How Long Will It Take for an Evangelical to Blame the Colorado Shooting on Satan?

How Long Will It Take for an Evangelical to Blame the Colorado Shooting on Satan? July 20, 2012
Evangelist Greg Stier is really mad at Satan for killing all those people in Colorado.

Too late! Greg Stier, of Dare 2 Share, already did:

This morning I got a text from my friend and fellow preacher Derwin Gray. He is a church planter and pastor in Charlotte, North Carolina but is best known for being “The Evangelism Linebacker.” Derwin traveled with Dare 2 Share for two years and we have grown a powerful friendship as a result.

Our text exchange was this,

“It’s crazy how shootings take place in Colorado”

“I don’t understand” (my response)

“I meant Columbine and now the shootings last night at the Batman movie.”

“I know. I just meant I don’t understand why this happens so much in Colorado.” (my response)

“I wonder if there is a demonic stronghold….”

My one word response was “probably.”

This little text exchange got me thinking. It got me thinking about another “Dark Knight” who ruled the heart of a gunman in Aurora last night. It got me thinking about Satan’s role in the Columbine massacre on April 20th, 1999 when he invaded the hearts of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. It got me thinking about Satan and the stranglehold he has in the souls of so many. Jesus tells us in John 10:10 that this dark knight, “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” and he did just that last night. He used the trigger finger of this twisted madman to steal innocence, kill people and destroy hope.

Frankly, as broken hearted as I am for the victims I’m infuriated with Satan. I’m sick and tired of his twisted, anti-God, anti-life ways. Yeah, yeah, I know that James Holmes is the 24 year old suspect the police have in custody and the judge won’t buy “the devil made me do it” defense. But, according to Jesus, we can’t hate James. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44 that we are to love and pray for our enemies.

But, in times like this we have to hate someone, and the best person to hate is the worst…Satan himself. I hate him for the deception he unleashes in the hearts of so many. I hate him for the destruction he has been directly or indirectly involved with since the beginning of time. I hate him for his hatred of everything God and everything good.

So, it seems that Satan is the problem. Not lax gun laws, not mental illness, not even human sin. Nope, it’s the result of an evil supernatural creature who has the ability to control human actions, and even to murder people.

And, it would seem that there’s nothing God can do to stop it.

Seriously, at some point we’ve got to take away the name “evangelical” from those who don’t proclaim “good news.” Cuz, you know, that’s what it means.

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  • Tony,

    in light of the tragic events, why take cheap shots at Greg and I?

    Perhaps your time would be better used calling Greg and seeing how you can join him in praying for the victims families?

    Could lax guns, mental illness, and sin all could be the cause of such a heinous action? Yes. And so could the influence of the demonic world.

    • Melody

      He is not taking cheap shots. You are exploiting these people’s pain and loss to make an opportune religious statement. You should be ashamed of yourself.

      • Thank you Melody, I think you nailed it.

    • R. Jay Pearson

      Derwin . . . Greg Stier’s response (the entirety of it, from his website), at its core, was nothing but theology, demonology, and soteriology. In other words, fluff. Even his call to prayer was, in the end, akin to a marketing device to advance his brand of systematic religion and/or philosophy. I’d be more willing to commend Stier on his call to prayer if his message wasn’t so thoroughly academic, his style so awkwardly sanctimonious, and his approach so obviously transparent. And all of it suspiciously insincere.

      But yes indeed, as is natural for all us Christians, let us pray for all involved and affected by this sad event. God be with all, God bless all.

    • Derwin,

      That’s the question that you should be asking Greg.

      And secondly, they’re not mutually exclusive. In other words, I don’t think I have to choose between calling out Greg’s bad theology and praying for the victims.

  • Dn4sty

    I totally understand your point, but I guess I would say right point, wrong time.

    Just doesn’t make sense why you chose now to publish this now.

  • Ben Hammond

    I can definitely get behind this line either way:

    “But, according to Jesus, we can’t hate James. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44 that we are to love and pray for our enemies.”

    • toddh

      Yeah, I agree. Regardless of what you think of the rest of it, you gotta love that line.

  • Matt

    Actually, Tony, it’s more fundamentalists who are quick to blame Satan. Most evangelicals would not, so please don’t be so accusatory toward evangelicals.

    • I thought about using “fundamentalist” instead of “evangelical” in the title. Probably, I should have.

  • Dec

    While I have no interest in defending American evangelicalism, this post seems to miss the heart of the New Testament entirely.

    Jesus and his followers were not known for their advocacy of stricter weapons laws. They were not known for their scientific insight into mental illness. They didn’t even see human sin as the greatest enemy. They were known, in large part, as people whose deity granted them power over sinister supernatural creatures. Indeed, as Rodney MacMullen explains, that was a primary reason for conversion. Satan (however you understand this word) had control of a human being, the God of the Christians released the human being from this control, people witnessed this and put their faith in this God.

    We modern folk may not be able to take that narrative seriously, but by at least bringing the word “satan” into the picture, Greg is closer to the Gospels (if not the gospel) than you give him credit for. I certainly don’t subscribe to everything he writes, but our attempt to keep supernatural beings out of the picture entirely is a subversion of the Jesus story that actually makes the Gospels quite unintelligible.

    • R. Jay Pearson

      Dec . . . While it could be successfully argued (contrary to your assertion) that Jesus as king of the Jews did, in fact, advocate stricter weapons laws (“Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” — Matthew 26:52), at issue, ultimately, is how the ancient narrative of the New Testament (in terms of how its text conveys matters relating to interruptions in human wellness, such as “demon” possession or influence) is to be interpreted. Literally? Allegorically? Is it “real” history? Is it sacred fable? Were the NT writers objective (especially considering their first century perspectives on nature and its activities were informed by religion rather than scientific observation)?

      All these must be considered in any honest discussion of implications to the Gospel such as you stated, i.e., that the casting out of demons was an integral means to the apostles’ evangelical ends and that, as such, it is “at the heart of the New Testament.”

      • Dec

        R. Jay Pearson, I like what you say about Jesus arguing for stricter weapons laws. I may be exaggerating when I say “the heart of the New Testament”, but take out the cosmic battle narrative between powers of good and powers of evil, and the associated language (“satan”, “powers and principalities”, “prince of the power of the air” etc) and the New Testament will be extremely crippled in terms of what it’s trying to say. I’m pretty sure that in JVG, NT Wright argues that for Jesus it was not the Romans who were the real enemy, but the satan. (I imagine there might have been one or two bloggers back then sniggering to themselves, “How long before Jesus blames our oppression on Satan?”)

        You’re certainly right about an honest discussion being needed, but seeking to remove the satan dimension from the equation from the get go (as I interpret Tony to be doing) is to cease discussion entirely.

      • Luke 22:36 – “He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”

        Seems pretty inconsistent of Jesus, doesn’t it? This whole thing is muddled up. There are many things to be concerned about here and different sides are putting one over and against the other.

  • Dec

    Rodney? Try Ramsey. There, that’s better.

  • Dec

    Ramsay. Third time’s a charm.

  • Brian P.
  • Dec

    Now *that’s” a response worthy of scorn. One wonders what kind of Christian values he is seeking to protect when he questions why nobody brought a gun to the cinema.

  • Stephanie

    I don’t mean to be rude, but can I just cut in for a second?

    I don’t see how arguing or debating or whatever you want to call it will comfort the families who have just loat imPortant people in their lives. Hell, i’m just a 16 year old, what do I know? But this can’t be solving anything: the blaming, the accustions. You all need to drop it now otherwise these shootings are going to expand to a whole new level of pain for the victims.

    Isn’t there a bible verse about helping those in pain? If not, i still believe that this isn’t the best thing for everyone to be doing.

    An before someone says “hey steph, why dont you get off the internet and do something?” Then I will tell you why.

    Why? Because I’m 16, i have no power, no one will listen to me. Which is why i am angrily typing this hoping someone will listen to this post and take in what I have to say…

    • Wes

      I hear you, Stephanie, and I agree. Everyone is all too eager to point the finger in an attempt to make themselves feel superior.

    • I think you made a good point, Stephanie. I heard you, and I hope others hear you as well.

    • Melody

      Stephanie, you are wise beyond your years. I know it seems frustrating, but people are listening mow closely to you than you think. And as to this situation, you’re absolutely right. Keep speaking up.

      • Melody

        That should read “more,” not “mow.”

  • Dec

    I hear what you’re saying, Stephanie, but if blogging is only to be done when there is nothing tragic going on in the world, then no one should ever blog.

    Actually, on second thought, maybe you have a point.

  • Amy

    Tony, thank you for this post. As a chaplain at a hospital in Denver I spent about 10 hours today talking with patients, their families, and staff about this tragedy in and among the myriad of other tragedies that happen at a trauma center. I have no doubt that evil exists in the world and that evil was behind this act (but I feel like personifying evil and blaming it on Satan is a convenient excuse that exempts us from looking at our sin and how our own actions perpetuate evil), but more so, blaming it on Satan is an attempt to explain something that is completely unexplainable. But it is a damn good thing that the grace of God is also completely unexplainable. This city is my home, these people are my people, and what I hear coming up from my community is love. Love in response to unspeakable tragedy, not just for the victims but the shooter and his family as well. THAT is where God is and what God is doing in Colorado. Those who are blaming the shooting on Satan are not here and are not experiencing what we are. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

  • “We modern folk may not be able to take that narrative seriously, but by at least bringing the word “satan” into the picture, Greg is closer to the Gospels (if not the gospel) than you give him credit for. I certainly don’t subscribe to everything he writes, but our attempt to keep supernatural beings out of the picture entirely is a subversion of the Jesus story that actually makes the Gospels quite unintelligible.” -Dec

    This. The presence of satanic influence in this fallen world is something Jesus and His Apostles took very seriously…yet without appealing to “the devil made them do it” (which you are characterizing the author as doing). There may not be a demon under every rock…but believing that the enemy of the “Good News” doesn’t have any influence in humans committing heinous evil against one another is as naive as the rankest fundamentalism which declares everything to be the work of satan.

    Truth is in the middle.

  • Hey Tony. You asked what you should write some more about. I think you might have found it. Do more devil writing. People are really into the devil.

    • Dec

      While I don’t want you to think that the humour of this is lost on me, that’s actually not a bad idea. Can progressives like Tony talk about “satan” in a way that does justice to the New Testament literature and thought-world, as opposed to talking about satan the way Pat Robertson talks about satan? Or must that kind of language simply be removed from present-day faith?

  • Tracy

    I was just thinking a couple of weeks ago — when 9/11 happened, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell blamed feminists, homosexuals, –you know, the usual suspects. And Robertson and Hagee had a field day after New Orleans experienced the hurricane in 2003– obviously, all that sin! And of course, when Haiti had an earthquake it was because of devil worship on the island. (That was Robertson again.) So when Colorado Springs was surrounded by wildfire a few weeks ago I wondered, where will the blame land? Focus on the Family? The Air Force Academy? I don’t remember hearing an attribution.

    Today’s catastrophe was Satan’s though. Got it.

  • Sorry Tony, I’m with Stephanie here. I respect you greatly, and enjoy reading your blog, but I fail to see how posts like this are any different than the sola scriptura “discernment blogs.” your voice comes off as sarcastic, bitter, and unloving.

    Do you presume to know exactly what the spiritual concept of “Satan” represents? I see your point – that blaming Satan can create a shift away from human responsibility, but it seems to me that Satan is a spiritual being/concept created by God for this very purpose—to give us an avenue to cast blame without judging the souls of one another. Whether He exists or is to blame is irrelevant, but to judge others is to commit the same sin that the Pharisees were so guilty of.

  • Evelyn

    Inasmuch as Satan is the personification of destructive forces, then, yes, the problem here ultimately is Satan. Unfortunately, “hating” Satan is like “hating”, for example, an anthropomorphized tornado and pretending that that tornado unleashes it’s destruction on us because it hates us. I think the better thing to do is to de-anthropomorphize the tornado and try to understand it regardless of the “evil” attributes that we give to it.

    Trying to make sense out of evil is not something that compassionate and loving people should necessarily do in public. However, if I were to try to make sense out of this event, I would say that the shooter made the gratuitous violence that the moviegoers were watching on screen into something real. I think that God takes violence very seriously. Because we are inured to it by watching it via entertainment media we don’t always realize what we are doing when we cheer over the deaths of say Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein or when we accept the invasion of a sovereign nation like Libya under a false rationalization that our mission was humanitarian rather than about controlling that countries’ natural resources. We dehumanize people and believe that killing them is something we should be happy about. We sit in the U.S. enjoying a relatively safe Walmart-leisure lifestyle while it depends on enslaving Chinese workers and causes unrest in regions of the world on whose resources we depend. So, yeah, I think we can expect that destructive forces are going to come back at us and we’re just going to have to bite the bullet, so to speak. If we’re smart, these destructive events will raise our awareness of what violence is REALLY LIKE. This is not to say that the shooter shouldn’t be locked up for life because there is obviously something very wrong with him but, at the same time, this doesn’t mean that the shooting should be considered complete nonsense as far as God is concerned and should simply be blamed on hateful demons that we can rail against and condemn and then pretend we’ve sent off to the pit of hell. Destruction is here to stay and, as much as we like to try to control it, it’s not going to go away.

  • On this one I will give the devil his due and cast my vote for him. Radical evil that can’t be ascribed merely to human choices is game for me.

  • Stephanie

    Thankyou to those who listened. Responding to those who have experienced the loss rather then bickering is the better thing to do.
    After all, why destroy when you can add?
    People destroy because its easier to destroy something then to create it. A fire can be quickly started, but regrowth afterwards takes years. Us as humans also have a natural tendency to destroy rather than create, because nature tells us its the easiest thing to do.
    But dont do that here: dont argue when you could help others with this horrible situation (the cinema massacre).
    But if you do, I wont hold it against you. Sometimes after a crime like this, all we can speak is destructive words and display bitter battles…

    • Evelyn

      Stephanie, I think there is a place for both compassion and discussion as a response to this tragic event. The former, compassion, is a direct response to human suffering. The latter, discussion, is a way to find solutions to avert future suffering.

  • Eric

    Wow Tony, you complain about so much about the people who “aren’t like you,” you’re starting to sound like John Piper. Just what we need, an emergent jerk to go along with the evangelical jerk.

    • Eric, every time I write something critical of another Christian leader, I get comments like yours. But, you see, I can about theology. I want to promote good theology and criticize bad theology. That’s the point of posts like these — it’s not personal, it’s professional.

      • Frank

        Tony if you are indeed interested in correct theology you probably should just scrap this blog and start over. You are not doing too well separating good and bad theology.

        • Evelyn

          I think Tony is doing awesomely in separating good and bad theology. Whenever I want to see indubitably bad theology, I read Frank’s comments.

          • Frank

            There is no surprise that like attracts like. I guess you can both move forward decieived if you choose.

      • Eric

        You know what, Tony? You are correct and I apologize for calling you a jerk and comparing you to JP. I shouldn’t respond to posts before coffee and I should have checked my emotional response at the door. The frustration stems from the anticipatory nature of your post that someone will absolutely blame this on Satan which I read as being a sarcastic smear against supernatural influence. It’s not what you were pointing too, so my bad. Next time I will read more carefully, drink coffee in the a.m. and keep my sarcasm at bay.

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  • I don’t know Greg or Derwin and I don’t know Tony.

    I have an honest question: Where does the idea that satan is an “evil supernatural creature who has the ability to control human actions, and even to murder people” stem from in this conversation? Sure the analogy of satan being a ‘Dark Knight’ was convenient, but was it literal?
    I understand satan to be the figure of the ‘accuser’, ‘adversary’, or ‘deceiver’. If this is the case then sure, the satan had an important role in the situation. But this takes no responsibility away from the human community that carries the responsibility of how it functions internally (i.e. lax gun laws, perpetuation of human sin, failure to love one another, etc. etc…)
    Do Greg and Derwin believe in a mythological-type figure/monster that both physically and spirutally looms behind the scenes controlling situations or is that something Tony has imported into their understanding of satan?
    The way I see it, both understandings could be read into what Greg posted. Unless there is a place (if there is, obviously I haven’t seen it) where Greg and/or Derwin explain how they teach and live according to their concept of satan, then I have to read Tony’s post as assuming something that is otherwise unclear.