"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, July 1, 2017

I Put A Spell On You–Witchcraft, Wizardry, And Sorcery Are Still Very Much Alive Today

Many a witch was burned at the stake in Salem.  Scholars have continued to speculate as to why such a conservative, God-fearing, and traditionally faithful Puritan community could have jumped to such ungodly and especially un-Christian behavior.

Image result for images salem witch trials

The Spanish Inquisition which took place over 200 years before was little different from the witchcraft trials of Salem.  Apostates, unbelievers, and doubters were assumed to be possessed by the Devil; and only through exorcism or death could his evil be expunged if not exterminated. 

Image result for spanish inquisition images grand inquisitor

Christianity itself was based to a large degree on the incarnate presence of evil.  The Devil was responsible for the fall of Adam and Eve; and God not only cast them out from Paradise but condemned them and their offspring to eternal suffering.
Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.

And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring[and hers;
he will crush[ your head,
and you will strike his heel. (
Genesis 3)
The real lesson of individual responsibility and the importance of moral judgment is lost thanks to the Devil. It  was Eve after all who accepted the Devil’s offer and defied her maker when, thanks to her free will, could have done otherwise.

Image result for images milton paradise lost

The Devil is repeatedly invoked in the New Testament; and is judged responsible for most of Man’s failings, especially in his persistent rejection of Jesus Christ.
(Matthew 13:38-39)  The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

(Matthew 16:23)  Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

(Matthew 25:41)  "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
Ever since the Middle Ages, the Devil has been central to Christian art and in popular fantasy.

Image result for medieval images of the devil

Perhaps more than any other work of literature Milton’s Paradise Lost lionized the Devil.  He, more than God or Christ is the hero of the epic, defiantly proud, heroic, and tragic.   In fact Milton gave form and dramatic substance to a creation only metaphorically represented in the Bible.
Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,'
Said then the lost Archangel, 'this the seat
That we must change for Heaven?--this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
Who now is sovereign can dispose and bid
What shall be right: farthest from him is best
Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme
Above his equals. Farewell, happy fields,
Where joy for ever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail,
Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell,
Receive thy new possessor--one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
It was not surprising, therefore, that witchcraft took hold in Salem. 

There are more recent New World theories to try to explain the short but brutal expression of Christian excess in Salem.
The ordeal originated in the home of Salem's Reverend Samuel Parris. Parris had a slave from the Caribbean named Tituba. Several of the town's teenage girls began to gather in the kitchen with Tituba early in 1692. As winter turned to spring the townspeople were aghast at the behaviors exhibited by Tituba's young followers. They were believed to have danced a black magic dance in the nearby woods. Several of the girls would fall to the floor and scream hysterically. Soon this behavior began to spread across Salem. Ministers from nearby communities came to Salem to lend their sage advice. The talk turned to identifying the parties responsible for this mess (www.ushistory.org
The combination of Christian Devil mythology and African sorcery must have been hard to resist.

Image result for images haitian voodoo

If human nature is added to this mix, resistance would have been well nigh impossible.  It is normal, natural, and expected for members of any society to suspect and expel The Other in order to preserve territorial integrity, the sanctity of social and religious norms, and to reinforce the stability of community, status, and assignment.

Furthermore, it is as normal, natural, and expected for human beings to jump to conclusions, to react emotionally instead of logically, to value personal judgment over rational fact.  There are far fewer rational, objective thinkers in any society than emotionally reactive ones. 

Dostoevsky’s Ivan (The Brothers Karamazov) said, in reflecting on Christ’s temptation by the Devil in the desert, that although man might not live by bread alone, he certain would prefer to.  Men only want ‘miracles, mystery, and authority’, said Ivan, and Christ had deliberately condemned them to a life of penury, misery, and want.

Image result for images christ temptation in desert

Although times have changed since Salem, the belief in evil if not the Devil persists.   Although theologians and philosophers have differed on the question – Augustine, for example, believed that a beneficent God could not have created evil; and the persistence of seemingly ungodly events and behavior was only an absence of good – many people still believe in the existence of Milton’s Devil or at least in a malevolent, independent force countering God’s goodness.

David Roberts in Kierkegaard’s Analysis of Radical Evil states:
In becoming more self-consciously free, one may become more transparently offended by God's power (and concomitantly, despair in the face of one's own impotence), out of which arises a self-conscious defiance against God. It is in this most intense form of despair (what Kierkegaard calls 'defiance') that we will discover the nature of our radical rebellion against God. What makes this evil radical is that it is a self-determined choice - a position or stance around which an individual's existence is gathered.
Many more believe that while there is no such thing as an incarnate or independent malevolent force or Devil, evil does indeed exist and is not just the absence of good.  ISIS has been portrayed as evil because of its beheadings, mutilations, and indiscriminate massacre of civilians.  Individuals like Bernie Madoff not only acted immorally when he bilked thousands out of billions, but had to be evil because of enormity of his sin.

Many progressives have called Donald Trump evil because the sum of his beliefs cannot be explained away on any rational basis.  While one might take each of his political positions separately and analyze them objectively and in course, it is hard to ignore that when taken together they represent a man who is profoundly racist, sexist, and homophobic. 

His policies and programs, these progressives say, are tantamount to a degrading, humiliating denial of basic human, God-given rights.  Anyone who would act in such an anti-social, anti-humanistic, and anti-Christian way cannot be described in any but the most damning ways.

Media mogul Barry Diller recentlt had some harsh words about Donald Trump.
There's nobody that I've ever known, ever, that's risen to the presidency that was actually of evil character," he told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." Anybody who attacks people in the manner that he attacks people … that's evil." (CNBC, May 2016)
Rick Perry, former Republican contender for the presidency (2016) said, with thinly-veiled references to the Bible and Dante’s Inferno:
“In times of trouble, there are two types of leaders," he warned, “repairers of the breach and sowers of discord. The sower of discord foments agitation, thrives on division, scapegoats certain elements of society, and offers empty platitudes and promises."
Quora, the online interactive platform encouraging dialogue on political and social issues recently initiated an ‘Is Donald Trump Evil?’ discussion.

Many Christian conservatives saw the Devil’s influence in Obama’s and Clinton’s Washington.  Dave Daubenmire, an Ohio-based Christian conservative activist said in a May 2016 interview with Chuck Wilder (Talkback with Chuck Wilder)

I’ve never seen, not only with Obama but with Hillary, I have never seen such demonic, supernatural protection around them, like I’ve never seen. How can you explain all of the things that Hillary has clearly done, Chuck, and yet 40 percent of the people would consider voting for her? How could so much information be out there regarding the real nature of the Obamas and all that stuff — some of it not true, but it’s reached a point where it’s believable.
We can believe that stuff, Chuck. And I just believe there’s a demonic protection around — you know the Scriptures say ‘Evil spirits in high places, that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but principalities and powers.’ Evil spirits in high places, and I happen to be a Christian man who believes that to be the truth and that there are kings and kingdoms that are ruling over the White House and over the Clinton family and over that establishment.
None of this is surprising. If it happened to Joan of Arc; if it happened during the Spanish Inquisition; and if it happened in Salem, Massachusetts, it can happen now.
Image result for images joan of arc
The idea of a Christian Devil has not disappeared; nor has the idea of evil incarnate or even the presence of an indistinct, generalized evil; not even of evil as a a moral concept.  The Devil and Evil are very much alive.
Given all this demonology one would do well to pay attention to the old Irish saying, “"May you be in heaven a full half-hour before the devil knows you're dead".

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