Hell. Is it Real?

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By Mark RodgersLast week Paris, the City of Love, was a battleground of Hell.   And it was real.  And most people say the rampant killing was an act of pure evilFor a secularized West, there are no categories for hell or an encounter with evil.  The religious wars of Europe largely ended in the mid-17th century, and the Enlightenment subsequently domesticated religion.  In fact, the Academy long ago settled the issue -- God is Dead.   Religion was on its way out as progress was on its way in.In the song God, John Lennon sang: “God is a Concept by which we measure our pain; I don't believe in magic. I don't believe in Bible. I don't believe in Jesus. I don't believe in Buddha. I just believe in me, Yoko and me, and that's reality. The dream is over.”Bed-In_for_Peace,_Amsterdam_1969_-_John_Lennon_&_Yoko_Ono_13Or so he thought.In the name of God, and with the hope of Heaven in hand, men and women are choosing to blow themselves up and take as many infidels with them as possible.  In this case, religion is not just a tool of manipulation used by political despots to expand their borders, it is something more. But what is it?  Perhaps we have to be willing to put on spiritual lenses ourselves to see it.In their retort to Lennon, U2 responded in God Part 2: “Don't believe the Devil, I don't believe his book, but the truth is not the same without the lies he made up ... Don't believe in forced entry, don't believe in rape, but every time she passes by wild thoughts escape ... Don't believe in Death Row, Skid Row or the gangs, Don't believe in the Uzi It just went off in my hands.”1401x788-79985692According to U2, evil is real, not just a figment in need of therapy.  Just as sin is the one theological assertion that we all can verify, so is the influence of evil inside and outside of our personal experience.Pioneer musician Larry Norman took it one step further in God Part 3:  “I don't believe in Beatles, I don't believe in rock, I don't believe in the cutting edge, that's just journalist talk ... I don't believe in the cover story or the gospel chart, You can easily hit number one with a bullet and totally miss the heart ... But I, oh I, believe in God.”Contrary to the cover of Time, God’s death was prematurely announced.  According to Gallup, last year 86% of Americans still believed in God, and 75% believed in Hell. In 2007, 70% believed in the Devil and 75% in angels.And in fact, a recent New York Times article announced that zombies and vampires are out, and “40 years after “The Exorcist,” demonic possession is back.”  15-controversial-magazine-covers-6The article points out that “Belief in a demonic presence is a part of many religions, notably Catholicism. Mark Neveldine, who directed this summer’s film “The Vatican Tapes,” says Pope Francis is helping drive the new interest in exorcism. The pope is a Jesuit, whose members believe in the everyday reality of Satan. To them, their order has a special mission to fight demonic forces on earth.”Could the evil being perpetrated by ISIS force the West to put on spiritual lenses and see a more complex reality than the Enlightenment lense allows us to see?C.S. Lewis said that “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 unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”I think we materialists in the West have thought about him too little.  As Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reminds us: “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”In God Part 2, U2 cites the Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn:"Heard a singer on the radioLate last nightSays he's gonna kick the darknessTill it bleeds daylight"We will not defeat ISIS through military power alone.  To kick the darkness it will take prayer and other spiritual weapons, including the greatest weapon all … loving our enemies.John Lennon would have been 75 this year.  Had he held on to his faith, “love our enemies” is a refrain he could have sung.  Can you?