Thursday, October 17, 2013

doing spiritual warfare sideways, stealthily, screwtape-ily...and with a little laugh,loud fart,red horns and a bit of pink paint

Old bad joke:

  • Kid 1: Do you believe in the devil?
  • Kid 2: Nah, I think it's like Santa Claus.
  • Kid 1: What ya mean?
  • Kid 2: It's really your dad!
Old pastor's line:

  • Pastor:I don't believe in the devil
  • Congregation: (stunned silence)
  • Pastor: (dramatic pause) I believe in Jesus!"Believing in someone means to put your ultimate trust in them. I believe the devil exists alright. I just don't put my ulimate trust in him."
Navigating spiritual warfare can be a delicate balance.

C.S. Lewis caught this in the classic preface  to the classic book, "The Screwtape Letters"
(Not many books have a classic preface! By the way there is a recently unearthed alternative preface here).

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.

How ironic that those who "do" the most spiritual warfare can wind up influenced the most by the devil.

I like Guy Chevreaux's image of waging spiritual warfare "sideways"...that is by focusing on Jesus, not the devil.  See also Jon Acuff's hilarious posts about praying to Satan and "putting the devil on notice" (sadly offline until this controversy is solved...sigh, itself possibly some spiritual warfare).

You can see what a risk Bono took....commercially, with Christian fans,
and spiritually... in the 1990s, when (influenced by Lewis and Screwtape), he began taking the stage in character as the devil ("MacPhisto").  Some classic moments emerged (see posts below tagged for "MacPhisto," as well as the  MacPhisto Center Stage website).

The act has seveal profound and prophetc points:

"I don't believe in preaching at people," he told me, during a 1982 interview. A constant theme in his music, he added, is the soul-spinning confusion that results when spirituality, sensuality, ego and sin form a potion that is both intoxicating and toxic. "The truth is that we are all sinners. I always include myself in the 'we.'...I'm not telling everybody that I have the answers. I'm trying to get across the difficulty that I have being what I am."

Bono took this inner conflict on stage during the media-drenched Zoo TV shows of the mid-1990s. The key moment was when the singer morphed into a devilish alter ego named Mister MacPhisto, who wore a glittering gold Las Vegas lounge suit and cheesy red horns.

Night after night, Bono would pull some girl out of the audience to join in his "Elvis-devil dance." Stockman's book includes a fascinating account of what happened one night in Wales, when one of these dance partners had an agenda of her own.

"Are you still a believer?" she asked. "If so, what are you doing dressed up as the devil?"

Their voices hidden by the music, Bono gave her a serious answer. "Have you read The Screwtape Letters, a book by C.S. Lewis that a lot of intense Christians are plugged into? They are letters from the devil. That's where I got the whole philosophy of mock-the-devil-and-he-will-flee-from-you," said Bono.

Yes, the girl said, she had read The Screwtape Letters. She understood that Lewis had turned sin inside out in order to make a case for faith.

"Then you know what I am doing," said Bono.

But no matter what happens on stage, plenty of believers remain convinced that Bono's devil suit was highly appropriate. While the singer and his band mates have made some mistakes, Stockman said he is convinced that the controversies that continually swirl around U2 are actually evidence of deeper divisions among believers.

U2 is attacking, in word and deed, the modern church's retreat from art and popular culture.

The church "has put a spiritual hierarchy on jobs," said Stockman. "Ministers and missionaries are on top, then perhaps doctors and nurses come next and so on to the bottom, where artists appear. Artists of whatever kind have to compromise everything to entertain. Art is fluffy froth that is no good in the Kingdom of God. What nonsense."
             Terry Mattingly

Who would've guessed that Bono dressed as the devil would, among other things
(The band needing to mock-the-devil-and-he-will-flee-from-them, sell a lot of records/tickets etc)
issue a call to the church to live out the priesthood of
all believers, and serve a flat Kingdom.

I bet the real devil really hated that.
As well as the critique of ecclesiology that Mac (no mean theologian) sideways-ly suggested:
"...the word 'effective' has led many churches astray. Because our goal is that God's power and purposes be at work through our weaknesses, we can concentrate not on the results, but the means in the very gifts of God's tabernacling...
As Yoder Nefeld points out, 'this is why alternative cultural forces of truth, justice and peace are so important. When they are yielded by a community that is in Christ; then its very life is exorcistic.'

The church's call is to exorcism, not effectiveness.
Perhaps one of the most recalcitrant spirits that needs to be exorcised is that of needing to be effective."

Surely the band's background in the charismatic renewal  (as mixed a bag as that was, they  almost drowned) helped give them the language and experience  to deal fairly directly (sideways?) with the devil in Berlin:

During the tour you'll also play the Olympia stadium in Berlin, the place Hitler built for the Olympic Games in 1936. At the moment, people are arguing over whether to begin the Olympic Games of the year 2000 in that same building. Do you have strange feelings when you play in a monument to Nazi architecture??

Bono: I think it's important to go to these places. The Hansa Studios, where we recorded Achtung Baby, was used both by the Allies and the SS as a ballroom. And when we went there you could ask yourself: Are there still any demons here in the room? We had the sense that if there had been any demons, music had driven them out. I think fear of the devil leads to devil worship. And I don't want to give fascists power to the extent that you might be afraid to go into a building where they once were. We have the same here in Ireland with provisional IRA -- and they're probably much better organized than the neo-Nazis. They're a paramilitary group, they have a network and they're fascists. They don't represent a majority, either in the south or in the north of Ireland. Even among Catholics in the north of Ireland they don't represent a majority. I think we need to stop speaking about these people in hushed tones -- we should laugh at them. I would paint the stadium in Berlin pink [laughs]. That's what I would do.   link
When they got there, it seems like they were a bit surprised at how intense and thos places and prinipalities felt.  Some versions of the story even hint at some kind of exorcism service/prayer.
Somewhow they sensed were there to sent to subvert .

Even the  "Achtung, Baby" album title was a sidways exorcism, subversive salute/mooning of Hitler/the devil:
U2's soundman Joe O'Herlihy used the phrase "achtung baby" often during the work on the album in Berlin. The phrase is used first in the Mel Brooks film The Producers, about the making of a musical called "Springtime for Hitler", a guaranteed Broadway bomb. The name was chosen so that it could not be taken seriously, deflecting focus from the serious lyrics on the album and thus protecting U2 from further critical attacks like they received with Rattle and Hum. "Achtung" is the German word for "attention", so the title translates to "Attention, Baby!" - an utterance of warning.
Bono actually says "achtung baby" in the album, during "The Fly" - it's about two minutes into the song. This is clearer on its live versions: Bono shouts "achtung, baby!" right before the Zoo TV screens flood the audience with images and cheap philosophy. link

That "flooding" and overkill with images was a reverse and subversive spiritual warfare..not too subtle but still stealthily sideways.

It's a mocking of a devil who is so dumb he probably didn't even know he was being casted in the cast, cast aside and cast out .  It was a prophetic punch, laugh, mock...maybe "loud fart" (great phrase by another "pastor" of U2, Eugene Peterson.

And if you're offended, there is ancient precedent for farting  sidewise as a spiritual warfare technique: see this...


By the way, both Pope Benedict (Pope to hold Mass in Berlin's 'Hitler's Stadium') and Hitler himself (video: Hitler Finds Out U2 Tour Gets Postponed) 
have stories to tell. (:

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