Let’s engage in a little freewheeling fantasy, folks:
What would a demon do?
A demon, in Western religious tradition, is a servant of Satan It’s a demon’s job to make hell unpleasant for the rest of its inhabitants. And how might a demon torture thee? Let me count some of the ways:
Demons can make sure souls are trapped in unhappy situations—for example, a life in which your mother didn’t want to have you in the first place and lacks the motivation, support, and resources to bring you up happily. Hell for you, hell for her.
Or a life born to parents who wanted you, but who find their own lives disrupted and crushed by vast forces beyond their control—drought, flood, war, disease, overpopulation, famine, marauding oil companies—you know, the classic horsemen of the apocalypse. A refugee camp in Africa for your kindergarten? Hell for everyone.
Or something subtler—a life in the American underclasses as reshaped by the skinflints who have controlled our government for the last 25 years—Bill Clinton was the best Republican president this country’s had since Teddy Roosevelt–a life devoid of intellectual stimulation, emotional support, psychological understanding, nutritional intelligence, material comfort, and challenging opportunity, a life filled with distraction, exploitation, denial, dead-end jobs and constant glimpses of inaccessible luxuries enjoyed by the rich and famous. That’s America for a lot of people—and that’s hell.
These are all things demons could or would do to make life miserable for people—and the sad thing is, most of the people trapped in those hells would have no idea they were in hell.
Another thing demons can do to torment souls is to keep them from dying. For example, suppose someone were blind and unable to speak or move, suppose they needed a feeding tube to eat and were unable to respond to, or possibly even notice, any kind of outside stimulus whatsoever. Suppose that person’s brain had decayed to half its normal size?
Whatever shred of consciousness such a person might have left would perceive itself as being in a dark, soundless room, unable to move, for a period of time that would seem infinite, for they would have no way to mark time. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of torture someone would encounter in hell?
Wouldn’t the compassionate, loving, Christian thing to do be to let that poor, trapped soul die and go to heaven? Doesn’t it seem demonic to force such a person to stay for years in the dark room of what is left of her mind? Sounds worse than Abu Ghairab to me!
Of course, to be a demon, you need to be inconsistent, so while you are sparing no expense to keep people alive, you must at the same time make it harder for people who are consciously and intentionally clinging to life to do so—by limiting how much financial assistance you give them, and making it harder for them to declare bankruptcy.
Another thing a demon would do to make life hell for people is be unforgiving. If you’re a young girl and you get pregnant, you’re going to have that baby. If you’re a young person whose learning curve happens to include petty theft, overt expressions of anger, wild driving, or the indiscreet enjoyment of sex or the wrong drugs, the demons would make sure that your youthful deeds follow you and cripple your opportunities for the rest of your life.
But—inconsistency rules! Demons let other demons get away with all kinds of behavior, especially if they are corporate demons. Did you ever notice that for-profit corporations are demons? They are legally considered “persons” but their basic, declared purpose is profit—that is, the “soul” of a for-profit corporation is essentially selfish. That’s quite different from how you and I are set up, isn’t it? I believe that my basic purpose is to bring about greater peace, love and understanding, and I believe that generosity is a far better impulse to exercise than selfishness. I’d guess you think pretty much the same way. You can’t write generosity into the charter of a for-profit corporation. But I digress.
Another thing a demon would do is demean the creation. Cut down the forests, pave the plains, pollute the air and water and be sure to spread shame and distortion around that extraordinary Divine creation, the human body. You know, it’s only flesh and blood and electricity, and it blooms and decays in the blink of an eye, but there really is nothing else like it in the Universe, as far as we can tell so far. We seem to be the only, almost infinitely tiny, piece of this entire, vast cosmos that knows that the whole show is here.
I have respect and admiration for the intelligence, wisdom, and communicative capacities of dolphins, pigs, wolves,and our various primate cousins, as well as octopi and the fabled giant squid, but until I hear them weigh in on cosmology or its equivalent, I’m presuming we know some very important things they don’t. But, I digress.
Maybe it’s just my DNA talking, but I appreciate the human form and like to see it celebrated—as in Alan Lequire’s exuberant sculpture at the head of Music Row. Well, maybe it’s because one of my friends posed for that sculpture and I love seeing her in all her radiant glory right there in the middle of that vast ugliness. But a bunch of people picketed that statue recently—there’s a campaign going on complaining that Alan’s statue is indecent. As they said in this week’s Nashville Scene, uncovered breast cancer is a lot more indecent than uncovered breasts. But this is just another aspect of the demonic campaign to convince us there’s something wrong with our bodies and their needs and urges.
Too big, too small, wrong color, smells wrong, wants to relax the wrong way with the wrong person—wrong, wrong, wrong. Love is not the law among demons—the name of their game is control and shame.
Is oppressing souls unpleasant for the demon? The demon doesn’t think so—demons are inured to their obnoxious environment and the pain they cause others. They are full of the self-righteousness that comes from knowing that you are doing the Lord’s Work and Giving Sinners What They Deserve.
But the fact is, that the evil a demon does is corrosive to him or her. Poor diet, stultified emotions, a blunted intellect and a warped world view eventually take their toll, and it is far more unpleasant to be a dying demon than it is to have been one of their victims, though that is scant consolation to those victims.
Now, you may have noticed something through my little discourse on demonology: All those things that would logically be done by a demon for the right and proper conduct of hell are being done by people who call themselves Christian. So-called Christians are against abortion, birth control, and serious aid to the profoundly impoverished. So-called Christians support the bland, malnourishing pablum of mainstream culture—their self-serving squawks against Hollywood vulgarity are just windowdressing.
So-called Christians fought to keep the tortured remains of Terry Schaivo alive, even as they moved to cut welfare, medicaid, and social security. So-called Christians have propelled the so-called war on drugs until it and its collateral damage have given this so-called Land of the Free the highest prison population per capita of any country in the world. So-called Christians have moved to relax environmental standards and ease up on corporate crime, while tightening the bankruptcy laws and changing the tax laws to remove incentives to large-scale charitable giving. So-called Christians create an atmosphere of obsession and compulsion around the human body that distorts perceptions for all of us and makes a rational, emotionally adult society an impossibility.
And yes, the good news is that these so-called Christians’ indulgent disinclination towards personal lifestyle changes and spiritual evolution means that those of us who know how to take care of ourselves in those ways will probably outlast them, although we may not have much of a world left to enjoy.
Meanwhile, under the thick armor of every smug, selfish, self-righteous Christian/demon there stirs a sad soul that is crying out for love and understanding.
It is our compassionate duty to them to dodge their thrashing as best we can, regard them with love and caring, and pray that a chink in their armor somewhere, sometime, somehow, will let someone give them the love they need. Hang in there, brothers and sisters—patience is a cardinal virtue.