Judging by the numbers, the torch has again passed. At one time soap operas, sitcoms, and variety shows seemed to predominate television viewing. In the ’70s, they handed off to sports entertainment. Nowadays, reality shows are running away with the television market. There are hundreds of reality shows on just about every subject imaginable. With titles like Airplane Repo, Bethenny’s Getting Married?, and The Real Gilligan’s Island, reality television is chock full of stuff you probably never wanted to know.
One of the earliest reality shows was one of the cutest. Art Linkletter’s House Party, which ran from 1952 until 1969, had everything from household hints to searches for missing heirs. But Linkletter’s best segment was Kids Say the Darndest Things. His interviews of 5-10 year old kids never failed to keep television audiences in hysterics. Linkletter had a knack for bringing out the precious innocence of children.
The sad reality is that childlike innocence can be quickly lost. In July, Texas enacted a progressive pro-life law. Abortion centers must now meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers. Abortionists must have admitting privileges at local hospitals and must follow FDA protocols for chemical abortions. And based on mounting evidence that unborn babies feel pain, abortions after 20 weeks are banned. Everyone expected a battle to pass the bill. Few expected what they saw. A girl held a sign: “If I wanted the government in my womb, I would f*** a senator.” She was about nine, and a woman-perhaps her mother-was holding an identical sign. Another girl, not much older, displayed a different message: “Jesus isn’t a d***, so keep him out of my vagina.” She spelled out the word. Worse, while pro-lifers sang Amazing Grace, a young adult and others chanted, “Hail Satan!” It happened more than once. The episodes give scary new meaning to the phrase “out of the mouths of babes.”
In the heat of battle, people say things they might not really mean. But the chant raises an important question: is Satan real? Over the years we have come to hear virtually nothing about the devil, even in our churches. For some, Satan is seen as a way of explaining evil to the people less sophisticated than us. In the ’70s, we laughed at comedian Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine and her favorite excuse: “the devil made me do it.” In the late ’80s, Dana Carvey’s famous Church Lady humored us with her “could it be . . .SATAN!” The laughter fed our belief that the devil was just a figment of some ancient guy’s imagination.
But is it? We believe in a God we don’t see. We believe in angels, God’s spiritual creations, yet we don’t see them either. Satan and his minions are the fallen angels. And if there is no devil, what accounts for the evil that sometimes lives within us? We try to be good, so why do we constantly fall prey to sin? Why does our desire to do right not overcome our will to do wrong? Are we inherently evil? Or is there a dark spiritual creation out there-without the horns and pitchfork-tempting us to go the wrong way. When we think about it, Geraldine’s excuse is not a laughing matter after all.
Satan has a mission: to prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. The Bible tells us that Satan, once known as Lucifer (the “light-bearer”), and other angels wanted to be like God. A battle in Heaven followed, and Satan lost. Cast into hell, Satan and company seek to bring all of humanity with them. Misery loves company-only Satan does not love anyone. So Satan’s strategy is to divide and conquer, like a wolf pack separates a deer from the safety of a herd. Satan challenges our beliefs in what is good and true. It has worked from the beginning. When Eve told the serpent that she would die if she ate the fruit, the serpent separated Eve from God. “You certainly will not die! You will be like God.” Having deceived Eve in order to create doubt about God’s truth and goodness, Satan preyed on basic human weakness: pleasure and pride. Adam and Eve saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eye, and desirable for gaining wisdom. They ate the forbidden fruit. Their disobedience cost them the Garden.
Satan is not content that we sin, for a contrite sinner can return to God. Satan’s goal is to destroy us. He works to convince us that the wrong we do is really not so bad, or even not bad at all. “If it’s fun, do it! What’s so bad about that?” “That person who wronged you, get him back. An eye for an eye.” “You’re the boss, not God and not them!” A one-time sin becomes a habit, and a habit becomes an addiction. Then Satan pulls the plug. “You can’t overcome your sin, and God won’t forgive you,” Satan keeps repeating. Satan becomes like a snake slowly squeezing the air out of its prey. It’s a death grip. The struggle to overcome leads to failure, then to despair, then to destruction. Remember those boys at Columbine? After shooting their classmates, they killed themselves. They felt no hope. It was all so diabolical.
St. John the Apostle called Satan a murderer from the beginning. Only he doesn’t kill; he gets us to kill. Consider the 20th century: two world wars and countless smaller conflicts, the Holocaust, killing fields, tribal genocide, ethnic cleansing, and school massacres. And for the last 40 years, consider the personal and collective sin of legal abortion. God tells us that chastity is virtue and that life is sacred and must be protected. He wrote His law in our hearts. But we hear the tempter’s voice: “Do what you want, whenever you want. You’re in control, not God. You decide on what’s human, or even if it matters that it’s human.” And in our pride and passion, in our fears and indifference, we have destroyed human lives by the millions. It doesn’t end with the unborn baby. For the women and men who must live the aftermath, it is all part of a vicious downward spiral of regret, self-loathing, anger, depression, broken relationships, and even death. Crash and burn. That, too, is diabolical.
We ought to think twice before we hail Satan. On our journey back to God, Satan is our greatest enemy. He hates all humanity. We remind him of what could have been his.
Paul Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, and have six kids.
© 2013 Paul V. Esposito. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Comments? Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/