Last night my husband and I watched Insidious (2010), a suspense thriller about a family whose oldest son is being pursued by evil spirits. While this next image could be a spoiler alert, it was all over the internet and in several trailers, so I don’t feel so guilty for sharing it.
(Image courtesy of tumblr.com)
That’s supposed to the the principle threat to the young boy; this demon peeking out behind the boy’s father. Maybe it’s just who I am, but he looks like a shaggy sibling version of Darth Maul from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menance (1999). Apparently I am not alone in this since when I googled “insidious demon” you get a whole gallery of people who think the demon is a rip off of the Star Wars villain. Needless to say, I wasn’t scared when this guy popped up. In fact, it only got worse and his fear factor tanked when it was revealed that he had goat legs and cloven feet. Really? It’s worse than copied, and familiar; it’s campy.
We have plenty to fear in this world, but absurdly depicted evil spirits aren’t high on my list. As a student of religion I have studied Judaism and you cannot do that without studying the Holocaust. If you want to see some real evil, then you don’t have to look much farther than the organized, incremental efforts by the Nazis to use science and technology to commit genocide. The scary part is that the Nazis were not super human, despite their claims. They were not possessed by the devil and simply puppets who were pawns in this atrocity. They were human beings like you and me, only when they caved to their inner sinful self, it took human evil to new heights.
I remain haunted by the scripture in the Gospel of Matthew which recounts Jesus explaining his parable about eating unclean food not defiling the body. He says this:
Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile” (Matthew 15:16-20 NRS).
The evil we have to fear comes from the human heart, according to Jesus. It is the wellspring of evil, and it is within us. We are capable of heinous wickedness. Our propensity to sin is only compounded by our intellect and strong will. I watch movies like Insidious and I am not afraid. I get more anxiety and lose sleep when I watch the news. The horrors there where parents beat and neglect their own children, innocent people are raped, tortured, and killed, and entire populations are systematically decimated are more than enough to frighten me. It is because I know that we are not only capable, but responsible for these evils that I fear for this world. Unfortunately, too many people do not want to admit that humankind is the purveyor of its own terrifying evil. We do not want to be fully accountable for it either, so we lean on the concept of demonic forces. We refuse to confront that each and every one of us is capable of evil of unimaginable depravity.
If we are to be Christians, then we have to confront this concept, if for no other reason than the mere reality that Jesus speaks to it. He traces evil intentions, the birth of evil action, to the heart. Our hearts, residing deep within our chests, the core of our being, can be the seat of sinfulness. We have to acknowledge that if we have any hope of being one who does not perpetuate evils. We are not without hope, without help. Christ, who knows who we are and what we can do, still loves each of us. The Holy Spirit is present with us to give us strength. The Father is ready, willing, and able to forgive us of our trespasses, even when those evil intentions never leave the heart and manifest themselves. Christians know evil. We know we have our own role to play in its presence on this earth, but we replace fear with faith. Fear incapacitates while faith empowers. We know the truth about evil and we have all that we need to conquer it thanks to Jesus Christ. A world without him? Now that is something to fear.