Devil's Advocate

In the mid 1990’s the movie Devil’s Advocate was released starring Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino. Keanu plays Kevin Lomax, a happily married and very successful lawyer in America’s South. Down in the South he’s a man of integrity who’s focussed on what’s important in life. Then he’s offered a job in the Big Apple, New York, with a world wide law firm. Kevin and his wife move to New York only to find Kevin being seduced by the atmosphere of greed, sex and power that surrounds the firm, and more particularly it’s owner, John Milton, played by Al Pacino.

But we soon discover that there is more to this movie than the age old theme of greed versus goodness. The plot is much more sinister. It turns out that John Milton is in fact the Devil, a devil who has learned to despise God and embrace self satisfaction.

During the movie the Devil lets us in on his plan to seduce humanity. “You sharpen the human appetite to the point where it can split atoms with its desire; you build egos the size of cathedrals; fibre-optically connect the world to every eager impulse; grease even the dullest dreams with these dollar-green, gold-plated fantasies, until every human becomes an aspiring emperor, becomes his own God… And as we’re straddling from one deal to the next, who’s got his eye on the planet, as the air thickens, the water sours, and even the bees’ honey takes on the metallic taste of radioactivity? And it just keeps coming, faster and faster. There’s no chance to think, to prepare; it’s buy futures, sell futures, when there is no future!

“Look at me” cries the Devil, “underestimated from Day One! You’d never think I was a master of the universe, now, would you? I’m a surprise, Kevin. They don’t see me coming: that’s what you’re missing.”


Source: Scott Higgins

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?

William Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army. Once told that certain kinds of music were too much “of the world” to be used in evangelistic meetings, he replied, “Not allowed to sing that tune or this tune? Indeed! Secular music, do you say? Belongs to the devil, does it? Well, if it did, I would plunder him of it. Every note and every strain and every harmony is divine and belongs to us.”

At another time Booth discovered that a popular Christian chorus of the day took it’s tune from a music-hall ditty, “Champagne Charlie is My Name.” His response? “That settles it. Why should the devil have all the best tunes?”

Source: reportes in Chris Armstrong, Christian History Magazine Newsletter 10/1/2003 citing Ian Bradley, author of Abide with Me: The World of Victorian Hymns.

Desmond Tutu

In May 2001 journalist Giles Brandeth interviewed South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was a powerful experience for Brandeth, for Desmond Tutu was suffering from prostate cancer and there was a real chance this might be the last interview he would ever give. What might Tutu want to talk about? Perhaps the amazing transformation in the politics of his country, and of which he himself had a leading role. No. Here’s what he told Brandeth: “If this is going to be my last interview, I am glad we are not going to talk about politics. Let us talk about prayer and adoration, about faith, hope and forgiveness.” For Tutu these are the things that are the stuff of life.

Source: reported in The Age May 19, 2001

Giant Jellyfish

In 1985 an ocean research ship was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. A biologist named Bruce was lowered over the side in a Deep Rover, a one person submarine. He’s sitting inside a clear acrylic sphere, with lights on the front and a small bank of controls built into the seat. We hold our breath as Deep Rover and Bruce head down into the ocean, watching the submarine turn from a solid metal, to a shimmering shape, then finally disappearing into the depths of the ocean. Bruce heads down 500 metres below the surface. The sea is now an inky black. Millions of tiny glowing creatures stream by, twinkling like fireflies. Then all of a sudden, out of the black, emerges an enormous, semitransparent creature 40 metres long. The creature has thousands of tentacles, dozens of stomachs. Within moments several others swim up, surrounding Bruce and Deep Rover.

You’re all waiting for me to tell you that they attacked the sub, that it returns to the surface with giant tentacle marks across it. But they don’t. This isn’t a Hollywood horror flick, this is real life. These creatures actually exist. There really is a marine biologist named Bruce Robinson who saw them in 1985.

Ask yourself, why do these giant jellyfish exist? They make absolutely no contribution to human well being. We didn’t even know they existed until the 1980’s. They are not a food source for us, they don’t provide medicines for us.

Now ask yourself why do the millions upon millions of as yet undiscovered species of life on earth exist. The Natural Museum of London estimates that there may be anywhere between 10 million and 100 million unknown species of life on the ocean seabeds alone! Why do they exist?

It seems to me they cry out that we humans need to get rid of our speciesism, our belief that God’s interest is in us alone, that God has made the world simply for us to enjoy and use. They tell us that God’s love and interest and pleasure extend to millions upon millions of forms of life on planet earth and wherever else life may exist in the universe.

This is exactly the point made by the writer of Psalm 104.. Verses 5-18 talk about the fact that God has made the world watery. That water is designed to make our fields fruitful so that we have food to eat. But God also ensures that the earth is productive for the wild donkey which lives in the humanly uninhabitable desert, for the wild goats which live high in the mountains. The earth is productive not only for us humans, but also for all the millions and millions of species of life that live on it.

Verses 19-23 talk of God creating the earth with cycles and rhythms. Spring, summer winter, autumn. Night and day. Then the Psalmist makes the interesting observation that while daytime is time for us to go out to work, night time is for the animals of the forest to hunt. It’s their God allotted space and time, and mentioned with the same type of importance and significance as out space and time.

God enjoys creation.

Source: Scott Higgins. Biologist story details from Time Magazine

Dead Man Walking

“I paid little attention as the glare of headlights briefly illuminated my boyfriend Mark’s face and then swept on…” So begins Debbie Morris’s amazing story of suffering and forgiveness. On a Friday night in the 1980’s Debbie and her boyfriend Mark were kidnapped while on a date. One of the kidnappers was Robert Willie, the character made famous in the Susan Sarandon, Sean Pean movie Dead Man Walking. After shooting her boyfriend in the head and leaving him for dead in the woods, the kidnappers subject Debbie to two terrifying days of rape and brutalisation.

Just two days in a lifetime, yet they understandably left an indelible Mark of Debbie’s life. She spent years struggling with pain, anger, depression, alcohol abuse and guilt. Most remarkable of all however is her journey towards healing and forgiveness. In the book Forgiving the Dead Man Walking she tells how she learned to forgive her kidnappers.

She realised that she needed to forgive Willie, if nothing else, for her own good. She had seen the way rage and bitterness consumed the lives of the parents of another girl raped and murdered by her kidnappers. She didn’t want to become a prisoner of her past. And so the night Robert Willie was executed, Debbie realised she could forgive him. She prayed, “Lord, I really do need to forgive Robert Willie. As best I can anyway. If the execution goes on, make it fast and painless. I don’t want him to suffer anymore.”

But what does it mean to forgive in a situation like this? Debbie describes how helpful psychology professor Dr Terry Hargrave was. Dr Hargraves divides forgiveness into two parts: salvage and restoration. Salvage involves insight – recognising how we were violated and who bears responsibility, and understanding – trying to understand why something was done. Restoration involves overt forgiving, where forgiveness is openly sought, given and received and compensation, where there are things which compensate us for past hurts. Hargraves explains that restoration is possible only where there was a prior relationship, or a relationship you want to restore. This was not the case with Debbie. For her salvage was the highest goal she could seek. With its twin dimensions of insight and understanding, its allowed her to move beyond her self blame and bitterness to “salvage” something from her hurtful experience.

Debbie was also helped by Lewis Smedes book Forgive and Forget. In a section entitled “forgiving Monsters” Smedes writes “If we say monsters are beyond forgiving we give them a power they should never have…The climax of forgiveness takes two, I know. But you can have the reality of forgiveness without its climax. Forgiving is real, even if it stops at the healing of the forgiver” In this light Debbie writes “The refusal to forgive him meant that I held onto all my Robert Willie-related stuff – my pain, my shame, my self-pity. That’s what I gave up in forgiving him. And it wasn’t until I did, that real healing could even begin. I was the one who gained.”

Throughout this process Debbie has struggled with what she feels about the death penalty. She closes her book with these words, “God seems to put a higher priority on forgiveness that on justice. We don’t sing ‘Amazing Justice’; we sing ‘Amazing Grace’. Does that mean I think a holy God would oppose the execution of a convicted murderer like Robert Willie? I don’t know; I’m still wrestling with that question. But I do know this: Justice didn’t do a thing to heal me. Forgiveness did.”

Source: Based on reports in Debbie Morris, Forgiving the Dead Man Walking (Zondervan, 1998)