Sympathy for the Devil

"Fine then! I'll go to hell!"

A long time ago I read a story by Harlan Ellison which retold the Garden of Eden story from the serpent’s point of view. The serpent was presented not as an evil tempter, but as a Prometheus figure- one who shares wisdom reserved for the gods with humanity, and incurs the wrath from said god. Prometheus the Greek has his liver eaten by a vulture for all eternity, Prometheus the Serpent gets tarred as the All-Purpose Boogeyman for the whole family. It’s a rattling concept for anyone who was indoctrinated in the Christian mythos.

I was reminded of this story when I read about the financial woes of megachurch evangelist  Rev. Rod Parsley, courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch.

The Rev. Rod Parsley has issued a desperate plea for money, telling his flock that he is facing a “demonically inspired financial attack” that is threatening his ministry.

Parsley is asking for donations by Dec. 31, calling that date an “unavoidable deadline” during an episode of Breakthrough posted yesterday on www.rodparsley.com. Breakthrough is Parsley’s television show.

A message titled “Crisis — Urgent” on the Web site says ministries such as Breakthrough and World Harvest Bible College need help.

The headline of the appeal for donations reads: “Will you help me take back what the devil stole?”

When asked to comment yesterday, Parsley’s World Harvest Church issued a statement saying the recession caused a decline in member giving in 2009, which has led to a fourth-quarter deficit of $3 million despite a 30 percent reduction in the budget.

Who is this vile Prince of Lies that stole $3 million from this man of the Lord? A 2-year-old kid that was abused by Parsley’s church.

This year, the church settled for $3.1 million with a family whose son was spanked at its day-care center in 2006, to the point his buttocks and legs were covered with welts and abrasions.

The boy, then 2, said he was spanked with a “knife” by a substitute teacher. His parents, Michael and Lacey Faieta, believe it was a ruler.

Let’s review: sticking up for an abused child is “demonic,” while a super rich dude who condones child abuse is not. It seems topsy-turvy, but if you read your Bible you probably won’t be as surprised. In the Bible, Satan* doesn’t really do all that much. He’s not responsible for wars, genocide, rapes, theft, or anything most people consider evil. The one evil thing he did, murdering Job’s children, was explicitly allowed by God.  His only other crimes are giving humanity wisdom, disobeying God, and leading people away from this god.

What about this God? The absolute worst thing you can do is not obey him. To get this obedience, instead of earning it, he guilt-trips, lies, lays down arbitrary rules, threatens, and smites. Don’t be alarmed though- he loves you! He’ll never hit you again if you just watch yourself! Personality wise, he’s essentially the World’s Biggest Abusive Husband/Father.

How does it feel to find out that you’re worshiping the bad guy in your own mythology?

*I’m using the conventional belief that the Serpent/Lucifer/Satan/ are all one character, which is probably not mythologically correct. If they’re used interchangeably by the vast majority of American Christians, I will do so too.


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