Next week will get to the Heart of Relationship and why  it is the single most important thing to know about when reading the Bible. But I just wanted to wrap up this conversation that we have been having about doubting the devil .

  I have four examples of the problem and then some possible solutions. First up is bit from the Edict of Worms when the Protestant Reformation was ramping up.

Here’s a sampling of the Edict’s pronouncements about Martin Luther from 1521:
To put an end to the numberless and endless errors of the said
Martin, let us say that it seems that this man, Martin, is not a man but
a demon in the appearance of a man, clothed in religious habit to be
better able to deceive mankind, and wanting to gather the heresies of
several heretics who have already been condemned, excommunicated, and
buried in hell for a long time. Let us add to this all the heresies
recently brought in by him to be the source of all iniquity and rubbish
and to destroy the Catholic faith. As an evangelical preacher he labors
to trouble and demolish all religious peace and charity and all order
and direction in the things of this world. And finally, he brings
dishonor upon all the beauty of our Holy Mother Church.
    Secondly, The new PBS documentary called “God in America” has been incredible. One little snippet that caught my attention was when the American Civil War kicked off and preachers on both sides were quoting Bible verses (Old and New Testament) to justify their positions for and against human slavery. The narrator was explaining that both sides thought that God was on their side and the segment was really focusing on the North (who would prove victorious), then said “There was a war in heaven – it was between the Archangel Michael and his angels, and the Devil and all of his.” There was no explanation beyond that. Was the Devil from the South? Was the Devil fighting for the South? Was the war on earth just a mirror of something that was going on in the heavenlies? 
    Third, I had a phone call a couple of years ago with a girl from the youth group at our church. She was spending the summer working at a Christian summer camp.  A stomach bug had been imported with one of the teenagers who has shown up for Teen camp and on the second day a number of people woke up vomiting.  It sounded pretty awful. So they started to pray – intercessory prayer – against the Devil and demons and that kind of thing. 
    More and more people got sick, kids and counselors, and by the end of the third day they had to call off the camp and ship everyone home.   At this point in the story she says “After this week – I really believe in spiritual warfare. I do not doubt that there is a real Devil.”  She was one of only a handful of workers that was not sick and so that small group was in change of washing all the buildings with bleach – walls, floors, bathrooms etc. 
    Fourth (and lastly) the same week as the Camp Vomit fiasco, there was a terrible murder in the local news. A mentally disturbed man, recently released form an institution [the news was not clear if it was prison or a mental ward],  broke into the home of a lesbian couple, beat them, tied them up, and did terrible terrible things to the two ladies. One of them escaped while he was torturing her partner. The women who escaped lived. Her partner did not. People were calling this man the Devil – the reasoning was ‘who else could do this type of thing’. 
    When I put these four stories together we see that Martin Luther was the devil for questioning the authority and power of a church that was in perhaps the most corrupt time in its history. Southern Americans (slaveholders and soldiers) are the Devil (or his demons).  A stomach bug is the Devil (or at least his doing). Finally – a mentally disturbed man is the Devil. 
    So when someone says “But you believe that the devil is a real being and not just the personification of the worst of humanity right?”  I have to respond : until we take a hiatus from blaming everything on the devil and take a look at human issues like our responsibility to challenge the status quo,  our opportunity for all humanity to live free, to do what we are capable of with contagious diseases and mental disorders… I reserve the right to be an agnostic on the issue of the Devil. 
    For now on,  I am going to point to systemic abuses (Martin Luther) misuses of the Biblical text (justify slavery) the realities of contagious viruses (anyone following Africa in the news?) and ramifications of imprisoning the mentally ill (and the transfer of our prisons to corporations instead of the State) and say that the Devil is a personification of the worst potential of humanity first. 
We can deal with everything else  or anything else second.
Here is why I think that it is so important to get this right:
    I listened to an old sermon this past week where I talked about the enemy of our soul and the realities of neglecting that aspect of our story.  It really brought home the seriousness and consequences of getting this one right. SO let me be crystal clear about this.
    I believe that life is a story. It is not a game to won or lost; a test to be passed; or a competition to get the most. It is not a set of rules to followed or a list of things to be accomplished.  Life is a story. 
    I believe that this story has evil in it.  I do not think that what we can see is all there is. There is more going on in the world than science has access to.
    I believe that this sabotage comes early and attacks our glory – the area that God most wants to use us (in strength and weakness). Usually the areas that we struggle to live the life we want are areas that have been assaulted early and often. I do not think that this is random or coincidental. 
   I believe that as Christ we tempted in the wilderness, as Peter was told to ‘get behind me’, and as Judas gave in – that the temptation is twofold: 
A) we are tempted to use our gifts-talents-strengths-passions-skills for our own benefit and not for the way that God wants to use them to make the world better for others
B) we are tempted to take the shortcut / easy road and not to trust God as people of faith. This is when we take matters into our own hands. 
    If we begin by 1) acknowledging that the Devil is a personification of the worst of humanity and 2) admitting that how the Devil works is to tempt us to use our gifts on ourselves and to take the short-cut and not trust God as people of faith by taking matters into our own hands… THEN we can talk about some big bad guy who is an ancient fallen angel and the super-natural enemy of God who controls the powers of the world by pulling the strings behind the scenes. 
    Otherwise I think that it would be wise for us to lay off the boogie-man stuff and concentrate on the evil that we can see and those things that we do have access to in our natural abilities.