HEAR NO EVIL, SEE NO EVIL, SPEAK NO EVIL
At one time, the concept of evil was taught in schools. This was especially true if you went to Catholic schools. You were taught about man's capacity to be evil but you were also taught that there existed "The Evil One." Yes, you were taught that Satan was alive and well (in whatever sense an inhuman spirit can be alive) and trying to steal souls as a way of attacking God. We knew that Satan could not beat God on a one to one basis. After all, God created Satan, how could he possible beat his Creator? So, the only recourse Satan has is to attack and to try to corrupt God's children. He seems to be quite proficient at this.
That is what we were taught. In theory, that should not be much of a battle either since God will obviously protect His children from Satan's grasp. But here is where it gets dicey. You see, Satan is allowed to tempt us; he is allowed to try to corrupt us. He is also allowed to attack us. Why is this so? The answer to that question is simple: "free will." Yes, God allows these things because He is giving us the choice of worshipping Him or falling in league with the devil. We can resist him or we can ignore him or we can join him. That is what free will is all about. Choices. Okay, what is the point? The point is that a huge segment of the population does not believe in the existence of Satan as an entity, a being. For many he is little more than a concept, a myth if you will.
The idea of this article is to look at the question of evil and how it was once taught, be it well or poorly and why it needs to be taught now. More questions may be raised than answered here. By no means do I consider myself to be the ultimate authority on this or any other subject, for that matter. There is going to be a lot of line walking done here and it is safe to say that I may come precariously close to teetering over the line, one way or the other. Come walk with me and let us see if we can make it across this tightrope together.
In years gone by, the Catholic Church devoted a lot of time to teaching children about the existence of the devil and the realities of Hell. They painted a wonderful picture of Heaven and what we need to do to reach it. They told us all about Jesus and how Mary is the Queen of Heaven. Of course they also tossed Purgatory and Limbo in there too. Hopefully they were wrong about that, especially Limbo. On the surface you would think that this is exactly what I want, right? No, not exactly. You see, they also taught guilt and fear as well. I believe the idea behind the guilt thing was to teach the children about right and wrong. Instill a conscience, so to speak. However, when a five year old is afraid that the Devil is going to stand by his bed at night and snatch him up and subject him to infinite burning in the fires of Hell because he borrowed his brother’s toy without asking permission, something is wrong. A sense of guilt is necessary to an extent. Without it, we as a species would not be motivated to change or to grow. Furthermore, we would run wild, more so than we do today, if you can imagine that. Excessive guilt on the other hand, especially when dealing with a child, can cause severe damage to that child way down the road in adulthood. The intentions of the Church may have been good but we all know what the “road to you know where” is paved with.
As for the fear factor, I truly believe that all that accomplishes is the foundation for neurosis in later life. Children should not be taught to fear God. Plain and simple. They should be taught to love God and His mercy and the graces He bestows on us. Also, it has always boggled my mind that children should be taught that they are unworthy of God. They should not be taught that they are unworthy of anything, let alone God. That is not exactly the foundation for good self-esteem, is it? Looking back with hindsight, it seems obvious that the mistake was in teaching the negative rather than the positive. Instead of pounding into their heads the punishments that await if they are bad, it would seem to be far more effective to emphasize the rewards of being good. In many cases, children were handicapped right from the start. I sometimes feel that the message of Christ's love and forgiveness went largely unnoticed prior to Vatican II. Since then, the Church has softened its stance somewhat. Now my intention here is not to bash the Church, it is only to point out that it is important how you teach the concept of evil. In fairness to the Church, they made a strong attempt to educate people about the realities of Satan and about evil. Today that attempt is not so strong and I think that is misfortunate. So what will it take to please me, huh? Remember that line I talked about earlier? Well, we are now walking on it. The concept of evil and the devil must be taught today. However, it must be taught properly. Evil does exist. The devil does exist. But, it must be taught in a manner where people are made to realize that God can overcome evil and so can we. Evil influences are able to grow today because people do not realize that they can be stopped. Many refuse to accept that it even exists. They must be made to realize that rather than succumb to the fear of it they have the power and ability to beat it. If the teaching is positive in nature, that is emphasizing the goodness and power of God rather than focusing on the negativity and the power of Satan, inroads can be made. The war against evil can be won but no war can be fought without soldiers. Once people lose that all consuming fear of the devil and regard him as a bully, for that is what he truly is, they have already won part of the battle. Instead of hiding from evil, they may be willing to confront it where and when they reasonably can.
Yet today, enormous numbers of people do not believe in Satan as an actual entity. They blame all of the worlds ills on man alone. Hold your balance here because we are going to take a couple more steps on the tightrope now. Mankind alone is not to blame for all of the world's problems. There is too much evil in the world for man to be solely responsible. Pick up the newspaper on any given day. Look at the atrocities committed, both at home and globally. Surely man, the creation of a loving God, cannot do this alone. It would take a twisted, hateful and contemptible creature to affect this type of horror on a daily basis and on such a wide scale. But…there is a grave danger in blaming everything bad on the devil for that would essentially absolve man from taking responsibility for his own actions and that may be the ultimate evil. Surely Satan is responsible for his part in this but never forget that we have free will and can choose not to play his game. This we must do.
However, the people who have the most power over Satan are the ones who seem to want the least to do with him. Sadly, many Christian denominations and their ministers do not teach that Satan is a being. Many denominations do not even have a ritual of exorcism to deal with Satan and his influences. Furthermore, many scoff at those who do believe and sincerely try to help. This creates a problem when someone finds himself in a "haunting" situation. This is not going to turn into a discourse on supernatural phenomena nor will I attempt to make you a believer in ghosts and the like. The point is that if someone is struggling with forces that seem to be beyond nature, they likely place to go is to a priest or minister. Depending on the denomination, you will at best be told you are misunderstanding the situation and at worst criticized. You may even be told you are mentally ill. There is a real good chance you will not get help. So now what do they do? Therein lies the problem.
Many of them will turn to psychics for help. They will find them through advertisements and such. The odds are fairly high that the psychic they contact will know nothing about haunting phenomena. For that matter, they may be out and out frauds. It is not unheard of to see people charged a lot of money by someone who claims they can "cleanse" the haunted house. To make a long story short, they lose money and keep the problem. Only those properly trained can help this type of problem. You can either help the problem or make it worse. There is no middle ground here. It used to be that the Church was the one place you could turn to. Sadly, in many cases, that is not true anymore. The Catholic Church will still help and they still do exorcisms. However, it can be incredibly hard to get past the pastoral level. Exorcism requires the approval of the diocesan Bishop in order for it to be done. Getting to him can be a problem and getting his approval can be all but impossible, depending on his belief systems and where you are. The Church is extremely cautious when it comes to the subject of exorcism. It has to be. However, they must make themselves more accessible to those people who need help. I am not saying they should perform an exorcism at the drop of a hat; there are serious dangers if they do. They just need to be more willing to investigate possible cases. However, we are more concerned here with educating the masses about evil than discussing the ways to deal with it. Many Christian Churches simply do not teach about evil and Satan. He is more than a metaphor. We have not walked that tightrope for almost a full page now so let us try to get further across.
This issue, like many in life can swing wildly from one end of the extreme to the other. You have to be careful about that. Extremes are dangerous. If you check your local bookstore, you will see many books on the subject of "Deliverance." When broken down to its truest sense, Deliverance is another word for exorcism. Therefore it would seem a good thing that there are so many books on the subject. It is a good thing in its purest form but there are red flags going up here as well. The basic tenet of these books are that devils and demons do exist and that any Christian can "deliver" them. Many of these books are well written and they are certainly well intentioned. Again though, remember the “paving” thing. The problem with some of these books is that they almost trivialize the subject. This is especially true when you read some of the books written by those who call themselves "Born Again" Christians. This is not a knock against them by any means. However, if you go through some of those books, you are led to believe that you can just pick yourself up and fire off a couple of exorcisms before breakfast. Then you can do three or four more before lunch. The point is that whether you call it deliverance or exorcism, it is serious business.
Yes, according to the scriptures, any Christian can do a deliverance. I do not question that at all. However, before you even think about doing it, you need to know that there are significant dangers, both to the one ministering and the one being ministered to. You need to really study the subject and get some experience dealing with it before attempting to do it yourself. Also, some of these books will make it sound as if there is a demon for every occasion. Yes, there are demons that affect various areas of a person’s life. I have no doubt that there are demons behind greed or lust and the like. Yet if you read some books, there is a demon causing your head cold or your stubbed toe and so on. This is not meant to be funny. Demons are real and they destroy many lives. Dealing with them is a must but it is dangerous and difficult. There is a danger if you believe the devil is behind every poor action and behind every illness. There are people who would rather be "delivered" from their illness rather than accept proper medical treatment. You might say that this degree of belief is rare but it happens more than you think. Also, again, you cannot push the responsibility for your own actions onto Satan.
Where there are demons, battles must be fought and they are not 1-2-3 affairs. Demons do not just leave because you ask them to. It is not a simple formula. It takes work and it is dangerous. This type of work should only be attempted by those trained to do it. The problem is that there really are not many ways to get the necessary training. However, let us not focus on the area of battling evil. The bigger problem lies in educating people about the need for people to deal with this issue. If more people are aware that evil does exist, there will be less of a need for finding out how to stop it since it will not be as much of a problem. This is a risky statement on my part. However, if people know that evil exists, they might be more careful about how they live their lives. They will certainly think twice about buying and using conjuring books if they realize that there is a legitimate possibility of inviting evil into their lives. Many people, especially younger people, think that no real harm can come for "casting spells." They are very wrong. You can conjure demons. This is scary but true. Playing with Ouija boards can invite spirits into your life, even if it does not happen all that often. The danger is still there. The fact of the matter is that it is possible to bring evil into your life. Education, properly taught education is the key. Do not be an alarmist; do not look to see the devil in every corner, under every bed, behind every cough. Realize that he does exist and learn how to keep him out of your life. Raising consciousness is what I am talking about. Teach the facts. Do not trivialize them and do not over emphasize them. Tell it like it is.
Why is it that the various religious denominations are getting away from teaching about this? Well, a lot of it has to do with the fact that people do not want to hear about Satan. They do not want to believe in him because that makes them think they are not in control of their lives. To a certain extent, that is true. They do control their lives but they may be severely tempted to do things that are contrary to what they know to be good. Another reason is that we live in this age of incredible technological growth. The thought of demons and devils does not fit in this modern world. It is looked upon as being something out of the 19th century, not the 21st. It does not fit into our model of the world. If the Church, whatever denomination, preaches this theme too much, people turn away. They want to believe only what they want to believe. There is no room for anything else. So, in all fairness, it is not an easy situation for the Church. The trick is they cannot give up teaching about this subject.
Science has done a lot in dispelling the belief of evil although that was collateral damage. It was never their intention. We now have medical terms for instances that at one time were regarded as being demonic in origin. Schizophrenia, disassociative disorders and various forms of psychosis are now medically treatable diseases. The devil was effectively pushed aside by medical science. Still though, you have to wonder. Many of the people being treated for these diseases do not respond to treatment. Is it because they need better drugs? Maybe. Let me amend that, in most cases, probably. But…is there still a percentage of people who really are not mentally ill? You have to wonder. As I mentioned earlier, it is hard to believe that mankind has the ability to commit the type of heinous crimes that we all read about on a daily basis. Yes, there is sickness and hate and prejudice galore but is man inherently bad? I do not think so. If we were talking about an isolated case of evil here and there, I would say that yes, man is capable of doing that. However, when you look at the scope of problem, there has to be something more going on. There just has to be.
My time in corporate America has taught me that you should never point out a problem without offering solutions. I will now try to do that. There must be strong voices willing to speak. Many of the Churches must reexamine their position on the subject of evil and Satan. They must be willing to teach the subject in a responsible, non-hysterical manner. Teach it as you would history or mathematics, as you would any truth. Nothing more, nothing less. Parents must teach their children too. It is their ultimate responsibility to teach them right from wrong, good from evil. Everything cannot be dumped on the Church or on teachers. Parents must take a good, long look at their children and what they do. Teach them, raise them. Be aware of their actions. Listen to their music and watch who they hang out with. Take a part in their lives. The future of our world is in the hands of those children. Yes, we must try to enlighten everyone but we will sink or swim as a society based on how our children turn out. We must all teach each other by our actions, by the way we live. As real as Satan is, we have the free will to choose not to follow him, not to fall in his traps. Everyone must lead by example. Weaken his hold on humanity, one person at a time. We must all learn to love and trust and believe in God. Those are my suggestions but as I said in the beginning, we need to walk this tightrope together. Surely I do not have all the answers. Neither do you. No one does. You know what? If we all put our heads together, maybe then we can come up with some solutions. In that sense, this article will not end. It is, hopefully, only the beginning; it will continue to be written over time. Each and every one of you can contribute to this article, this work in progress, so to speak. Indeed, I need all the help here I can get. I do not have the audacity to believe I can solve the world's ills. If only I could. No one person can. When people get together and work on a goal, the results can be surprising. It is the old theory of the total being greater than the sum of its parts. Well, thinking along those lines, what can we do to solve this problem? What is a good way to educate the masses? How best do we teach people the truth, not the hysteria and not the trivialities? There must be ways and we are all being called on to find those ways.
Well, you have walked the tightrope with me. You have thought, in some cases, possibly for the first time, about the subject of Satan and evil. If that is true, this article has done what it was intended to do. We just have to think. God gave us the brains; we just have to use them. You can believe or disbelieve but you must think. That is all anyone can ask of anyone else. Think and become aware. Maybe then, we can finish this article.
© 1999 T. Cooney