The video at the bottom of this post is of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. It is a fascinating excerpt from a longer video he did, where he analyzes the diabolical (anything of or relating to the Devil), from several different perspectives. In the excerpt I present, he identifies three characteristics of the diabolical by examining the story of the Gerasene demoniac, depicted in the synoptic gospels. Here is the story as Luke presents it:
They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places. Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him.. (Luke 8: 26-30)
You will then recall how Jesus drove the demon(s) out and into the herd of swine.
From this story and also based on an insight from a psychiatrist of his time (the talk was given in the mid 1970s), Bishop Sheen sets forth characteristics of the diabolical:
- Love of Nudity – For the text says: For a long time this man had not worn clothes.
- Violence – For the text says: though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains. Mark 5:4 more vividly adds: For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.
- Division (Split Personality and divided from others) – for the text says, many demons had gone into him. Mark’s version has the demoniac reply My name is Legion, for we are many. (Mk 5:9). Further all the texts say the demoniac lived apart from others, in solitary places.
So here are three characteristics of the diabolic.
It does not take much analysis to see how these three characteristics of the diabolic are alive and flourishing in the modern world, at least the Western branch of it. Let’s consider them
1. Love of Nudity - This is clearly manifest at several levels. First there is the widespread tendency of immodest dress. We have discussed modesty here before and ought to note that modesty comes from the word “mode” referring to the middle or to moderation. Hence, while we want to avoid oppressively puritanical notions about dress that impose heavy burdens (especially on women) and regard the body as somewhat evil, we must also critique many modern forms of dress at the other extreme. These “fashions” reveal more than is reasonable and generally have, as their intent to draw attention to aspects of the body that are private and reserved for sexual union in marriage. Too many in our culture see little problem parading about in various stages of undress, wearing clothing that are more intended to disclose and call attention to, than to conceal the private areas of the body. This love of disclosure and titillation is surely an aspect of the Evil One’s love of nudity, and he has surely spread his obsession to many in the modern West.
Pornography, though nothing new in this fallen world, has surely reached epidemic proportions via the Internet. Any psychotherapist, counselor or priest will tell you that addiction to pornography is a huge problem among people today. Pornographic sites on the Internet outpace all others tenfold. Multimillion Americans are viewing enormous amounts of pornography and the “industry” is growing exponentially. What was once hidden away in adult bookstores is now one click away on the Internet. And the thought that browsing habits are easily discoverable matters little to the addicts of this latest form of slavery. Many are on a steep slope downward into ever more deviant forms of porn. Many end up at illegal sites before they even know what has happened to them, and the FBI is knoocking on their door. Satan’s love of nudity has possessed many!
The overall sexualization of culture also ties in to Satan’s love of nudity. We sexualize women to sell products. We even sexualize children. Our sitcoms chatter endlessly about sex in a very teenage and immature sort of way. We are, collectively, goofy and immature about sex, and our culture giggles like horny teenagers obsessed with something we don’t really understand. Yes, Satan loves nudity, and everything that goes with it.
2. Violence – We have discussed here before how we, collectively, have turned violence into a form of entertainment. Our adventure movies and video games turn violent retribution into gleeful entertainment and death into a “solution.” Recent Popes have warned us of the culture of death, where death is increasingly proposed as the “solution” to problems. In our culture violence begins in the womb, as the innocent are attacked and it is called “choice” and “rights.” The violence and embrace of death continues to ripple through culture through contraception, violent gang activity, easy recourse to war and capital punishment. The past Century was perhaps the bloodiest ever known on this planet and untold people in the hundreds of millions died in two world wars, hundreds of regional wars and conflicts, horrific starvation campaigns in the Ukraine, in China and elsewhere, genocides in Central Europe, in Africa and Southeast Asia. Paul Johnson, in his book Modern Times estimates that over 100,000,000 died in war and violent ways in the just the first 50 years of the 20th Century. And with every death, Satan did his “snoopy dance.” Satan love violence. He loves to set fires, and watch us blame each other as we burn.
3. Division - Satan loves to divide. Archbishop Sheen says that the word “diabolical” comes from two Greek words dia+ballein, meaning “to tear apart.” My own study of Greek, poor that it is, does not yield this result. Rather dia means “through” or “between” and ballein means “to throw or to cast.” Nevertheless, the Good Archbishop was a learned man and I ask you Greek Scholars to set me straight and defend Bishop Sheen.
But, even still, it is clear that the devil wants to divide us, within our very own psyche and among each other. Surely he rejoices at every division he causes. He “casts things between us” (dia+ballein)! Diabolical indeed. And thus, we see our families divided, the Church divided, our culture and Country divided. We are now divided at almost every level: racial, religious, political, economic. We divide over age, race, region, blue and red states, liturgy, music, language, and endless minutia.
Our families are broken, our marriages are broken. Divorce is rampant and commitments of any sort are rejected and deemed impossible. The Church is broken and divided into factions, so too the State, all the way down to the level of school boards. Though once we agreed on essentials, now even appeals to shared truth are called intolerant.
And within too, we struggle with many divisive drives and forms of figurative and literal schizophrenia. We are drawn to what is good, true and beautiful and yet what is base, false and evil also summons us. We know what is good, but desire what is evil, we seek love, but indulge hate and revenge. We admire innocence but often revel in destroying it or at least replacing it with cynicism.
And Satan dances his “snoopy dance.”
Three characteristics of the diabolic: love of nudity, violence, and division. What do you think? Is the prince of this world working his agenda? Even more important: are we conniving? The first step in over-coming the enemy’s agenda is to know his moves, to name them and then rebuke them in the Name of Jesus.
Thank you Archbishop Sheen. Your wisdom, God’s Wisdom, has never aged.
Pay attention to What the Good Archbishop has to say: