Sympathy for the Devil

Yeah, I know! The Rolling Stones beat me to that title by a lifetime! I was originally going to title this “I think Satan gets a bum deal!” but something about that didn’t feel right.

Why do I think that? Well, he gets blamed for many things that have nothing or very little to do with him!

My son came to me with a video he came across about Satanic symbolism recently found… on an energy drink can! YES! I could not help but laugh, but not at him… I’ve been ‘around the block’ and seen it all… Proctor & Gamble… The Care Bears… Cabbage Patch Dolls… SpongeBob… Harry Potter… and that’s just off the top of my head! And who of our generation could ever forget backward masking? Though I did know a guy who turned his vinyl record player backwards by hand, and he did hear a message: “You are ruining your stylus!!

[For the younger generation: vinyl records were flat disks that rotated slowly and the stylus was the needle that ‘read’ the ‘memory’ on them.]

Ozzy Osbourne: The Prince of Darkness!! Huh? Have you seen his reality show? These promotions of the ‘dark side’ and the rebellious spirit that goes with it, flipping two fingers to the ‘establishment’ is just that – promotions! Marketing promotions aimed at a demographic, usually the younger generation. And such subtle (or not so subtle) images and ideas do work in advertising or else they’d be dropped.

Satan is showing forth his power over the world by getting his wee symbols on marketed products, yeah! And real witchcraft looks exactly like JK Rowling portrayed it in Hogwarts!

If you wish to go looking for symbols, it ain’t that hard. Only today I noticed one; if you have the new Candy Crush Soda game on your phone, look down at the lower left corner on the home screen – if you’re heavily into ‘Zionist conspiracy’ you’ll latch onto that one! No, I don’t see evil in these markings any more than I could hear ‘Hail Satan’ in “tsud eht siteb eno rehtona” or any other ‘wop woo ebb wah nyek’ sounding recording that those guys kept playing until I was supposed to say “Oh, I hear it now!” just to make them go on to the next church youth group!

Where do I see evil then? Where might the influence of the Devil be found? I see it in individuals and corporations who have ludicrous amounts of money yet spend half their life trying to avoid paying tax on their fortunes (which Jesus unequivocally commanded us!). I see it in politicians who care not one jot for the poor. I hear it when Bob Geldof swears, but not in those expletives: in the incredulity he has at how little major nations are giving to help beat the scourge of ebola! I see it in the relative apathy shown by our press at atrocities in our world when there’s a better headline about The X Factor or Big Brother – it’s only when there’s little to report on celebrities or wannabes that real news takes centre stage. And I also see the evil in wanting to promote bad news above even the slightest good thing that might be happening out there. No wonder Christians today think “it’s all getting worse!”

Now there is something to address: how much of this ‘evil’ is within our churches too? How many preachers promote forms of politics or certain politicians whose record may not be squeaky clean? Right away, I find myself reflective, and is that not how we are meant to be? Recognising the sin within ourselves? If I’m brutally honest, that greed that is so apparent in the billionaire is present in me too. Who would turn their nose up at inheriting a good amount of cash? The apathy that I decry is also right there when I find myself switching the TV channel over from pictures of suffering to see that comedy show.

What exactly is Satan’s role in the universe? What is his ‘job’? His aim? Is it not to ‘deceive the elect’? How did he tempt Eve in Eden? Was it not by saying that she could become greater than what God planned for her? He tempted her to take pride in herself, in her ability to decide between good and evil, and to find pleasure in being able to judge others. It is actually in that recognition of his intentions, that his aim is to get us to look at others’ sins and failings and not our own faults, that we can defeat him. If he wants us to be blind to our own limitations and our need for Jesus and his forgiveness, then surely each of us seeking to change ourselves first and foremost is the most efficient way to defeat him? I shall repeat myself again: Revival is never about them, it’s always about you!

On second thoughts… all those things that Christians love to find and point out, out in the world that show the extent of Satanic influence, all those symbols and children’s shows and pop songs, maybe they are actually his ploys! Carry on as you were…

Grace be with you.

 

P.S. Here’s a wee poem what I wrote as a younger me, many moons ago (forgive the limited blog formatting, please):

DARKNESS

When the darkness falls

The moon has gone

And the stars behind the clouds are hid,

The angel calls

My spirit on

And my anxious fears to death are bid

But will I stand

Against the tide?

Will courage fail me at the test?

Or fate demand

That flight will bide

And put my skittish soul to rest?

 

How can I know

If I’ll be strong

Before the day of judgement dawns.

Time will show

If I am wrong

To think I’m king among the pawns.

Through trying times

I’ll have to learn

To learn from every trial I face

And face my crimes,

Those crimes that churn

Within my darkest, hidden place.

 

The greatest voyage,

It is said,

Has to start with the first step.

But this wise adage

Has conveyed

A truth which in our minds has slept.

To beat the rise

Of evil

In everything I see

I must surprise

The Devil

By seeing the sin in me.

 

Shanky’s Hollow, Mourne Mountains

25/8/95

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Judgementality 2

This is a poem I wrote a few years ago; it came from a writing exercise that was actually instigated by me saying the title. I had no idea I was to write this from the idea. Some might say it was a subconscious thing, since it produced a work, from the hearing of which almost everyone has expressed some sort of strong emotion, usually shock:

I DON’T WANT TO REMEMBER HIM

I don’t want to remember him.
How we sat in his kitchen,
His son, my friend and I, with him
over coffee
and laughed until midnight.
I don’t want to; not now.
 
I don’t want to remember him.
The night my car broke down,
he came out and towed me back
to his garage. In the pit
we worked until 2am.
On that freezing night
until that clutch was fixed.
I don’t want to; not now.
 
I don’t want to remember him.
How he laughed and laughed
at my Halloween costume;
A home-made ‘Cousin It’,
and joined in the fun.
The coolest dad I knew then.
I don’t want to; not now.
 
I don’t want to remember him.
How his daughter, in our band,
practising in his attic,
wanted to sing “Oh, Daddy” to him.
I don’t want to; not now.
 
Not now I know
what things he did,
in the dark,
to his own children.
 
5/11/09.

 

This blog has been prompted by the little local news story that two characters in our town have been dressing up, one as a clown (copying a prankster in Northampton, we all presume) and another reportedly in a masked balaclava with a toy gun. To run around THIS country looking like an armed terrorist is NUTS, granted – somebody might shoot him dead, literally. However, the news report simply stated that this clown had been seen near schools and parents had expressed concerns. I immediately posted on Facebook how paedophiles with intentions on children do not dress up in ways that draw attention.

At the heart of this is the idea that someone who looks or dresses strangely, or has tattoos, or weird hair, or just behaves contra ‘norms’ is not to be trusted, while a clean cut man in a nice suit can be relied upon. Look at Hitler – you could take him home to your parents; a teacher of ours knew a woman who met Hitler, and she said he was utterly charming! President Assad of Syria is being held up as a demonic genocidal murderer, yet he was an optician in London, ministering glasses to people from his shop, before he became what he is today. He looks as harmless as an accountant! Have all these revelations about the vile and diabolical activities of some ‘lovely’ celebrities still not taught us?

We need to relegate images of ‘horror’ to fairy stories and movies where they belong. Evil does not LOOK evil! Even Satan was made beautiful – Ezek. 28:17. He doesn’t have horns and a tail. Why do we think this way? Huge question, but maybe a simple answer will suffice for now: our ‘comfort zone’ – we all like things around us to be familiar and work the way we expect. Everything from a phone not giving us service to someone yelling and screaming in a public place affects our comfort (to different degrees, of course) and if someone looks or behaves outside the expected parameters of what we as individuals consider ‘normal’ we feel uncomfortable. Each of us have different parameters depending on what we’re used to. Someone who hears swearing daily is not affected by it as much as one whose ears are seldom assaulted by swear words.

An old friend of mine once worked in a City Mission. He looked ridiculous in a suit, much like I do, but he said he had to put on at least a collar and tie to visit the older members of his community. If he came to their door in his T-shirt with his wild hair (not long like mine, but it was like an untamed bush at times lol), then doors remained closed. They would only open it if he looked ‘presentable’ – I asked him if they were not wise to the fact that the con artists who sought to get them to part with their money would make themselves as neat and as nice as could be achieved.

I’ve been diagnosed (unofficially) by experts as having Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m convinced that I have ADD, but not so convinced about AS. I’m not as socially awkward as many ‘aspies’ I know, but it does explain a lot of problems I’ve faced in my life. For instance, it was many years before I realised that for most people, ‘How are you?’ draws ‘I’m fine, thanks. How are you?’ and NOTHING else is expected – it’s a social custom, nothing more. I have close friends with whom I can be open, but replying “I’m actually feeling a bit down, since…” with anyone else causes them huge discomfort. Studying Pragmatics and Discourse Analysis uncovers how many more conventions we have linguistically that dare not be flaunted lest they cause a social faux pas.

I find I like aspies generally (as they tend to call themselves to identify themselves from ‘norms’) – they’re all so much more open and direct (as are the French, but that’s another story). My point? We should all make allowances for people who may not think, act, speak or more importantly, LOOK like we do. Scripture is full of exhortations to show consideration to everyone and make every effort to maintain peace with all (e.g. 1Thess. 5:14-15; 2Tim. 2:24; Heb. 12:14).

I’m even guilty of this myself. In a former church I met a new member, and immediately found him quite discomforting company. I made a snap judgement to dislike him, but later discovered that he had simply not been taking enough of his medication, which was prescribed for mental health issues, diagnosed as schizophrenia OR bipolar disorder. He was one of the most agreeable people I came to know; I was totally wrong about him. However, during one of his poor episodes he entered the church nursery and had to be removed, and he ended up in a spell in hospital, but got his medication sorted. Rumours abounded that a paedophile had gained access to the children but later I decided to enquire from the nursery worker who dealt with him; she understood him, and she reassured me that no children were ever under threat of any harm from him. Many may still believe what they heard and still judge the man unfairly.

Let us not be hasty to make a judgement on anyone. Indeed, let us be fearful of making ANY judgement! (Matt. 7:1; Romans 14:3; 1Cor. 4:5; 5:12; Col. 2:16). And let us not make something of odd appearance or peculiar behaviour – each of us is made differently from anyone else, so how do we define ‘normal’? Is it not a convention of culture, or the world, and not of God’s making, since he makes us individuals? And let us be wise to look out for evil where it resides; deep within the hearts of people, who may or may not show outward signs of nastiness or malice. And within our own hearts too.

Grace be with you.