Tump supporters need to look in the mirror if they wish to find the demon they fear, at least according to the biblical understanding of the devil and the demonic.
The devil is not pure evil. The devil or the demonic represents the temptation within, the human struggle to be good in a very broken and conflicted world.
In this sense, the demonic is really what you most fear in yourself.
This biblically based argument sheds a lot of light on the polling that shows fully 40% of Trump supporters say they think Hillary Clinton is a demon.
And how could we forget Trump himself called Hillary the devil in the second debate?
As with so much else about religion in politics, these accusations reveal a profound misunderstanding of who and what the devil and the demonic are according to the Christian scriptures as well as the Hebrew bible.
Most people just think of the Devil or Satan as the polar opposite of all that is godly and good. The figure of the Devil has been used over and over again in Christian history to personify the forces that oppose goodness in this world.
But isn’t that exactly who the Devil or Satan is, the personification of all evil? Well, no, in truth.
The devil or the demonic is the temptation within, both within the community and within oneself.
Religion scholar Elaine Pagels has aptly summed up what the biblical figure of Satan really challenges us to confront, “that this greatest and most dangerous enemy did not originate, as one might expect, as an outsider, an alien, or a stranger. Satan is not the distant enemy but the intimate enemy—one’s trusted colleague, close associate, brother…Whichever version of his origin one chooses, and there are many, all depict Satan as intimate enemy—the attribute that qualifies him so well to express conflict among Jewish groups. Those who asked, ‘How could God’s own angel become his enemy?’ were thus asking, in effect, ‘How could one of us become on of them?’”
This is, of course, also the question that is confronting the followers of Jesus who compose the gospels. In their struggle within and with the traditional Jewish teaching and practice of the time, these reformer Jews who were followers of Jesus of Nazareth, the writers of the gospels (composed between 70 and 100 C.E.), are trying to figure out why their own religious fellows reject them, sometimes violently. Matthew shows Jesus in a titanic struggle with the Jewish religious leaders of his time, the scribes and Pharisees, whom Jesus denounces as “children of hell.”(Matt. 23:15). This struggle reaches its Gospel climax in John.
At the deepest level, the figure of the Devil and the seemingly cosmic struggle with evil he represents is always actually an incredibly intimate struggle.
This struggle is not with the enemy far off, but with the friend, the neighbor and ultimately with oneself.
In truth, I also need to look in the mirror, as does any person, of any political persuasion, and ask, ‘am I falling into this trap of seeing those I profoundly oppose in this election as the source of all evil’?
And honestly, I do see a glimmer of my own fear and even loathing staring back at me in that mirror.
I must resist that, and invite you to do the same.
The real monster is demonizing others. Remember, when you mirror your enemy you become your enemy.
I choose to try not to do that, but it is hard.
One thing I do know, however, is that we will never save our democracy if we don’t resist demonizing one another.