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Archive for the tag “Satan”

CounterPunch goes over to the Dark Side

For several years now I’ve followed the web site CounterPunch on Twitter.

CounterPunch claims that it is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas, and I’ve sometimes found it a useful antidote to the blandness and cover-ups of the “mainstream” media.

But today it announced that it had gone over to the Dark Side when it published an article In Defense of the Satanic.

The word “satan” means “accuser”.

The primary meaning of “satanic” is the making of false accusations.

In Christian mythology, the satan is a jumped up public prosecutor who wants to take over the judge’s job because he thinks the judge is too soft on criminals (see Zechariah 3). He is typologically mirrored in the earthly prosecutors who judge their success not by justice, but by their conviction rate, whose motto is that “it is better that the innocent should suffer than that the guilty should escape”.

If you want a picture of an ideal satanic world, read The Trial by Franz Kafka. Is that is the kind of world that CounterPunch is choosing to advocate and defend? Thanks, but no thanks. I’m unfollowing. What were they thinking?

The satanic world is the world of the Gestapo, of the KGB, of the Special Branch, Some of us remember the darkness from which we have come, and some of my own memories are here and here: Tales from Dystopia XVI: The SB | Khanya. That is the Kafkaesque world of the secret police who send secret accusations to those in power against which there is no defence. That is the essence of satanic — and CounterPunch is defending it, thereby taking the side of injustice and oppression.

The devil in popular culture

John Morehead has an interesting article on Satan in popular American culture on this blog at Morehead’s Musings: Satan and America:

W. Scott Poole, an associate professor of history at the College of Charleston. He has written a book titled Satan in America: The Devil We Know (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), and the following essay is adapted from that book. It originally appeared in The Post and Courier.

Quite a lot of the things mentioned in the article have also affected popular South Africa culture, so the article makes interesting reading. The films mentioned in the article, such as Rosemary’s baby and The exorcist were also shown in South Africa, and so influenced the perception of the devil in popular culture in South Africa as well.

Back in the 1980s there was an “occult” unit of the South African Police, which dealt with “satanists”, very much as perceived in American popular culture, and there were indeed some self-described satanists whose own self-understanding appeared to be shaped by the prevalent images in popular culture.

But the most striking example of the American cultural influence on South African popular culture in my experience was back in 1977, when we were in the Anglican Church in Utrecht, a small mining town in Northern Natal. In the town there was a big Dutch Reformed Church (NGK), and a small Anglican Church, and nothing else, so at the Anglican Church we had ecumenical services on Sunday evenings which were for anyone in town who wasn’t white Dutch Reformed. The services were multidenominational and multicultural. There were Anglicans, Assemblies of God, Afrikaans Baptist, and many others, black, white and coloured.

One evening the Assemblies of God evangelist from Newcastle, Piet Joubert, brought a film that that been produced by American Evangelicals, called The burning hell, and this was shown to the congregation. It struck me as a crass materialistic spirituality. Val and I sat at the back and giggled the whole way through, and especially at scenes where middle-class white suburban Americans in dressing gowns were swallowed by holes in the earth in a crude re-enactment of Numbers 26:8-11. The symbolism of the book of Revelation was interpreted in crudely materialistic terms.

But at the end of the film there was an altar call and a very big response, and nearly all the black and coloured teenagers went up, many of them weeping and sobbing. The film had obviously had a profound effect on them in spite of its shortcomings. And it wasn’t simply a short-lived one-off emotional response either. Some of those who had come to the church that evening for the first time returned regularly afterwards, and became active in the Anglican youth group. In this way images from American pop religious culture seemed to have considerable influence in South Africa as well.

I was in three minds about it.

First, I was repelled by the crude materialism and bad theology of the film itself. Secondly, I welcomed the enthusiasm that it engendered in the youth in Utrecht. Thirdly, I was concerned that it was entirely disconnected from the experience of other youth in the country who were being treated to the rocky rioter teargas show in Soweto and elsewhere.[1] In those days, the main sphere of demonic activity was in the implementation of the apartheid policy itself, and the white, middle-class American interpretation in the film did nothing to help the youth in Utrecht or elsewhere to understand that.

And then I compare it with Charles Stewart’s study of folk theology in rural Greece, Demons and the devil, which has perhaps not been quite so strongly influenced by American popular culture. Stewart summarises his findings as follows:

The Orthodox moral world emerges as an arena in which good struggles against evil, the kingdom of heaven against the kingdom of earth. In life, humans are enjoined to embrace Christ, who assists their attainment of Christian virtues: modesty, humility, patience and love. At the same time, lack of discernment and incontinence impede the realization of these virtues and thereby conduce to sin; sin in turn places one closer to the Devil… Since the resurrection of Christ the results of this struggle have not been in doubt. So long as people affirm their faith in Christ, especially at moments of demonic assault, there is no need to fear the influence of the Devil. He exists only as an oxymoron, a powerless force.

____

Notes

[1] Hopkins, Pat & Grange, Helen. 2001. The Rocky Rioter Teargas Show. Cape Town: Zebra. ISBN: 1-86872-342-9

The Rocky Rioter Teargas Show was the title of a satirical theatre presentation performed by Cape Town students at the time of the 1976 Soweto uprising. The book goes inside the events and their causes, and recreates the drama and excitement of the events. The narrative is illustrated with photographs and documents, many of which have hitherto been secret, such as cabinet minutes giving explicit approval of “more deaths” through police action.

Christian responses to "Satanism" and journalists who write about it

Commercial pressure leads Rapport to scrap column : Mail & Guardian Online: “Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport has scrapped writer Deon Maas’s column after his piece on satanism prejudiced the paper’s commercial interests, its editor said on Thursday. Following the appearance of the opinion piece on November 4, readers started an SMS campaign calling for a boycott of sales on Sunday, said editor Tim du Plessis in a statement.”

The controversy has spilled over into the blogosphere, but in the confusion the points made in the original article have been been lost.

In the original column Deon Maas wrote about a woman who was arrested for possession of heroin and cocaine, but found it disturbing that the police, after searching her bedroom, were now investigating her for Satanism, after finding Satanist documents written in blood, candles, human hair and more.

Maas notes that he had candles in his house, because of Eskom’s lack of planning, and wondered why no one had informed the investigating officer that the constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Maas said that he himself was not religious, and that if he were in the market for a religion, Satanism would seem like too much effort, slaughtering peaceful domestic animals, and rising after midnight to practise your faith.

Maas also observes that the Satanist ethic of do to others what they do to you or before they do it to you might not go down too well among those raised in religions with an ethic of turning the other cheek, but that it sounds to him like standard behaviour in the business world of Johannesburg.

So why the storm of protest, threats of boycotts etc.?

What should a Christian response to Satanism be?

In the Christian understanding Satan is an over-zealous public prosecutor who got fired for exceeding his powers. He was the prosecutor in the heavenly court (“satan” is a noun rather than a name, an office; it means “accuser” or “adversary” as does the Greek diavolos, from which the English word “devil” is derived).

Like many human prosecutors, Satan wanted to up the conviction rate, thought the judge (God) was too soft on criminals (sinners) and thought it better that the innocent should be punished than that the guilty should escape (sound familiar?) He brought accusations against the high priest Joshua, representing God’s people (Zechariah 3) which Christians see as typologically referring to Jesus (“Jesus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua). Jesus was found guilty in the magistrate’s court (Annas and Caiaphas), and in the high court (Pilate), but in the supreme court of appeal (heaven) he was acquitted. Not only was the verdict reversed (guilty to innocent) but so was the sentence (death to resurrection). Satan not only lost his case but lost his job, and was thrown out of court (Revelation 12:7-12) and is going around looking for revenge.

Another image of Satan given in the Bible is of a concentration camp commandant. He has turned the whole world into a jail (Luke 11:14-26) but Jesus has come into the jail in the guise of a prisoner, tied up the chief warder, and smashed the gates, asks his followers to go around telling the prisoners that they are free.

That is a very brief and over-simplified account of the Christian understanding of Satan.

And if we look at things from that point of view, the last people Satan is going to be concerned with is Satanists. Far from trying to escape, the Satanists are in the prison voluntarily. Satan doesn’t have to worry about them at all.

No, where Satan is most active is among the Christians, and in the churches. He’s not worried about the volunteers, he’s worried about the conscripts who have deserted. It’s in the churches where we need to be concerned about satanic activity, because that is where Satan is most active. And the most characteristically satanic activity of all is the making of accusations, because Satan is, above all else, the Great Accuser.

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