Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blaming Satan

Some strands of Christianity seem to talk about the devil more often than they talk about God or Jesus. According to the beliefs of some of these churches, Satan is always lurking in the bushes and taking a personal interest in tempting believers into sin. While the official theology of even these Christian churches gives lip service to the idea that God and Jesus are far more powerful than the devil, there is little explanation for what is in practice a theology more similar to Manicheanism, the idea that the universe is caught in a battle between a good deity and his evil counterpart who is his equal and opposite.

This thoroughly un-Christian worldview also supports pretty questionable deflections of blame by those caught acting improperly. "The devil made me do it" is a cliche that is at least a century old and yet there are still individuals out there who invoke it rather than taking responsibility for their actions. A woman in Washington State was recently charged with stealing $73,000 from the church where she worked as an administrative assistant, but she insisted that Satan was to blame for her actions.

Papers filed with a theft charge Wednesday in Snohomish County Superior Court say the 62-year-old Arlington woman told detectives "Satan had a big part in the theft."

The Everett Herald reported the woman was accused of forging the pastor's signature on 80 checks from the Arlington Free Methodist church. She was fired in February 2008.

Actually, unless this woman was possessed by a demon and vomiting pea soup while she was writing out those forged checks the devil had nothing to do with it. Even if the devil exists and bears any resemblance to the caricature that is often bandied about by Christian preachers, the idea that he would take an active interest in the life of one individual person for the sole purpose of prompting her to steal some money from a church is pretty laughable. As if a theft like this would rise to the sort of cosmic or at least global significance that might draw the attention of the ultimate evil.

The saddest thing about this story is that the religious angle obscures what might very well be the real tragedy of the situation.

She told detectives she used the money to cover household expenses because she couldn't stand the thought of losing her home.

$73,000 is a lot of money for household expenses, so maybe this is just another excuse. If she really needed that much money in order to keep her house, however, it seems to me that the real devils are the mortgage brokers who pushed her into taking out such a large loan and the employers who have resisted paying living wages in this country for years. Maybe that's who Christian "spiritual warriors" should really be out there rebuking.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble


Anonymous said...

"Goodness knows no master; a man shall have more or less of her according to the value he sets on her. The fault lies not with God, but with the soul that makes the choice."
~ Plato's "The Republic"

Thus the fault lies not with a "devil" either but with the individual.

Scott Stenwick said...

Exactly. It seems that one of the appeals of superstitious belief systems is that there are plenty of convenient justifications available to anyone who wants to avoid accepting responsibility for their actions. "No, no, it wasn't me... it was a demon! Yeah, that's it!"