Two stories, a song and a link: For years I’ve been dabbling with a series of short stories about Satan. In my drafts I call him Coldcheek. He’s a dapper guy who only comes out at night, grudgingly enjoys his job of ushering souls to the next world with a kiss, is immortal (of course) and smells of gardenias. He can travel through space (quickly) but not time. He’s got a clap-trap memory and he can delay your death but not forever. And, as with most immortals, he’s incredibly patient (and very good in bed).
It’s nothing new, really. Everybody from Flaubert to Pushkin, from Hawthorne to Ibsen has featured Satan as a character in their works. Recently Saramago did it (and deliciously called him Pastor). My friend Steve Moramarco and his band Hill of Beans did it for the rousing song, “Satan, Lend Me a Dollar.” But — story number two — the source of my Satan is a story I heard from a preacher at one of the Creation concerts I attended in the 1980s. I want to say that it was Tony Campolo but I welcome any corrections to my shoddy memory.
It goes something like this: Tony is asleep one night but is awakened by someone standing at the foot of his bed. “Who’s there?” asks the perturbed Tony, who then realizes that it’s none other than Satan. “Oh,” Tony says, “It’s you.” And he goes back to sleep. The moral of the story is that Satan is everywhere all the time, he literally pays us visits, tempting us to leave our faith, to commit sin, to move away from the loving side of Christ. But if we are strong in our love for Jesus, we have no need to fear Satan. (Or ask him for a few bucks.) He’s nothing to lose sleep over, but we must always be on the look-out ’cause he’s wiley.
Now here’s the link to an op-ed by John Murdock at Christianity Today, titled “Satan Appears Before the Supreme Court,” which suggests that Tony was onto something that my friend Steve and I should take more seriously:
“What do you think about Satan?” That’s not a typical question at the Supreme Court, but those words were indeed uttered by Justice Scalia on January 10. The question drew a near belly laugh from the packed gallery, leaving one to wonder whether the Devil has become nothing more than a joke in modern America.
Several justices asked “satanic” questions, all in a manner that suggested that no “reasonable” person would ever seriously consider “irrational” notions that a product could be linked to “satanic influences.” One might as well have substituted the tooth fairy for Satan. Justice Scalia put it most bluntly and drew the biggest laugh. The government’s lawyer (surprise) did not directly answer his question.
I have no reason to doubt the sincere religious faith of any of the justices, but while some remained silent none in any way sought to suggest that, rather than being a laughing matter, perhaps the hypothetical questions were straying into a truly dangerous domain. I laughed too, but quickly began to feel quite uncomfortable with the scene. While I worry about those who see the Devil everywhere, I worry even more about a culture that fails to see the demonic (or the sacred) anywhere.
The eerie inquiry came a few minutes after the Marshal of the Court had, in keeping with tradition established long ago, proclaimed, “God save the United States and this honorable court,” and a few minutes before the Court joined in a national “moment of silence” for the victims of the shooting spree in Arizona that left six dead (including a federal judge, as Chief Justice Roberts noted) and has Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life.
As I bowed my head to pray, I asked the Almighty (who now is publicly replaced by silence if not yet laughter) to bind a Devil who seems to be quite actively at work (as evidenced by the actions of a deranged young atheist in Tucson) even while the real possibility of his evil existence is ignored in the hearts of men and the halls of earthly power.
(h/t “The God Blog at Jewish Journal)