Thanking Satan

obedience

Back in college I read a book called “I, Lucifer” and it floored me. In it, God gives Lucifer a chance to live a mortal life and if he can go a month without committing a mortal sin, it’s a very Catholic take, then God will allow Lucifer a chance to become an angel again and gain entrance back into heaven.

I loved the book for numerous reasons, but mostly because it was challenging to me as a Christian. It’s not a book about apologetics for Satan nor is it a book glorifying him. It’s just a very well thought out book that threw logic in my face in ways I’d yet to experience as a believer. One section stuck with me in particular where Lucifer struggles immensely with not knowing whether he’s ever been in control of himself. Did God make him with the purpose to eventually become Satan? To be the bad guy. Was that always the plan? Or did he act of his own volition to become the Lucifer believers all love to hate?

Another very interesting section was where Lucifer and his demons tried to save Jesus from being crucified because he knew that if Jesus was crucified, he’d lose the overall war against God.

Head scratching stuff for me at the time.

It wasn’t until a few years later, while deep in a crisis of faith, that the thought occurred to me that we actually owe our ability to think critically to Satan. This was a thought I didn’t dare to raise to anyone. It boiled down to where I couldn’t decide who I blamed more for Adam and Eve eating from the tree. God for allowing it to happen or Satan for tricking them.

Maddening though, I couldn’t find a way out of that line of thinking. God kept Adam and Eve in a state of naivety and impaired thinking. Sure, they were “free” to do what they wanted, but with impaired decision making abilities due to withheld information, what chance did Adam and Eve stand against Satan? With virtually no knowledge of deceit or dishonesty, why would they have any reason to think the serpent was anything other than truthful?

If a parent kept a sippy cup full of Drano in the middle of their toddler’s playroom and told them not to drink from it because it’s icky, would any sane person hold the toddler responsible for eventually drinking it? Especially if done so under the duress of another person? I’m pretty sure any jury would find the guardian of the child to be responsible for neglect and endangerment. Yet God get’s a pass?

It reminds me of something I still kid my brother for. When we were young we were both heavily into baseball cards. We’d pour over them and study them and one time Jason asked to trade me cards. He’d give me 2 cards for my 1. I agreed and immediately upon ending the transaction he waved the card in my face and sang, “Blackjack no trade backs! This is a rookie card!” I was stunned. Not only had I been duped, but he’d pulled the sacred no trade backs line on me. I was maybe 5 years old at that time and I vividly remember the lesson he unknowingly taught me. Know your stuff and trust no one.

I feel like that’s how ill equipped Adam and Eve would’ve been, but probably even less so than I was. God had their backs, right? After all, he knew everything and would’ve created the serpent, so it couldn’t possibly be bad. Also, God would’ve known that the serpent was there and what it was up to. Instead of properly equipping his creation or not letting the serpent undertake it’s task, he let them flounder and fall and he’s still making us pay for it. Real classy.

So, the next time you’re in a hot debate with someone or are arguing for the moral relevance of your deity, take a moment and remember that it’s because of Satan that you can ironically hold that discussion in the first place. It was he that tricked Adam and Eve into eating from the tree and with that successful trickery came the full potential of thinking we currently possess.

Without Satan, in the worldview of Christianity, we’d all be mindless husks walking around with dopey grins on our faces and drool running out of our mouths. Or maybe we’d never have been born at all.

Remember that the next time your birthday rolls around and throw a thanks to the man downstairs. It’s hot as hell down there and he could use the encouragement.

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Be You

I received a call from an old friend today that was noticeably under immense stress. This stress, I soon realized, is the by product of living a double life: one half a believing and practicing Christian and the other as a closeted atheist.

It’s something he and I have talked about numerous times over drinks in the past, but I’ve never heard such exhaustion in his voice in all our years of friendship.

He’s absolutely torn, just as I once was, between keeping his current facade of belief and Christianity going or being true to himself. He’s done a very good job of keeping up appearances, but the cracks are showing and he’s feeling the stress of living a double life.

Regrettably, he confided in me that he’s most terrified of losing his relationship with his parents.

As someone who mutually finds identity and solace in my close relationships with my family, my heart breaks for the guy. Admittedly, the hardest two people to admit I was an atheist to were my parents. The talk, the explanation, the reassurance that it’s not a phase. That no, I’m not mad and no, I don’t think I’ll see Phil again and no, I won’t be going to heaven or hell.

To take the lights out of someone’s eyes like that is not an experience I wish to ever have again, but it’s one I’m glad I had.

Having tried to fake belief for a while myself, I told my friend about when I decided I wasn’t going to live a double life anymore. A non-believing friend of mine told me about an acquaintance of his that was, at that time, 66 years old. Turns out this man had been an atheist for over 30 years and nobody in his family knew. He’d lied his way through every prayer and conversation all in the name of not rocking the boat. Of not letting people down.

I knew immediately after that story that I’d not only be honest with everyone I loved, but also with myself. I didn’t want to live in a prison in my head. Afraid and ashamed to be me.

Most people I told took it in stride and a good many tried to convince me to just love Jesus! That I can choose to follow him! It took a good while for them to understand that you can’t force yourself to believe something your mind doesn’t. It literally gets to a point where it’s not a choice that can be made. You can’t shut off your brain.

So, for my old and dear friend that was patient, kind and loving to me as I poured out my heart, and a few tears, about my deceased sibling, I say, be yourself, brother. Be true to you and be honest with those you love and hope they have the sense to love you for the amazing man you’ve become and not for what god you associate with.

There’s far more peace and happiness to be found when we don’t reject who we are for the sake of those that are supposed to love us unconditionally. Rejoice in being you and be the man that others aspire to be.

“Noah” – My Review and Thoughts

Let me start by saying that I love the director, Darren Aronofsky. In 2002 a friend that helped forge my love of cinema walked into my dorm room with a movie and said, “We’re watching this right now.” The movie, one of two that truly changed the way I look at film, was “Requiem for a Dream.”

Ever since that day I’ve loved and been in awe of Darren. His movie “The Fountain” stands as my favorite movie of all time.

I was not a big fan of “Black Swan,” but thought “The Wrestler” was spectacular.

So, when I tell you I’m a fan of the director I have a history of his movies and have been following him for over a decade. If you want a good head trip, check out his student film project, “Pi.”

When I found out that he was making a movie about Noah I was more than intrigued and for more than one reason. Darren was raised Orthodox Jew and the story of Noah falls directly in the wheelhouse of the Jews. That’s from their holy book. Not the Old and New Testaments. Just their holy book.

Another reason I was intrigued about his take on Noah is because he has a very gritty style and he’s an atheist.

Never once did I think he would go out of his way to talk down about or slander the name of Noah, but I fully expected a gritty and human retelling of the events from Genesis.

Last night, while in Hawaii of all places, my wife and I went and saw the movie and I loved it and I really think there’s something for everyone, even the most fundamental of believers, in it. I don’t think the vitriol it’s received is fair. You can hate the movie because you thought it sucked or was boring, but to hate it over biblical interpretation is foolish and closed minded in my opinion. Especially considering how well it sticks up for the message of the Bible.

My wife and I both walked away truly stunned at how much the central story was hammered home. God, only referred to in the movie as The Creator, gave humans a shot and we ruined it. We brought this on ourselves. The only true justice is to wipe us off the map and leave the beasts. The only part of creation unchanged from the Garden of Eden.

Noah accepts and supports this conclusion. I can absolutely feel for the poor guy. He’s very, very torn, but sees it as the right thing to do. Is he happy about it? Hell no, but he does find it to be just.

I also love that God was only called The Creator. I really did. Mainly because it showed a more hands off approach to creation in my mind. A less literal form of deism. He created and then stepped away and only steps in when things get really bad. It’s a far less personal God to be sure, but I think it works well if you’re sticking with the free will aspect of apologetics. It’s not the interpretation I was raised with, that God is always around and listening and helping us out, but it actually makes a lot of sense in this movie. I suspect that’s a much more Jewish aspect of belief in the God of Abraham.

A lot of people seem upset that Noah isn’t the guy we all grew up with in the coloring books in this movie. He’s not smiling and flanked by his animals. He’s a gritty and bad ass guy that is torn and human. He’s constantly plagued with uncertainty and doubt. At one point in the movie he seems absolutely overwhelmed with what he has to do, but he continues on!!! How could any believer find fault with this? Have you ever felt overwhelmed with a task you felt called to do? Didn’t Jonah literally run away from going to where God called him? Lot’s wife, I always felt, got a bad name because she looked back against God’s command, but what a human thing to do.

Even to me, an atheist, it took about 15 minutes into the movie to adjust to some of the more fantasy parts of it. Particularly, The Watchers, which are angels that left heaven to help man and God punished them and ruined their heavenly forms by strapping them down with rocks from the Earth. Honestly, they became one of my favorite aspects of the film as they too had human characteristics and sought to return to the glory God had in mind for them…just like Noah. The battle with The Watchers and the humans was one of the best action scenes I’ve seen in years. Both visually, redemptively and just plain out action.

Bottom line is that Noah is a very good movie with aspects for all to enjoy. It really does hammer home the traditional Christian message that God made this and man was the one that royally screwed it up. That it is just for him to wipe it all out. I particularly loved the part where a major choice was left in Noah’s hands.

So, go see the movie, but do so with an open mind for some of the more fantastical elements, but rest assured that even though it’s not the Noah we were raised hearing about and coloring on in our Sunday school work books, it’s a very human tale about an ordinary man tasked with an extraordinary undertaking by his God.

And the underlying Christian message is fully intact.

Lunch With My Brother’s Killer

It’s a very odd feeling, staring into the eyes of the man responsible for killing your brother. It’s odd hearing him talk when my brother no longer can, but there I was, sitting across from an 86 year old man at Arbys, listening to him tell me about the accident.

I’d invited Donald out to lunch after much of the legal mess had settled in the wake of Phil’s death. I had a yearning to meet him. I didn’t want to berate him or yell at him. I just wanted some peace by meeting him. Some morsel of closure.

You see, Donald never reached out to me or my family after Phil died. He didn’t send a card or show up in person to apologize. He never gave the police any regards to send or called on the phone. Nothing. It was my longing to see if he’d gone through any pain that urged me to call him. I wanted to know if he felt remorse. Had he cried? Did he lose sleep?

He was already at a table when I showed up. He stood up to greet me and I gave him a big hug. I told him I loved him and appreciated his meeting me for lunch.

He told me how very sorry he was. How it was his fault. He asked me if Phil had any kids. He cried.

I told him about how funny Phil was. That he was my very best friend and was deeply loyal. I told him about Phil’s high intelligence and how much he truly loved serving people. I told him how happy I was that his death was instant. Surprisingly, I didn’t cry.

At the end of our lunch I thanked him again for meeting with me. He thanked me profusely for calling and inviting him out. We hugged and said goodbye and then I left.

I sat in my car in silence for about 30 minutes trying to digest what had just transpired. I felt no different. I didn’t feel any release or closure. All I felt was emptiness at what had just took place. I’m still glad I took the initiative to meet him, but I’m not really sure why.

I guess that Donald was probably the last person Phil ever saw and I felt I owed it to my brother to see him with my own eyes. To be someone to tell Donald how this earth is less of a place without Phil in it.

I guess I just miss my brother.