Satan Unabashed

This is such a sad story, even though no one was killed: ISIS destroys Al Nuri Mosque

Those in my congregation love our church building, but imagine a much grander version that had been around for 1000 years, blown to bits.  No one needs to be convinced that ISIS is evil; I could cite another story this morning that they are shooting families with children who are fleeing the battle, trying to frighten people into remaining so they will be human shields.

Many of us are so embarrassed by the idea of Satan, the devil.  I read Silas a version of the temptation of Jesus by the devil the other night, and in response to his questions found myself offering a clever metaphorical explanation of the devil, assuring him that an actual devil doesn’t exist like a person.  And I believe that, of course.  It goes with our Christian faith that Christ has conquered Satan, and also that in Christ grace has been extended to all, even the fiends of ISIS.  That’s why we pray for enemies.  We’ve also seen invocations of a real Satan used to great harm, by Christians and others.  Perhaps too conveniently, my disbelief in the devil also go along nicely with modern, Enlightenment, and liberal values in the inherent goodness and rationality of each person. True enough also.  No baby is destined to become an ISIS thug.

But then people fall into a path that leads them to love death and destruction.  We’ve seen recent examples of this by white and sometimes Christian terrorists, too.  Happily, they act alone.  ISIS manages to embody this same evil spirit on a grand scale, pushing a love of death beyond all bounds. Despite our sincerest hopes for them and our optimism that is embarrassed by words like “evil”–not to mention all the words that no longer ring with gravity, like “nefarious,” “villainous,” “dastardly,” words that only call to mind clownish images like Snidely Whiplash– these people continue to demand our belief in Satan.

We do not need to dwell on them to excess, but I can’t help think of how somewhere, ISIS commanders are admiring a sight like I am now admiring–tall trees set against a blue sky.  Somewhere they are feeling with delight the sun on their face, as I am now feeling delight.  And somewhere a little deeper than that, Satan is ruling within them.  And not in me, thanks be to God.




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