The Devil, You Say


What can be said in the aftermath of the Virgina Tech slaughter? Better commenters than yours truly have offered insights I could never hope to provide. In lieu of this, I considered not saying anything at all.

But a quote from one of the survivors of the attack reminded me that some aspects of this horror have kept to the shadows. Garrett Evans, who received a gunshot wound, said of his attacker:

An evil spirit was going through that boy, I could feel it.

I don’t know anything about Evans’ religious beliefs, but I do know this: too many people in America don’t want to hear talk of evil spirits.

I don’t think a culture exists on this planet that conjures up more imagery based in the supernatural than ours. We drop spiritual allusions into almost every conversation, The devil, you say...codify curses around Biblical terminology, and talk about God, angels, demons, and what else as if God, angels, demons, and what else moved in next door.

But our context for that talk rarely strays from a Halloween-like understanding of spiritual forces of good and evil. Our post-Enlightenment rationalism outstrips any idea that realms exist outside of the one that serves up a mocha latté to die for. About as close as any American desires to get to the demonic is requesting The Exorcist from Netflix.

So we laugh and make jokes about something that’s not even remotely funny. And when the object of our derisions lashes out, we wander around asking, “How could this possibly happen?”

In truth, how could it not?

I’ve written before on the demonic (“The Chthonic Unmentionable” and “Battling Beelzebul“), so I don’t feel I need to retread that ground. Yet I wonder how many of us take the Enemy of our souls seriously. Given that so many Christians appear to live in a perpetual shadow, continually caught up in destructive behaviors or thoughts, it makes me wonder if we believe this truth from Jesus:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
—John 10:10a

The thief took 33 lives at VT, didn’t he? He killed and he destroyed. So I find it fascinating that almost no one has taken Garrett Evans’s comment and run with it.

How do we on a daily basis confront this thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy? How much has been stolen, killed, or destroyed in your life and mine because we attributed to “coincidence” or the “fickleness of life” what should have been linked to the chthonic operating in the shadows?

Brothers and sisters, let’s not be blind to this. We have an Enemy. He may be mortally wounded, but a weekend filmfest alone should convince you that the bad guy we thought was shot dead still may stir enough to pump a few rounds of hot lead into some poor unfortunates before he expires. So it is with our ultimate Enemy.

If we want a personal revival in our own lives, we need to wake up to the fact that we weren’t taken off Satan’s hitlist the second we fled to Christ. Nor did evil up and die when Jesus said, “It is finished.” Evil’s vanquishing still awaits the final trumpet. Until that time, we can’t act as if the devil’s not there.

Because, if you listen in your spirit, you can hear him roaring.

15 thoughts on “The Devil, You Say

  1. Cathy

    Yes, Satan is alive and well on planet earth. Unfortunately most people, including most Christians, are ignorant of Satan’s devices. There are numerous references in Scripture informing us of Satan and his wiley ways.

    The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to put on the whole armour of God. Why? “….that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil..” Satan has a bag of tricks and he is a wiley devil.

    James tells us to submit to God and resist the devil. Just as submitting requires an action on our part, so does resisting. Resisiting is not living as if Satan does not exist. He does. We are not wrestling against flesh and blood in this life…we are in a spiritual battle, a war….and the Bible tells us what our weapons are and that they are mighty.

    When Jesus withstood Satan and resisted him, He used the Word of God. It is our sword. Every lie of Satan will be powerless when Truth is spoken. Those who believe Satan’s lies are in bondage to those lies and to him.

    I’ve read that not too many centuries ago the existence of Satan was common knowledge. In fact, Martin Luther is known to have thrown his ink well at the devil. In our culture, the spirit world is not given much consideration…. but it exists.

    Yes, evil had a heyday at VT. And Satan who is a murderer from the beginning won that victory. But the final chapter has not been written.

    Those who find some excuse for everything bad that happens and justify the evil acts of the perpetrators are going to have a hard time in this instance. Likely they will throw up their hands and agree…this was just pure evil.

    • Cathy,

      Very few people wish to think about “pure evil.” Thinking about it forces us to confront realities that trouble us. I’m not sure most Americans are in the position to be troubled except when things like the VT slayings happen..

  2. One of my first thoughts when I heard about this was “weren’t there any christians there”. I’ve spent alot of time thinking about if I were in a situation like this, or faced with any evil situation. Honestly, I would have stood up and said “In the name of Jesus come out of him!” I think it would be worth the risk, if there is a risk. I believe in our authority over Satan and his kingdom of darkness, and that shooting was a manifestation of darkness if I ever saw one. God’s kingdom is far far more powerful and he has chosen to give us authority over everything Christ has authority over. Would Jesus have hidden on the floor as people were murdered all around him? I’m certainly not blaming the people who were there. I’m saying if this teaching were restored back to the church our world would be very different. Not perfect but increasingly reflecting God’s kingdom as we moved out into the world preaching the gospel, healing the sick, and casting out demons.

    • Julie,

      I’m not sure how I would have responded in that situation. How discerning can people be when they’re being shot at? If I were given to anything heroic, I think whacking a heavy object across the back of the gunman’s head would have been an even better response.

      Christians did die in that slaughter. From what I can tell, they were all women. It makes me wonder how things would have been different if more Christian men were on the scene. But with the Church here simply not reaching men, I’ve got to believe that when evil raises its ugly head in the future, we’re going to be less equipped to handle it as we should. Like I’ve said in previous posts, when its the gray-haired grannies holding down the spiritual fort, that’s not a good sign.

  3. About as close as any American desires to get to the demonic is requesting The Exorcist from Netflix.

    Maybe I just live in the midst of a different subculture, but golly! I’d say something more like “About as close as any American Christian desires to get to considering the demonic is requesting The Exorcist from Netflix.” I work in the “entertainment” industry, and trust me: people eat up “the demonic.” People in my generation (“Y”?) especially are enthralled with the demonic. But here’s the thing I see: a growing number of them take it seriously, but in a pagan—rather than in a Christian—manner.

    So you’ve got:
    1) Christians who live like angels and demons aren’t any more real than leprechauns;
    2) Non-Christians who live like angels and demons aren’t any more real than leprechauns;
    3) Non-Christians who see “spirits” as something to control for their own benefit; and
    4) Christians who act like they’ll be possessed if they so much as admit that there’s possibly something behind Ouija boards and seances.

    In other words, there’s groups of both Christians and non-Christians who pretend Satan and his forces don’t exist, and then there’s groups of both Christians and non-Christians who give far too much credit to the demonic. What we need are more people who (help me out, Dan… who talked about this? Lewis?) treat the Devil seriously without thinking of him as more powerful than he really is.

    But how can we do that unless and until we deconstruct naturalism (materialism) in its entirety? I’m with you on what’s needed, but I don’t see what the process toward change looks like…

    • Travis,

      Your comment is interesting. You may be right about Gen-Y eating up the demonic, but is it more from a thrill perspective or from a solid worldview perspective? I mean, if some 29-yr. old guy’s reading Hellboy, Spawn, or Hellblazer, does that constitute genuine spiritual awareness?

      With the rise of paganism in this country, perhaps people are more readily aware of evil spirits. From where I sit, though, I don’t see it. Like I said, it may be that the younger generation is clued in and that’s escaping me. But when public polls come back saying people don’t believe in hell anymore, it’s hard to escape thinking that evil (as attached to the chthonic) has become little more than a whimsical notion to most people.

      • From where I sit, though, I don’t see it.

        Of course, you’re sitting in rural Ohio, so… 😉

        Seriously, though: believing in Hell and believing in “other” spirits are very different things, and the idea of Hell is actually at odds with the pagan mindset which would lend itself to fraternizing with the demonic.

        Then too, if you add in those Oprah-ites who are dabbling in New Age mysticism without considering what lies behind the “abilities” they seek to wield, the numbers certainly increase. People who seek to embrace any sort of “spirituality” apart from Jesus will eventually be messing with demons, won’t they? But yeah, the younger folks seem more eager to dive into the darker aspects of it (vampirism, incantations).

        Again, though, maybe I just see an inordinate percentage around the office (comment-readers: I work for the sister company of a major comic book / pop-culture distributor). But I really have to say that from what I’ve seen around me, we really do live in a “culture of death.”

  4. Plenty of cultures are more steeped in the supernatural than American culture is. We tend to romanticize it, creating such heroic beings as Superman or Neo and scary beings like vampires or werewolves. Sometimes we get heroic scary beings. But they all have as a part of their makeup a human element, and while most of the supernatural beings our culture creates are immortal, they have at their heart a jealousy of our mortal life.

    More pragmatic cultures view the supernatural somewhat less romantically. For most, the spirit world is not made up of heroes and villians, but rather spirits who really don’t give a fig for our puny lives. We are mere pawns on a board, used and tossed away. Cannon fodder of the gods. Animism is by far the most common form of worship, even in Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian societies. It is based on a far greater awareness of the spirit world than we in the West will give credit to. We scoff and call animists ignorant, but they are responding, abeit erroneously, to a very real situation. But in our hollywood induced stupor, our response is equally in error.

  5. B

    “Christians did die in that slaughter. From what I can tell, they were all women. It makes me wonder how things would have been different if more Christian men were on the scene.”

    Do you mean because, physically, men are stronger? But, you specified Christian men. I’m confused. I’ll just wait for your clarification before I start the speculation!

    • B,

      I believe it is the responsibility of men to protect women and children. If that sounds archaic, I’m sorry—that’s what I believe. More than anything, Christian men should understand this. That’s why I singled them out.

  6. B

    OK. I think the stronger should always protect the weaker, so I agree. I was just slightly confused by singling out Christian men. Thanks for the clarification.

  7. BOB

    May i tell a story of what I heard on a late night christian call in talk show? A demon pocessed women called and was talking in a strange sing-songy tone of voice and the host and other callers were trying to persuade her of God’s love. Speaking slowly and strangely she said , ” But how can you love me? You don’t even know me?”

    Another female caller pleaded earnestly and said ‘”Oh, God, please give me the words I need to tell her!”

    But a male caller came on the program and attempted an exorcism using the name of Jesus. Then the demon-pocessed woman said,” You don’t have the love of God in you!”

    Then the host of the program became furious and said to the male caller, “Oh get off your spiritual hobby horse! I’m in control of this situation!” and hung up.

    The next night the woman called back crying and there was an awful gutteral sounding voice yelling,”No! You can’t have her! She’s mine!”

    But in the end the woman was set free.

    There is something to learn here and I’m still trying to figure that out.

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