Following my transition from devout Catholic in training to varsity-level skeptic my thoughts about the Devil have become largely nonexistent over time. I reached Satan overload years ago, though. I used to hear about the Devil and his ways non-stop in my house. To the point where I believed the motherfucker owed my mama rent. How he made this person act this way; how he brought all of this sadness and anger into the world; how at some point in my lifetime Jesus was finally going to knock the sum’bitch out in the ultimate Celebrity Deathmatch (paraphrasing).
I suppose what always bothered me about the idea of the Devil was that so many people used ‘him’ as a means of deflecting personal responsibility. “The devil made me do it” is often said as a joke, but often times people do manage to echo that sentiment when trying to deflect accountability . There’s also that other form of Satanic scapegoating: discussions about the Illuminati. Such conversations are to intellectual stimulation what alcohol poisoning is to the start of great morning.
If the clue hasn’t hit you by now, much of this Devil talk is ridiculous to me. Yeah, I get the “the Devil’s greatest trick is to convince you that he doesn’t exist” tag line, but after a while I started to look at the Devil as mere metaphor. A metaphor obviously used to distract and/or control people through fear.
I’m certain this is the part where I’m supposed to say I respect everyone’s belief system. Since that’s not going to happen today, I will throw a Scooby snack by way of my acknowledgement that some things are beyond my comprehension. I get that one never really knows, hence faith. Yet, even if I am to believe some fallen angel that God ironically could’ve long knocked out of the game a long time ago exists, the obsession over him still remains mind boggling.
I was reminded of such after watching the Primetime Nightline special: Beyond Belief: Battle With The Devil.
In that hour I watched some pastor described the signs of how you can tell when a person is possessed by a demon. The biggie in the equation: “If a person has an aversion to walking into a church.” Someone dose me with holy water, I’m trippin’. The clergymen also added the person “not being able to view a Crucifix or image of Christ.” Wait, I’m safe.
There was a lot of shade thrown Satan’s way in the special, with one of the better lines coming from another one of God’s postal workers quipping, “His arms are too short to box with God so he boxes with us.”
Yeah, I don’t get that either. Same for: “The devil comes in via drug use, Ouija boards, martial arts.” Why is karate demonic? Does this mean Bruce Lee is in hell waiting for Bruce Leeroy to join him?
After those unhelpful explanations, viewers were then taken into the world of “deliverance gospel,” where people enter the church and wait for Pastor John to speak in gibberish that supposedly casts out the demonic spirits snuggling next to their souls. Indeed, as you vomit into the brown paper bags lifted from the grocery store, you are ridding yourself of the devil inside of you.
The demons can be in anyone, including the eight-year-old boy included in the segment. It reminded me that we’re all born with original sin or something (another concept that I don’t get, but I digress).
There was also an inside look into how priests at the Vatican go out to perform various exorcisms in their longstanding battle with Sir Hates-A-Lot. As someone who grew up Catholic, I found it strangely ironic how the priest being interviewed could go on and on (and on) about fighting the Devil and explain how he could feel the Devil around him yet he and his ilk never managed to sniff out their pedophiliac co-workers.
Or target the actual humans doing more harm to people than the alleged single instances of spirits being dissected.
It’s a good thing this special started off with the disclosure that it didn’t set out to prove or disprove the existence of the Devil. Sure, we hear people talk about levitation but we don’t see it on camera. I hear screams in the background during an exorcism, but there’s no visual of what it looks like. I mean, isn’t vanity a sin? You would think a demon would want the camera time. People vomited on the floor and behaved like delusional idiots, but you can see that on any sidewalk in a major American city.
For the people who have already made it up in their minds that the Devil is knucking and bucking and ready to strike, this special was ideal as it told them everything they wanted to hear. Alcohol is the gateway to demonic usurpation of your being. So is heavy metal music. And judo.
Anchor Terry Moran didn’t bother to pose any challenging questions to the people declaring existence of the Devil, which didn’t force any of the participants to expound intelligently on their frame of thinking. That doesn’t automatically negate their truth, but it sure didn’t lend credence to those who said they were trying to spread the message of the spiritual warfare going on. By the end I ended up being less interested in the Devil and more annoyed with people way too eager to indulge in patronization.