Nothing harmless about a devil statue

According to C. S. Lewis, the Devil loves it when we give him attention . . . or disbelieve in him. Some folks in Detroit recently did both. Not a good idea.

In the classic X-Files episode “Die Hand Die Verletzt,” German for “The Harmful Hand,” a group of kids in a small town in New Hampshire mess around with Satanic rituals, and pardon the expression, all hell breaks loose: one by one the members of the cult are brutally murdered.

The kids’ arrogance and stupidity prompts FBI agent Mulder to upbraid them by saying, “Did you really think you could call up the Devil and ask him to behave?”

The episode came to mind when Rod Dreher alerted us to the story of what was described as the “largest public satanic ceremony in history.” The “ceremony,” which took place in Detroit, consisted of the unveiling of a nine-foot tall “colossal bronze statue of Baphomet, the goat-headed wraith who, after centuries of various appropriations, is now the totem of contemporary Satanism.”

Time magazine called the ceremony, which involved 700 people, “harmlessly festive” and compared it to “a cross between an underground rave and a meticulously planned Halloween party.”

Father James Martin begged to differ. Writing in the Jesuit magazine “America,” he said that the people in Detroit “have no clue what kind of forces they are dealing with.” He told readers that “In my life as a Jesuit priest, and especially as a spiritual director, I have seen people struggling with real-life evil.”

He quoted St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who called this evil the “evil spirit” and “the enemy of human nature.”

Martin is aware that talk of the Devil and the personification of evil is hard for modern westerners to take seriously. As he put it, “some people may laugh or roll their eyes.” But, like his fellow Jesuit Pope Francis, Martin takes evil and Satan quite seriously.

As he put it, “Evil is real. How Satan fits into this, I’m not exactly sure, but I believe that a personified force is somehow behind this. There is a certain ‘intelligence,’ if you will” at work when it comes to evil. He ended by quoting C.S. Lewis, who when asked whether he believed in the Devil, replied, “I’m not particular about the horns and hooves, but yes I believe,” to which Martin added, “Me too.”

Speaking of C.S. Lewis, in “The Screwtape Letters” Lewis wrote that “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” He added that devils “are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

The people in Detroit managed to commit both errors at the same time. They denied believing in a personal devil, instead regarding Satan as a symbol of the “reconciliation of opposites, emblematic of the willingness to embrace, and even celebrate differences.” Yet at the same time they built a half-ton statue—“idol” is not too strong a word—of what they claim not to believe in and behaved in a way that brings to mind the children of Israel before the golden calf.

This is the cultural moment we’re living in: people either embracing evil and calling it good, or pretending that evil doesn’t exist at all. Oh, but evil does exist, and there is no lack of evidence for that proposition: from the slaughter houses of Planned Parenthood and ISIS, to the erection of a satanic statue in Detroit.

All of this should drive us to pray all the more: for our families, for each other, for our neighbors, and for our country.

Because, as Jesus made clear, there is nothing harmless about the force behind all of this.

Eric Metaxas


— by Eric Metaxas

Metaxas is the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary ( Copyright© 2015 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. BreakPoint is a ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.

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