Thanks to all for your thoughtful comments to the previous post. (Warning, you have to read through a lot of dog blog to get to the real deal) Along with several long conversations, they really help me so much to clarify my own thinking about this whole Satan business. My apologies for the following to those of you who grew up in an environment where this topic was talked to death - it's all new to me...
I was talking about this with a friend who asked me, "How can you believe in Satan and still believe in God? Does that mean that God made evil?" I dont believe that God made evil, but I DO believe that God creates potentiality, that there are infinate possibilities in every situation and every moment and some of that potential results in evil.
And I think it's helpful for me personally to have an understanding of the Devil, but after the comments (particularly from Heather, for whom this so scary that is was sort of damaging as a kid) I AM left wondering if it's actually helpful in a congregational context. I'm not sure that it's going to help the average person in my congregation, many of whom are still getting their heads around if they belive in GOD or not.
Does Satan have to be anthorpomorphical, as in Sue's comment? I dont think so - my husband just says Empire, but for him, that image is just as powerful. I dont necessarily picture a GUY myself, but I do have definate sense that there is a force that is more intentional than just saying "evil" might imply.
I know that I believe that we live in a broken world. You kind of have to have a "God is great but something is wrong" world view in order for this concept of the Evil One to be helpful, I think. If basically everything is fine for you, I'm not sure it will resonate. I've always had a heightened sensitivity to suffering and grief and, well, brokenness, and this really helps me as I try to put all that in perspective. Yes, there is sadness and sometimes horror, and it's part of something bigger than just me and therefore I dont have to take it all onto myself.
So,(as fundamentalist as this sounds from a person as progressive as me) it's like there's this cosmic battle going on between good and evil and I think it's important for me to have a metaphorical image of evil, so that evil isnt just an amporphous, everywhere problem, but an entity who can be driven back by continuing to walk in the light, (or working for shalom as Rachelle might say) by loving Jesus and creation as ardently as I can.
God created a world in which every moment, every situation, is alive with potential, and some of those potential outcomes may be ones that increase the power of the Evil One. I was thinking about all this as I was listening on the radio to the 9-11 converage on NPR yesterday. Evil’s purpose is not for one side to win, but to create more evil - more anger, more fear, more violence.
I really thought alot about Songbird's comment in which (paraphrasing here) she said that believing in Satan lets people off the hook for their own behavior because the bad that happens is his fault. I think for me, the response is the opposite. Allowing myself to be open to the possibility that we are all engaged in a cosmic battle between good and evil actually makes me want to try harder to make sure that all my actions are for done from love, since the stakes seem higher.
All of this is still new thinking for me, so none of this is set in stone, but it's getting a lot closer. Keep walking in the Light!