I once thought the object of the devil was to persuade people to choose evil. I now know that makes no sense. The purpose of the devil is to confuse. “Woe to those who call evil good and goodness evil.” Or as George Lucas said it, “evil people do not know they are evil.” What is good? What is not good? This is the confusion of the world. The people of the world will destroy one another over arguments of which side is good or right. The Church fights “heresy” because it is confusion about doctrine. Even the definition of heresy changes with the times.
The problem is that we do not require the existence of the devil to cause this kind of confusion. The church of the 4th century was afraid of confusion so much that armies of head-cracking monks came with the bishops and priests to Nicaea to settle on whether or not the Word was co-eternal with God the Father. To modern eyes this looks like fighting over the definition of infinity or googolplex. For the most part it looks like more and more people could care less about it. The Islamist reformation in the Muslim world is following the pattern of the Reformation in the Christian world. People violently disputing the nature of the religion is the order of the day. And I mean violently literally.
We really do not need to believe in God or practice a religion for the insanity to catch hold. Marxist doctrine has many schools of thought. I wonder about the fate of a democratic socialist in Viet Nam or Cuba where Marxist-Leninism holds sway. And please do not forget the various schools of Trotskyism whose one virtue is that none has never been tried. Would a radical capitalism be any more rational? Given the insanity of the world and the state of Somalia I doubt it very much.
So with God, the devil, religion, or the lack thereof the world is still insane. What to do? What to do?
Perhaps Ecclesiastes is helpful when he tells us to “revere God and keep the commandments” as humanity’s whole duty. In other words, ignore the insanity of the world.
There must be more involved. Like the old preacher of Jerusalem, I have looked at all kinds of different ideas and practices for helping cure the world’s ills. Instead of eating my bread and drinking my wine and laboring at whatever my hands find to do, I believe the prophetic call to loving-kindness or to simply love is the best we can do to overcome evil and the world’s insanity. It may be argued that I can take this attitude in a world without needing God or religion. Yet, such an argument rings hollow if the best we can have in the world is good feeling, justice, and rationality. These terms are slippery in their definition.
Orthodox Christianity (Eastern, Catholic, Anglican, or Mainline Protestant) provides the framework we need in order to practice love in truth and health to combat the insanity of the world. No I am not disparaging other religions. Christianity – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – is often described as “love in action.” The world is insane because the devil’s job to confuse and cause fear. “Perfect love casts out fear.” We should find the love that brings us healing in the world.