So I watched the Nightline debate that aired last week on the existence of Satan. If you haven’t watched yet, you can watch the long edit here, which in my opinion is much more compelling than the short edit that aired on TV.
My first thought while watching was that I wish both Annie Lobert and Bishop Carlton Pearson could have been replaced by more knowledgeable panelists. Not that they both don’t have interesting histories and worthwhile stories to tell, but they didn’t seem able to articulate their positions as well as the other panelists. I think this is especially the case with Annie. She has a great story and is doing great work now, but I struggle to find why she’s on this panel other than the whole idea of “Hookers for Jesus” along with her appearance were found to be a bit more “TV ready” by the producers of Nightline than many others who could have added significantly more strength behind the “Satan is real” position. How nice would it have been if instead we had NT Wright and Elaine Pagels on their perspective sides of the issue? But maybe I’m expecting way too much from ABC News.
I suppose that my position on the issue is probably more aligned with Deepak Chopra’s articulation of his argument with a little bit of Driscoll’s perspective thrown in. I believe that a large chunk of Chopra’s perspective is still reconcilable within Christianity. I agree with much of his main points but he really seemed uninterested in articulating his view in a way that was more relatable to Christians. Not that he was uncharitable, but he didn’t go out of his way to connect to those who are on the other side of the issue. Driscoll, on the other hand, seemed charitable and kind. I did think it was painfully ironic that Driscoll cracked on Chopra for being “demeaning” to other perspectives. Pot, meet kettle. Driscoll also criticized Chopra for saying that he had a more “enlightened view” than those on Driscoll’s side of the debate, which again, it’s funny to no end for those of us who’ve kept track of Driscoll making a career out of the exact same practice. Would Driscoll not call his theological view more enlightened than Doug Pagitt’s or Rob Bell’s? Give me a break, Mark. It’s like Barry Bonds complaining that the other players are taking steroids.
One of the main thrusts of Chopra and Pearson’s argument was to critique the mythology within Christianity, as evident by the commonly held belief in a literal Satan figure. I second this critique of the mythic, exoteric nature which is widely found in Christianity today. In moving forward, this is going to be huge hurdle for Christians to move beyond. Myths serve a purpose and myths have value, but we must move beyond the common myths prevalently found within Christianity. In my view, Satan as a literal figure of any kind is a myth. He serves as a visual symbol that represents the evil found in the human experience. I disagree with with Chopra and Pearson that acknowledging the existence of Satan is inherently dangerous to one’s spiritual development. It all depends on how we use the image of Satan in our understanding of evil. If Satan is a figure “out there”, separate from ourselves, causing us to participate in evil behavior, then I would agree that view would be unhelpful and invalid. But if we acknowledge that Satan represents our own personal and corporate capacity for evil, an evil that is found within, then giving that evil a physicality is often helpful in confronting that evil and moving beyond it.
Another interesting moment was when Annie was talking about how the Bible is “the standard” and how we can’t deviate in any way from what it teaches…..while wearing gold earrings and no head covering to be found. When Pearson pointed this out, Driscoll defended with the “you can’t judge her.” Again Mark, take a peek at your blog archive, por favor.
Another moment of interest was when Annie got emotional at the end. She had clearly been affected by Chopra and Pearson’s side of the argument. She made the appeal that “God is love” and he’s not about arguments but then in the same sentence she reiterated HER argument that Satan is real and that is that. I have no proof of this but I think her emotion is a reaction to her beliefs being firmly challenged rather than the argumentative nature of the debate. If you can’t handle having your ideas thoroughly challenged, then you should probably stay away from debating your view. But when our hallow certainties are challenged with well thought out positions, a panic can set in. All I can say is may we embrace and move through our doubts. It’s so much more fun on the other side. 😉