The Real Enemy This Halloween isn’t Demons, Says Jesus, But the Rich

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Religious Right demagogue Tony Perkins was asked by a caller why he doesn’t address how the “Enemy” uses Halloween, the “Satanic cultures,” as he refers to them, and Perkins’ answer is the source of great hilarity, stubbornly misinterpreting the words of not only Paul of Tarsus, but of Jesus himself.

This is Perkins’ answer. Take a listen courtesy of Right Wing Watch:

It’s a good point…I think you’re right, I think a lot of people get locked into this and they don’t realize that this is real, that there is a spiritual dimension, and I’ll go back to Ephesians 6:12 where it talks about what we war against, that it’s against principalities. Against powers, against rulers of the darkness in heavenly places. I mean, this is what we wrestle against.

“I think people – I don’t think it’s intentional in many cases but in some cases it may be – but I mean people are drawn into this and it can be very dangerous.

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Christianity developed in the milieu of Jewish apocalypticism, which, as explained by Bart Ehrman, “tried to make sense of the oppression of the people of God.” It couldn’t be God who was bringing this punishment of the righteous for Israel’s sins in the Bible, so logic went, but Satan. As Ehrman puts it, “God was still in control of the world in some ultimate sense, but for unknown and mysterious reasons he had temporarily relinquished his control of the forces of evil that opposed him.”[1]

Just as Christianity comes out of the milieu of Jewish apocalypticism, it is out of this early Christian understanding of the universe and Jesus’ role within it, that fundamentalist thinking about Spiritual Warfare comes.

Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, as has been recognized by Ehrman and others. If this is true, his teachings ought to match the ideas behind apocalypticism. And they do. Jesus’ opening pronouncement in Mark 1:15 is proof enough of this, when he says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Jesus is saying the present age, the age ruled by the dark powers (Satan and his minions) is coming to an end. Very soon, as we know, since Jesus believed it would come in his lifetime. A new age was dawning – the kingdom of God.

Having just spoken of the devil, here is what Paul said in Ephesians 6:12:

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

As Ehrman explains,

The future kingdom stands over against the present evil kingdoms to which God’s people are now subjected, kingdoms of hatred, want, and oppression. In the future kingdom, God’s people will be rewarded with a utopian existence. No wonder Jesus proclaimed the coming Kingdom as ‘good news’ to those who would listen. But it wasn’t good news for everyone – not, for example, for those who were already in power. For when the coming kingdom arrived those who were in power now would be overthrown. And the day of judgment was soon.[2]

In other words, the enemy for Jesus and Paul included, in Ehrman’s words, “those who are on the top of the socio-politico-economic heap.” Meaning not just politicians, but the rich. You know, the people behind the Religious Right. The people behind the Republican Party. The Kochs.

All of them, according to Jesus’ thinking, servants of Satan, the dark powers that rule this age.

And all of them will come toppling down when the “last will be first and the first will be last (Luke 13:29-30). When the poor, who are now oppressed by the Religious Right and the Republican Party, will find themselves on top of the heap, and the Kochs will wallow in the gutter in their place.

You might remember Psalm 74:2, where it says, “May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.”

The Kochs and ALEC and Fox News and the Republican Party – these are not the deliverers, but the oppressors. The guys, in Jesus’ words, working for Satan.

This is the future Jesus promised his listeners in the Sermon on the Mount, where he delivered the Beatitudes (Luke 6:20-26) you never find Religious Right figures mentioning:

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.

Why don’t they mention them? It should be obvious. They are not about to advertise that Jesus identified them as servants of Satan. After all, they want you to believe Satan’s real servants are gay people and Muslims and atheists and Pagans – and women, for crying out loud, our mothers, our sisters, our daughters.

But think about the people spreading the hate these days, people whose names appear regularly on this site:

Pat Robertson is filthy rich (somewhere between $140 million and a billion). Billy Graham is worth $25 million. Kenneth Copeland’s digs are a “18-thousand square foot home valued at $6.3 million,” John Hagee is rich, John McCain is worth about $100 million, and Joel Osteen actually told Piers Morgan that apologizing for his wealth is “almost an insult to our God.”

Of course, all of these servants of Satan pale in comparison to people like Rupert Murdoch, worth $12.5 billion, or even worse, the Kochs, who are worth more than $100 BILLION these days.

How does that equate to Jesus saying, “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation”?

Remember, Jesus told his disciples that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). Remember that in apocalyptic thinking, the kingdom of God is not heaven, but the age which follows the present age ruled by Satan. In other words, the age his gospel is heralding.

The rich, to be blunt, are not going to survive the change of regime, because the rich are part of Satan’s regime.

In other words, the problem with Halloween isn’t kids walking around in scary costumes and falling prey to Satanic influences. According to Jesus, we already have a far more dangerous group who have fallen prey to Satanic influences.

If you want to wear something scary this Halloween, dress up like a rich people, because according to Jesus they are servants of Satan. This is not an angry, wealth-redistributing liberal speaking. This is theology. These are the words of Jesus of Nazareth, the guy these alleged Christians call their “Lord.”

Notes:
[1] Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Third Edition. Oxford University Press, 2004, 244-246.

[2] Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford University Press, 1999, 141-142.

13 Replies to “The Real Enemy This Halloween isn’t Demons, Says Jesus, But the Rich”

  1. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

    Mark 10:25 (KJV)

    Sorry guys but that’s from YOUR rule book. [wink]

  2. You want the first to be last and the last to be first (politically speaking)? Do away with all private financing of political campaigns. And just for the sake of sanity, and so that members of the House actually have the time to do their job (that is, when they’re are willing to do it), let’s limit campaigning to the final 90 days prior to an election. That is giving the power back to the people.

  3. I have seen no mask more frightening than the faces of these arrogant people, who have already loosed Hell on Earth.

  4. To paraphrase any Republican anywhere “I’m not a theologian, but…”. Knowing the self-contradictory nature of the Bible in many places, is there any passage in there that praises the rich? I would tend to doubt it or the minions would have that one enshrined in stone next to the Commandments.

  5. Well Tessa, wealthy democrats tend not to be as vocal or as bombastic as wealthy Rep. or Cons.. They tend to WORK quietly behind the scenes doing for REAL what Republicans crow about and beat their chest over. Also moneyed Democrats put their wealth into pursuit’s that HELP rather than hinder the American public, when Repubs. invest money it is to help ONLY the people THEY chose. There is an advertisement for therapy on this page, I suggest all of those who still believe in Santa Claus for adults to log on or call that site.

  6. Wealthy Democrats are pushing for more taxes on the rich, environmental protections, education, etc.. The Kochs are trying to gut every social program and environmental protection that impedes their ability to make money. It is not wealth that is the problem, it is what they do with their wealth that matters.

  7. I am a big fan of Ehrman, but I think you are misinterpreting both Ehrman and that passage Ephesians. The beliefs of Jesus are not relevant for that passage, but the beliefs of a pseudonymous author writing in the name of Paul, who did not have seem to have any animosity toward the rich (he himself was at least somewhat rich or he could not have afforded to hire a scribe to write). How do you reconcile your interpretation with the phrase, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh”? Are not the rich made of blood and flesh?

  8. Of the 13 Epistles that made it into the New Testament, only seven are indisputably Paul’s: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians and Philemon. Of the remaining six, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are all questionable.

    But scholars disagree to what extent Paul’s voice can be found in these six letters. Michael Grant’s verdict is that “It cannot be denied that Ephesians, the great ecumenical Letter, and Colossians, which presents Christ as the answer to men’s questions about the cosmos, do not read quite like the rest of Paul: they show signs of having been somewhat rewritten and worked up at a later period, though they probably go back to him for their principal themes and are still to a considerable degree Pauline in character.”

    Take from that what you will.

  9. At that time in history, a camel referred to a large cable of rope, but the meaning is the same. Jesus wasn’t against wealth, but against what wealth can do to a man, how he can develop a rich man’s heart that is hardened against the poor and those in need, clinging instead to his wealth as his personal salvation and only those likeminded wealthy people had any value. By that very definition, the Kochs are at the top of the list, and that list is far too long. Unfortunately, it also includes way too many who wear the mantle of Christianity not only as a cloak of convenience, but as a means of further profit.

  10. As for evil, as Michael Grant explains,

    “Paul saw sin as a terrible power implanted and lodged in human beings, an enslaving force which holds them in its power and embraces their whole existence, so that they catastrophically’miss the mark’- for that is what the Greek term hamartia, which he found in his Greek Bible, the Septuagint, signifies. The word occurs no less than sixty-two times in the Letters attributed to Paul – forty-eight times in Romans alone. For he is obsessed by the utter, catastrophic degradation of the world…even the best among men and women…seem to him tainted or poisoned at the core” (Saint Paul, 31).

    You have to remember the Iraq War. The Religious Right had no problem warring on Saddam Hussein, even with the spiritual dimension through which they viewed the war.

    Hope this helps.

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