“In the beginning, the devil created. …” Wait a minute. That’s not how the Bible begins.
Or creation for that matter. Genesis 1:1 reads: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The point here is that God is the Creator. The devil is only a spoiler, a cad who lives to destroy truth, beauty and life and to devour human souls. That’s his job, and he does it all too well. He creates nothing but sorrow and regret.
1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
The devil has many tools at his disposal. One of them is moral equivalence. That’s when his chosen pawns assert a right to trash something on the grounds that trashing is the same as creating or celebrating.
Exhibit A in this scheme is unfolding in Leesburg, Va., where atheists have persuaded county officials that the historic practice of having a creche and Christmas tree on the county courthouse lawn must be expanded to include mockery. Along with two small creches and a tree, three atheist displays openly attack Christianity, and one proclaims, “May the Force be with our combat troops.” It’s signed, “Your local Jedi.”
The devil also employs things that have merit to cover his tracks. Jenelle Embrey of Northern Virginia Atheists put up a letter from “Jesus” on a giant poster board on the grounds before the town’s annual Christmas parade. Here’s a snippet:
“It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking MY name out of the season.” The letter has 10 positive suggestions, including writing letters to our military, forgiving people who have hurt you, and doing something instead of complaining, and it ends with: “I love you, Jesus.” Hey, who can argue with that?
The Washington Post reported, straight-faced, that Ms. Embrey wrote the letter “to try to soothe some of the anger that came to the surface during the county’s debate over religious displays in the public space.”
Uh, maybe she did. Here’s what she told The Post:
“I wanted to try to promote peace and civility. Because it seems that the Christian group was the most defensive during the debate, I specifically addressed them in my letter, using some of the positive things out of their religion to try to appeal to them.”
The old master, leftist community organizer Saul Alinsky, couldn’t have put it better. Rule No. 4 in his 1971 manual, “Rules for Radicals,”says:
“Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”
Alinsky goes on: “The fourth rule carries within it the fifth rule: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also, it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.”
So, punch someone in the gut and then accuse him of overreacting. Make fun of what people hold sacred and then accuse them of being overly sensitive. Make a show of virtues, which implies that your opponents are hypocrites.
Diabolically shrewd. It’s why cultural radicals deploy videos with ants crawling across a crucified Christ and then call the devout “censors” when they object to their tax dollars being used to promote blasphemy and immorality. It’s why liberals quote the Constitution selectively in order to thwart that document’s clear meaning. It’s why atheists quote Scripture out of context in order to attack scriptural authority. “Judge not” is their favorite verse when they’re calling someone a bigot, for instance.
When these more subtle tactics fail, there’s always an old standby: violence. In Iraq, Egypt and other Muslim countries, there is murderous persecution. In the West, the attacks are usually symbolic.
In Great Britain in early December, vandals chopped up the Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury, whose roots are said to go back 2,000 years to the crucifixion of Christ. The legend says Joseph of Arimathea (who took Jesus’ body and buried it in his own tomb) journeyed to Britain, planted his staff on the hillside, and it sprouted as a tree. Over a rocky history, its roots have been replanted, and for the past 100 years, sprigs of “holy thorns” from the tree have adorned the royal family’s Christmas table.
It’s extrabiblical, meaning the legend has no scriptural foundation. No Christian is obliged to believe the story, with the Holy Grail thrown in it as well, but it can’t be denied that the tree is a symbol of Christianity (as are Christmas trees) and that the attack is widely regarded as an assault against Great Britain’s founding faith.
The devil’s best work is done with an unseen hand, when people don’t realize they are being manipulated. In 2 Corinthians 11:14, we’re warned that Satan “transforms himself into an angel of light.”
In his preface to “The Screwtape Letters,” C.S. Lewis notes that the kingdom of hell employs whatever it takes to fool humans:
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and an unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
When Christians see either delusion employed to tear down belief, the natural response may be anger. But knowing that we are all sinful creatures prone to error, Jesus commanded his flock to pray for its antagonists, who may yet find their way.
Saul Alinsky died in 1972. We don’t presume to know his spiritual mindset at the time of his departure from this earth, and we can only hope that he had a divine encounter beforehand. Otherwise, a clue to his ultimate fate may lie in his foreword to “Rules for Radicals,” in which he saluted “the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom - Lucifer.”
No wonder his advice is so devilishly clever.
Robert Knight is senior writer for Coral Ridge Ministries and a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.