Where This Meets That
Then the devil took [Jesus] up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” – Matthew 4:8-10
It is interesting to note in the above passage that Jesus doesn’t flatter Satan with debate; he simply commands him to leave. Were I Jesus, I might have been tempted to snoot and retort that Satan couldn’t give me anything that wasn’t his to give.
If, of course, I knew it to be true.
Jesus’s response is therefore pregnant with the prospect that Satan indeed has dominion over “all the kingdoms of the world”.
The Book of Revelation describes Satan’s expulsion from Heaven and subsequent exile on Earth (Rev. 12:9) and follows with a warning of Satan’s great fury (12:12). So, biblically speaking, it can indeed be inferred that Satan has dominion over Earth. After all, the Fall of Man story depicts mankind as scrapping its fidelity to God for Satan, emulating the same prideful ambition that cost Satan paradise.
Satan’s sovereignty over our world is not, of course, the only conclusion we can derive from these few passages, but it is certainly interesting fodder for thought and, frankly, would explain a great deal.
Which brings me to the heart of this post: Is Earth Hell?
The Problem of Evil
Philosophers and theologians have grappled for centuries with the problem of evil. How can we reconcile the tragedy, both man-made and naturally-occurring, that pervades the world every day with faith in an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good God? As men reason, it is difficult to do.
One place to start is to remember that man’s ways are not God’s ways. In fact, a step back reveals a world of man that operates quite differently from that advised by God through countless religions attributed to him. The humble self-sacrifice of love is a cornerstone to any legitimate spirituality, and it is the widest path toward peaceful coexistence among mankind.
My personal belief is that the pervasiveness of self-sacrifice in Heaven is what defines Heaven. On Earth, however, while there are countless self-sacrificing agents of peace at work, the human power structure undermines those efforts.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called it “the will to power”, attributing it to all living things. In humans, this trait takes the form of ambition and influence. Lord Acton later famously opined that, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Which one causes the other between power and corruption is a “chicken vs. egg” argument. I counter Acton’s blame for corruption on power with the idea that people who pursue positions of worldly power tend to be driven by ambition, which promotes an “ends justify the means” mentality. Ultimately, politics provides the highest platform for ambition, so, as Charles Dudley Warner famously said, “politics makes strange bedfellows.” Such individuals might pursue that ambition for noble reasons, but that ambition ultimately supersedes ideology via compromised values, the perpetual lure of the “bigger fish.”
Politics is a False Religion
As such, politics continually baptizes mankind in the waters of “original sin”. By promoting a worldly order of murky dogmas and false deities, politics is the religion of the world of man.
Regardless of what face a political machine dons, its game is derision, division, and death. Politics is a veil by which its “prophets” profit by manipulating masses of people to work for the collective, pay for the collective, and die for the collective as it suits an elite minority.
Karl Marx called religion “the opium of the people,” saying, “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.” I’m reminded of a line in the 1995 film The Usual Suspects when Kevin Spacey’s magnificent character declares, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”
Only the devil could mock true religion, spirituality, and natural law as do our heads of worldly states. By killing to “save”, enslaving to “free”, thieving to “enrich”, and so on, our elite don’t dare try to convince us that the devil doesn’t exist; instead, they just say he’s “over there“.
“Who Can Kill the Body . . .”
Sadly – and paradoxically – the clear prevalence of Satan’s work in the world and in human nature perverted seems to drive people away from God instead of toward him. The “more religious” swaths of society are being swallowed whole by the false religion of the political establishment, constantly “in search of of monsters to destroy,” to borrow a phrase from John Quincy Adams.
As a result, the face of true religion, of true spirituality, is hijacked by hatred. Haters may hide behind their guise of “justice”, and they might actually believe it, but make no mistake, it is hatred by which Satan cleverly plays on the animal part of man’s nature to subvert true religion in lieu of the worldly religion of politics.
Jesus said, “Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” and yet this fear is the precise lever by which governments win converts to their false religion in “all the kingdoms of the world”. By betraying the love that establishes the spirit of any true religion, we betray our relationship with God himself, for as John declares in his gospel, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar.” (1 John 4:20)
Grasping the Infinite
It is impossible for the finite to grasp the infinite. The finite constructs an understanding based on its dominant senses; sight, hearing, touch, etc.. These allow for navigation of our worldly lives but become deceptive when we take them for ultimate truth.
As increasingly imminent as our continually shrinking world becomes, the grander goal of eternity is all but snuffed out. If not in words, in deeds. It is difficult to dodge the perpetual cattle-prod to war, difficult to dodge the fear impulse to legislate against those different from ourselves, difficult to see just how simple the world really is.
Our world is not an end in itself. It clearly remains a very active battleground. This means that each of us still has some fight in our bones and souls to resist the gravity of worldly dominance. As Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently stated, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
We can even frame it in Darwinian terms. As any mutation might give a species advantage in one environment but leave it mortally weak in another, the will to love truly and humbly is a mutation from what Nietzsche called “the will to power”. Such a will leaves us fundamentally disadvantaged in a world where evolutionary niches in territory and trade are filled primarily by those seeking advantage. At the same time, those offering love at all costs can’t help but to find their niche in Heaven.
Our spiritual challenge is, therefore, to resist being “of the world” even while we must be “in the world”. This is the only movement that can achieve a lasting peace.