Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Satanic Panic


Satanic Panic

Rick Santorum believes that Satan has mounted an attack specifically on the “good, decent, powerful, influential” USA.  According to recently publicized remarks the candidate made at a Roman Catholic college in 2008, Satan has turned his destructo-rays on ‘America’ (not, however, on Canada or Mexico, not to mention South or Central America) because we’re his most worthy opponent.  Logically, since Satan is evil incarnate, the U.S. is goodness incarnate.  The forces of light battling the forces of darkness might sound Biblical, but they’re more properly Manichean and Essene, competing faiths and sects in early Christian times.

Re-reading the Book of Job helps us remember that Satan means ‘adversary’ in Hebrew, and that he did God’s bidding when he challenged Job, God’s faithful servant.  In other words, Satan assumed the role of tormentor, tester-of-faith, and divine scourge at God’s command (and the tests in Job had no easily identifiable purpose other than to magnify God’s ego).

In today’s idiom, the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament’s Satan was a terrorist, sent on a righteously destructive mission by divine mandate.

The New Testament’s Satan had a similar role when he tested Jesus.  It’s not really until the Book of Revelation that ‘Evil’ became an unbridled autonomous force . . . and one that was politically necessary (in the form of the Anti-Christ, a term actually found only in the Johannine Epistles) to bring about the Second Coming of the Christ and the ultimate Kingdom of God. This politically necessary cataclysm would be:  Armageddon.

What we commonly know as Armageddon refers to the plains of Megiddo in Northern Israel -- the site of many bloody battles in Biblical times.  Thus, ‘Armageddon’ was a rather simple metaphor for a ‘great fight,’ which could be political or ideological.  But many present-day Evangelical/Conservative Christians interpret ‘Armageddon’ as a literal war soon to be waged in present-day Israel.  Moreover, because this war is a necessary prelude to the ultimate Reign of God (or Jesus, or both), it is not a war to be avoided. 

This complex of beliefs explains in part the otherwise semi-perplexing fervor with which Christian Evangelicals support the modern State of Israel.  Without Israel, there probably won’t be a battle of Armageddon.  It’s not that there’s a great respect for Judaism as a separate religion; indeed, Christianity (in most of its many forms) is a proselytizing faith bent on converting Jews (and everyone else).  All of this brings up Newt Gingrich’s SuperPac of one – Sheldon Adelson.  Adelson’s driving issue is U.S. support of Israel.  I suspect his reasons differ from those of Evangelical/Conservative Christians, but they converge with Gingrich’s political expediency.  Remember Newt’s eye-popping comments about Palestinians being an invented people?  (Uh, David and Goliath . . . wasn’t Goliath a ‘Philistine’ [linguistically cognate with  ‘Palestinian].’)

In Santorum’s view, support of Israel is also unconditional  – because of his religious beliefs about Satan as a present, incarnate force and, perhaps, about the role of Israel in the Second Coming (although rapturous doomsday eschatology tends to be a Protestant rather than a Roman Catholic obsession).  In case voters are in doubt about Santorum’s beliefs (and who could be after learning that the separation of church and state makes him want "to throw up"?), we need only reference his comments this past weekend about the evils of higher education.  Evidently, the main reason why President Obama wants people to go to college is so that they will abandon their ‘faith commitments’ and (with the diabolical help of liberal professors) be reborn in "his [Obama’s/somebody very, very bad] image."

Santorum’s Biblical language here is transparent.  ‘Faith’ equals people who believe like Santorum believes.  ‘His’ image, therefore, is that which is antithetical to that belief:  President Obama and/or the Devil and/or the Anti-Christ (if you find this far-fetched, do a few Google searches with variations of Obama/Antichrist/Satan).  We’re in the terrifying realm of religious extremism meets Manichean world-view meets 2012 Republican politics.  And more widely, geopolitics – particularly concerning the Middle East.

I’m not advocating that we stop supporting Israel.  But I am advocating that we do so (or decide to take/not take specific actions, such as helping bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities) on three bases:  national interest, international agreement, and historically (not specific-sect-religiously) based notions of morality and fairness.  So far, we’ve not heard anything from Republican candidates showing a geopolitical awareness that rises above ‘The Devil (evil forces, evil empires, evil terrorists, Armageddon, yadda-yadda) Makes Us Do It” (bomb, invade, arm, assassinate).

For Christians, Jews, and Moslems (not to mention American Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Taoists, Vodouisants, Shamanists  . . . ), the Devil should not make us do anything. 

Wouldn’t that mean letting the terrorists win?


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