Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The presence of the demonic. . .

It is surely easy enough to call demonic the terrible acts of violence and immorality as well as those who perpetrate them.  When we encounter something like a Newtown scene of violence upon children, I do not know how we can avoid calling such a tragedy evil and the one who wrought such evil demonic.  But, in some ways, this is unhealthy as well.  For often we find false security in the idea that such evils and demonic evidence is rare or unusual in our modern day world.  We get the foolish idea that such acts and those who act in such way can be legislated against so that we are largely protected from them and their evil.  We get the mistaken idea that demonic activity and evil are now replaced by a diagnosis, a psychosis, to be treated in a therapeutic manner to counsel the demons out of them.  Although I see the obvious correlation between mental illness and such terrible acts of violence, it would be a terrible lie and a travesty to assume that evil and violence only occur among the mentally ill.

The first and most prominent area of demonic activity and influence over us is in sensuality.  Sensuality does not mean fornication or adultery -- although it can certainly lead to that.  Here the point is a heightened sense of and preoccupation with sexuality.  In our culture we are tempted to define ourselves by sex (straight, gay, bit, etc.), we are barraged by sensual images in which the clear intent is sex and naughtiness, and we see and read about sexual acts so much that we become desensitized to them.  We live in a culture in which lewdness, nudity, humor, vulgarity in language, and sexual behavior have run rampant over our minds, hearts, and souls.  This is certainly demonic.  When we are enticed by our sexual natures to the point where pleasure, curiosity, and voyeurism have become the norm, the work of the devil is done.  The fact that Christians struggle against these things is such numbers is ample evidence of how evil uses unchained desire to isolate us, to steal what is proper and good, and to make ugly what God has given.  Sex sells and the fact that we have given over to the idea of sex as a real commodity and tool of the marketplace is telling.  Why, we have made Scripture into a book designed to lend credence and legitimacy to our desires as if Jesus died to make us happy, to reinvigorate our sex lives, and to free us from guilt and shame so that we do exactly as we please without restraint.

As an extension of sensuality, I would add the vulgarity of our language.  The way we refer to things has as much to do with how we see them as what we speak about.  We sing and speak of sex in not only graphic terms but in terms that demean others and drag us down.  It is the domain of the base, the cheap, and the vulgar.  It is so common, in fact, that we search for new forms of vulgar expression when the old ones have lost their edge.  These words were once limited to whispers or spoken under cover but now we openly name and claim our vulgar speech as our own -- we are proud of it.  Surely the most profound way for the devil to have his way with us is to diminish the power of language and steal from us the very means through which we know God!  By corrupting language and the power of words, the Word of God is itself diminished and with it our ability to hear and heed what God says.

The next work of evil and the activity of the demonic lies in the way we glorify violence.  From video games to movies to TV to literature to popular lyrics, violence is glorified and its place elevated to the point where it is what we expect and not the exception.  Censorship is the ultimate evil in our libertarian culture in which what we do behind closed doors is our own business.  While that might usually apply to the sensual nature of things, it has also become a staple of ordinary life.  The video game industry would be hard pressed to sell its product if all violent games and images were removed from its wares.  The movie industry would not know how to make films if graphic violence were uniformly prohibited.  The music industry would lose whole categories of songs if lyrics describing or promoting violence were eliminated.  Our children are forced to grow up both by the sexual nature of the images that predominate in their video games and media and by the acts of violence they see at least as frequent as the sexual acts openly shown or hinted at.

Perhaps that third work of evil and the domain of the demonic is the way virtue has become a joke and the virtuous have become straight jacketed prudes who are intent upon denying pleasure to the rest of us.  Where once the arts were, if not exclusively, at least primarily use to promote virtue, the arts have become the domain of the sensual, the vulgar, and the violent.  We live in the paradox of a politically correct society in which the President calling an attractive female attorney general beautiful is as scandalous as opposing abortion and the free reign of desire... and one in which we legislate to take away rights while at the same time insisting upon liberty for the individual to fully pursue what makes him or her happy... and one in which the news focuses upon every foible of our leaders while tearing away every layer of public morality as if to prove nobody is better than anyone else.  We have a nation in which our heroes comes dollar signs, in which virtue is defined as personal fulfillment, and in which good is a relative term based upon my own personal happiness.  Where is there room left to speak of sacrifice for the sake of the other, service that puts another before self, or principle that impacts words and deeds?  No, we are far too sophisticated to fall for virtue and we have little time left for virtuous living when there is so much opportunity to indulge ourselves in our base desires.  Surely one of the great achievements of the devil is to steal away our saints and leave us with the joke of virtue the domain of the foolish, the naive, and the weak.

Of course the devil is at work in the big scandals and tragedies and immoralities of the moment, but his most effective work lies in the shadows of our own desires -- rampant sensuality, common vulgarity, violence that no longer shocks, and virtue that has become a joke...  To reclaim us from the works of our own destruction, God must expose what is evil for what it is.  Then He can point us to that which has overcome the evil -- His Son, whose suffering and death and resurrection alone offer us salvation.

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