Apage, Satanas!

It’s been a long time since Junker Jörg, aka Martin Luther, threw an inkwell at the great adversary who had no difficulty catching up with the feisty former Augustinian monk hidden away at the Elector’s fortress Wartburg, even though Luther had grown a beard.JunkerJörg But that’s not what this post is about. It’s about the eclipse of the great enemy himself. In an age of health, wealth, and near full employment, few of us are plagued by the devil, never mind ink spots on the wall.

Like everyone else, Lucifer is now a young and chic, soul searching character in a show, now in its fourth season, that was originally broadcast by Fox, then cancelled, then saved by Netflix. Here is the Google summary, which speaks for itself.

Based on characters created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg, this series follows Lucifer, the original fallen angel, who has become dissatisfied with his life in hell. After abandoning his throne and retiring to Los Angeles, Lucifer indulges in his favorite things (women, wine and song) — until a murder takes place outside of his upscale nightclub. For the first time in billions of years, the murder awakens something unfamiliar in Lucifer’s soul that is eerily similar to compassion and sympathy. Lucifer is faced with another surprise when he meets an intriguing homicide detective named Chloe, who appears to possess an inherent goodness — unlike the worst of humanity, to which he is accustomed. Suddenly, Lucifer starts to wonder if there is hope for his soul. Yeah.

I first heard about the show from the students in my Bible class when I tried to elicit some reactions to our reading of the classic tale of Satan’s fall in the Latin “Life of Adam and Eve.” (See Prof. Gary Anderson’s resource page on the subject.) I realized that Satan is no longer of immediate interest or concern. Setting aside Rosemary’s Baby, which some of us agreed was still a pretty potent horror movie, Satan seems a pretty lame proposition. It is difficult to say why Catholic baptism rituals still contain an abjuration of Satan and his works. We discussed demon possession for a little bit, but it was the first time that I felt that Satan was no longer of real interest to anyone. No one was afraid of moral corruption, everyone seemed comfortable in a world where evil was simply the result of morally deficient human agency. So we were confronted with the task of trying to understand just what kind of place Satan occupied in the minds and lives of people who used to take the devil serious enough to invent apotropaic rituals to avert him or his minions entering one’s house or one’s soul.

What we came up with was this. While no one seems afraid of the devil, we still have our own type of suspicion and fear of hidden back-worlds. Where some fear a Jewish world conspiracy, others fear the “deep state,” or other forms of secret forces that want us ill and prevent us from achieving our common goals. In other words, we can still fathom the function of Satan, even if our fear of the unknown has taken new forms. We are still often fearful of a world full of unseen forces of evil even if these forces are no longer mastered by a great fallen angel. We still like to project our fears on persons unknown, i.e., when it comes to thinking in terms of global conspiracy, we are still “personalists,” even if, in other respects, we are comfortable with thinking in terms of trends and statistics. Perhaps this is the key to the whole matter. People who believe in a personal God have a hard time believing that evil is not caused by a person or persons. Even when we no longer project our fears onto the screen of heaven or hell, we still project our fears on people, on anthropomorphic chimeras. Cursed one too many times, Satan may have finally left us. But all this did for us was to unmoore our projected fears and transfer them to new objects no less difficult to localize and hit in the head with an inkwell.


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trunnion ball valve posted on August 26, 2022 at 2:13 am

Apage, Satanas! | Michael Zank1661494426

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