Seriously, I talk about the devil and the satan all the time. And I've written a lot on this blog about the demonic.
More, I've suggested that progressive and liberal Christians, many of whom doubt or don't believe in "the devil," need to start talking more about the devil.
Admittedly, that is really strange advice.
Why encourage people to talk about the devil when they don't believe in the devil? And why do I, personally, talk so much about the devil?
Well, it all goes back to that famous text in Ephesians:
Ephesians 6.11-12 (KJV)There's my answer: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
That is why I talk about the devil so much. The devil is a critical part in helping me practice non-violence.
Let me unpack this a bit.
Progressive and liberal Christians are oriented toward social justice, combating systemic evil in the world. And yet, progressive and liberal Christians, because of their focus on immanence, making the Kingdom come on earth, also struggle with disenchantment.
Which can create some problems. Because of disenchantment all we are left with are human agents. Consequently, in the progressive and liberal struggle for social justice the battle can start feeling more and more like it is "against flesh and blood." And when that starts happening we begin to participate in the cycles of violence going on around us. We begin, and here's the irony, demonizing other human beings--battling against flesh and blood.
My point here is that in a disenchanted world we are tempted to battle against flesh and blood because flesh and blood is the only thing around to hate and aggress against. There is no room, in a flat, disenchanted world, for anything other than human beings to play the role of the satan.
Which is why, paradoxically to be sure, the very Christians who don't believe in the devil might need to talk about the devil.
Because talk about the devil adds depth--enchantment--to the flat, disenchanted conversation about our moral battles. And in adding this depth room is created, which allows our anger, hate and aggression to become deflected away from flesh and blood. To use psychoanalytic language, the devil creates space for projection and displacement as discussions of the "satanic" or the "demonic" are shifted away from human beings to a depersonalized and abstract space. In speaking out the devil I can gesture to impersonal and large-scale dynamics and forces that have perverse moral effects upon human persons and societies. My spiritual "battle" gets directed toward those forces and dynamics and, because of that focus, I might even have the capacity to look at my opponents in a sympathetic light.
In short, by helping to enchant the world the devil aids in keeping us non-violent. Reference to the devil is theological and moral shorthand to remind ourselves that our battle is not against flesh and blood. The devil helps us displace anger, hate and violence, keeping these emotions alive and energized as vital energy given the battles we face, but deflected away people, especially our enemies, as we fight for a more just and humane world.
For our battle is not against flesh and blood.
And that is why I talk about the devil so much.