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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
 Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Third Edition. Oxford University Press, 2004, 244-246.
 Bart D. Ehrman, Jesus Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. Oxford University Press, 1999, 141-142.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.