A priest and performer considers religion, the arts, and the often thin space between sacred and secular, church and culture, pulpit and pew.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Temptation Narratives from the Perspective of Satan: A Monologue for the First Sunday in Lent

You’ve heard it said: If at first you don’t succeed…try, try again. But I say to you: If at first you DO succeed, why not capitalize on your success? At least, that’s how it started.

I will never forget that first time. It was so easy. And that surprised me. I figured with everything new and perfect, with the relationship between creature and Creator just beginning to blossom, coaxing those two away would be a challenge. But it wasn’t.

I could never really understand why God did it – “creation”, I mean. He had that perfect place – beautiful and harmonious – except for that one time, of course, and that was MY doing! Some folks said He was lonely. But how could God be lonely? I mean all those angels and archangels and seraphim and cherubim and principalities and powers; constantly singing the praises of the Deity. I sang right along, back in the day always a little under the pitch, always just behind the beat, always getting dirty looks from that goody-two-shoes Michael.

And there was always that One – always present, always quiet, just “there” at – which side was it? God’s right side, I think. Do I miss that place? Not much. Was my rebellion worth it? Of course it was. Of course it was….

But, I digress….

So there they were. In the middle of that garden. With that big tree. Everything in that garden was theirs for the taking – well, almost. Everything in that garden was theirs for the taking except for the fruit of that one tree. You’d have thought they’d be satisfied, and perhaps they were.

But you see, from my point of view it was just so tempting, and they don’t call me “Tester of Loyalties” for nothing! I just had to see what it would take to ruin it all. Well, it didn’t take much. Who knew a serpent, of all God’s creatures, could be so persuasive? And how did such a creature even get into that perfect setting in the first place…? Ah, that’s a story for another time.

Anyhow, as I said, it didn’t take much, and it didn’t take long. A little persuasion, a little reassurance that they wouldn’t actually die (whatever that even meant) a couple of quick and tasty bites. Then came the confrontation with their Creator; and that was the end of THAT perfect “paradise”! When those two understood that “naked” is what they were; when they were driven out, fig leaves and all; when they discovered what it does, in fact, mean to die; that’s when I knew I had them in the palm of my hand.

“Be fruitful and multiply,” God had tole them. Boy, did they ever! First came their two sons – nasty business!
Fratricide in an open field. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Evidently not.

They were just the first. And as time went on, I watched them fall like dominoes, generation after generation. (Oh, that golden calf was inspired!) Kings, rulers, generals, the common folk…even the so-called “faithful”,
could not resist what life with me promised.

And so it went, on and on and one. Until it all changed.

The One who had always been present, whom I remembered so vividly from my time in that other realm
arrived to walk this earth, not so different from anyone else, it appeared – but I knew what was up.

Born in a stable. Really? A stable? I tried hard to nip that in the bud. Just a little whisper in King Herod’s ear would surely do the trick. And it would have, too, if it weren’t for that busybody Gabriel and his late-night dream visitations.

So I waited. And waited. I waited until, of all things, the very Spirit of God set up the opportunity. “This is my Son, the Beloved” – now get thee into the wilderness.

And there He was, in the desert, fasting. All alone. Maybe he’d like some company. Surely I had him now, just like the two in that garden so long ago.

We hadn’t seen each other in so very long. I was well-fed and sassy; he was thin: gaunt and wasted. And that gave me my first idea.

“Here,” I said, “these stones. Surely you of all people can turn them into anything you want. Bread, perhaps? You must be famished.” But no, he would rather “live by God’s word”. Strike one.

So I took him with me to a place I don’t usually frequent – to the very house of God. To the highest point on the top of the temple. “Here,” I said, “look how high we are. Think how powerful you’d feel just gliding through the air. Why not jump? Surely you of all people can make the angels catch you before you hit the ground.” But no, he had no interest in testing the Deity that way. Strike two.

So I thought, and I thought; and finally it came to me. We went up to a mountain top - and from there we could see all the “kingdoms” of the world, all the places of power and wealth and undeserved privilege, where people had given me their souls and they didn’t even realize it. “Here,” I said, “look at all this influence, all these riches. Surely you of all people deserve to have all this; and I alone can give it to you.”

He looked me right in the eye. And I saw that I had underestimated this rival, and I knew I had lost. It was over.
For now. Strike three.

A lesser fallen angel might have quit right then and there. But quitting has never been my style. I have all kinds of patience. After all, I’ve got all the time in – well, in the world. At some point – who knows? There might even be another contest. But the world is a big place, it’s a troubled place, and if there’s one thing my experience has taught me, it’s this: There will always be others. Lots and lots of others.

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