Fabricated stories of Bat Boy do not make him real.
And, the devil is no more real than Bat Boy.
Jack Lewis and his brand of Christianity created the idea of the devil you have in your head.
I want to wash that devil right out of your hair.
JESUS, C.S. LEWIS.
You probably didn’t know Clive Staples Lewis, known to his friends as Jack, considered himself a Christian evangelist or that he wrote The Chronicles of Narnia to help bring people to Jesus. Aslan, the Lion in the fantasy series, was presented with the capital L and sacrificed his life for the good of the world to underscore the parallel to Jesus.
And, this was my childhood notion of Jesus – supremely compassionate and humble, larger than life itself, willing to die for love.
But it’s a childish, lacking depiction of Jesus.
Jesus was much more flavorful that “as so long as you have a loving heart, everything is alright” tofu we serve.
The real, historical Nazarene was far more interesting — far more interesting. And Jesus should be remembered as such.
The real Jesus, unlike fabled Aslan, hated bureaucratic bullshit and condemned the double talk of the elected puppets. The real Jesus got mad and over-turned tables. The real Jesus gave friends cool nicknames – calling Peter “the rock” and John “the son of thunder.”
What Would Jesus Do?
He would (and did) take to the streets to fight.
Yehoshuah bar Yoseph didn’t give his life for love. Aslan’s “self-sacrifice as godly” trope only picks up in the first millennia when Pope Urban II had a need for an army of crusaders willing to martyr themselves.
Jesus gave his life for crimes against the state. Not love or country.
Jesus was executed by the government because he inspired sedition. (Crucifixion was the punishment for crimes against the state.)
People don’t know this history because they have been served pablum.
In 1942, Lewis published, one at a time, a collection of letters he “happened to discover” while riding the upper deck of a bus. He presents The Screwtape Letters as found missives from a senior temper Screwtape to protégé Wormwood. The latter’s incompetence and need for tutoring is attested to by his leaving the stack of letters on the bus for Lewis to find.
And, yes, Bill Waterson named Mrs. Wormwood of Calvin and Hobbes fame for Lewis’s character.
Through the found letter artifice, readers learn much about the concerns and techniques of hell’s workers to keep their ‘patients’ from God’s salvation.
But it’s made up.
Cause he didn’t really find those letters on a bus.
Nonetheless – like Coca-cola branding has affixed in our minds that Santa wears a red suit – Jack shaped has our image of an active, busy, and intimately involved devil.
THE WATCHTOWER, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
The door-to-door evangelists working my neighborhood also believe the devil is active and real.
Tina sides with Jack.
During a semi-monthly (pre-covid) conversation on my stoop, bouncing scripture back and forth, Tina hands me a complimentary issue of Awake!
“You know the devil can take any form,” she says.
“How do I know it isn’t you – here on my doorstep?”
She might be in lockstep with The Watchtower H.Q., but, she’s not humorless.
She returns to her script: “Let’s look at where all this evil is coming from. Let’s turn to look at the story of the fall.”
“You mean the Garden of Eden story?”
“Right,” she counters, “the fall.”
“Tina, my Bible doesn’t have any chapter titled ‘the fall’, as you call it. Saint Augustine, he made that part up, about a fall.”
“Oh really? I didn’t know that,” she says before returning again to her script: “Let’s look at where the devil tempts Adam and Eve.”
“Tina, my friend, I know the story, but my copy of the Bible says serpent, not devil.”
“We know that serpent means the devil.”
“If the Bible had meant devil, it would have said devil.”
At that, my second foul of the day, she shuts down and tells me she need to move along to the next house.
The devil might be in the details.
He’s just not in the creation story.
LUCIFER, BEELZEBUB AND SATAN WALK INTO A BAR
Lucifer is merely a screwed-up translation of the Latin word for morning star. See Isaiah 14:12, if you want. It refers to the planet Venus. Not red guy with horns.
Beelzebub is first recorded in history outside the Bible as a Philistine god. Ridiculous amounts of time later, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is accused of driving out demons by the power of Beelzebub. And, who is that? It’s a flying angel – not the devil. And, what does Beelzebub mean in Hebrew? “Lord (of the) flies.”
Satan, in Hebrew rhymes with won-ton, is simply a conjugation of the verb to oppose. Numbers 22:22 describes Balaam stopped in the road by “an adversary.” The text uses l’satan, to express that Balaam is opposed. No devil.
The idea of Satan as a proper noun, a super villain with a capital S, is a later invention, like toilet paper.
Some 500+ years after King David, Satan with the capital S is introduced in the Book of Job. Here, for the first time, we have a stand-alone character up to no good.
The Book of Job was The Screwtape Letters of its day.
Toilet paper is real. The devil isn’t.
I WANT TO BELIEVE.
If you have a need for good and bad to be neatly bifurcated, then the idea of evil incarnate – the devil – works and you can split God off to be the good object.
I don’t have that need.
People like a pat and easy answer as to why bad things happen to good people.
I’m all right with reality being as it is – a bit baffling and not necessarily in anyone’s good hands.
Humanity didn’t fall from grace. Nor does the devil get bonus points for anybody’s apostasy.
If you believe the hand you’re dealt has a fixed value, that’s on you.
Not the devil.
I believe we get to create – to the limits of our brain’s capabilities and chemistry – heaven and hell in our minds.
The difference between a prison and a monastery is perspective.
Although they both probably use single-ply toilet paper.
Of course, the devil and I might be in cahoots to win your soul with this line of thinking.
But, that makes about as much sense as Bat Boy being real.
Or Jack finding those letters on the bus.
Or me using single-ply.