Saturday, June 9, 2018

Satan v. Satan

This week is always an odd one, as church school wraps up for the summer.  The kids will handle the worship tomorrow, and I'll watch them get 'er done with pleasure.

But that means I don't have to write a sermon.  I don't have to pursue my usual weekly pattern of scripture reading, study, and meditation.

I do anyway.  It's just part of my weekly discipline, and it'd feel off if I didn't.

And so, from the reading, out popped the text that struck me, one that seemed to be just a little brighter and more attention catching than the others.

It contained a question that was posed by Jesus, when the authorities were cheesed at him for teaching and healing and generally carrying on in a way that subverted their authority.

He must be evil, they said, as the people flocked to him.  He must be using the power of the Dark One to heal people and comfort the downtrodden and lift up the oppressed.

And in response, Jesus rolled his eyes.

"How can Satan cast out Satan?"

How can evil overcome evil?

It can't.   Because if you take evil, and you pit evil against evil, what you get is more evil.  That's how evil works.  We know this, or we can conceptually grasp this.

This is something we seem to have trouble putting into practice, particularly when we encounter folks who are just plain wrong.  We know they're wrong because they disagree with us, which means they're clearly not just incorrect but also somehow in cahoots with the forces of darkness.

Our response to those people is to attack them.  To assail them.  To find everything about them that is wrong, and to be sure to highlight it.  Or perhaps to exaggerate it, just a tiny little bit, because they're monstrous, and why shouldn't we attack monsters?

And so we hurl epithets like stones, casting out curses and imprecations, and we become diabolos..."the ones who throw things"...ourselves.

And so we make accusations, trumping up charges against those we hate, because we hate them, and we become ha Satan,  which just means "the Accuser," ourselves.

Now, we might resist this idea.  If we're hating the haters, then our hatred is justified!  We should be filled with giant burning rage!  But Satan's methodology of relationship caricatures and objectifies and depersonalizes.  It subverts the mystic awareness of the Other's soul that love stirs in us.  Hate blinds us to places of possible reconciliation, turning our awareness away from possible new life and restored connection.

Humans have always fallen for that path, but thankfully, in this new enlightened era of democratized mass communication, when we can see and stand in encounter with everyone, everywhere, things are getting better.  We...oh...wait.  Never mind.


After all of these years, Jesus still rolls his eyes at our hubris.