

And why not?  These are the people who so often claim a supernatural action in answer to prayer, regardless of the reply’s (or the request’s) triviality or venality.  Church need a new sprinkler system?  Pray.  Get the sprinklers?  Then thank God for this “blessing.” But if a prayer goes unanswered or if the opposite of the prayer’s intention comes about, what happens to “blessing”?  God of course cannot be cursed.  Perhaps it has become a question of God’s granting the devil permission – for reasons unknown – to thwart prayer.  This serves to make God’s will extremely obscure while at the same time magnifying Satan’s presence and power.  It is not surprising that a miasma of fear floats over this theological bog.

Their paranoia only serves to drive fundamentalists deeper into their fear and into the “safety” of their respective congregations. Morevover, it inflates their sense of “Election” and  “righteousness”, while intensifiying their condemnation of others – especially fellow Christians whom they deem to be insufficiently “biblical”.  They force themselves to live by moral, social and religious strictures as stringent and as “works”-based as the things they vilify in the Catholic Church or in “pharisaic/legalistic” Judaism.

Fundamentalists battle not against the devil, but rather against their own “Shadow” – their own unacknowledged evils – projected onto a mythical fallen angel, and onto other human beings.