What is really going on in Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, New York, and other cities hit by radical protests? What is it really all about? It’s all about evil. John Milton understood evil. He understood it so well that he made Satan, not Man, the most interesting character in Paradise Lost (1667). What he recorded of Man’s fall from grace is one of the central and enduring stories of mankind. It is also a good explanation for what’s going in the cities and the fabric of our country.
At the heart of Satan’s rebellion is the sin of pride. Satan rebels against God’s authority because his sense of self-importance will not allow him to bow to any authority outside himself. Pride, in this negative sense, creates an endless cycle of resentment and hostility. For those who truly believe they possess unlimited freedom, there is no end to their rebellion.
Milton tells of Satan’s rebellion against God and his defeat and banishment to Hell. After his defeat by angels loyal to God, Satan travels from Hell to Earth in order to corrupt Adam and Eve. He tempts Eve in eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Adam and Eve are expelled from paradise into a world of suffering and pain.
The most important point about Satan has to do with his motivation. Why should one of God’s most capable and valued followers wish to rebel in the first place? The answer is that Satan is swollen with pride and incapable of submitting to authority of any kind. He views the universe in the way today’s anarchists do. They see themselves as godlike creatures that should not have to submit to authority. While today’s radicals claim to be struggling for racial justice and equality, they are really interested in something very different: the illusion of total free will and limitless power. That was Satan’s motive as well, and Milton understood the danger it created.
What is a young protestor attacking while he/she is looting, setting fires, and engaging in other violent crimes? He/she is after those who are affluent, those who believe in goodness and decency, and those who support law and order. One of the primary objects of attack is the police. Most adults realize that the police are all that stand between themselves and criminal violence, and most of us deeply respect the men and women who protect us. But there are thousands of protestors who truly despise those same police officers.
To the person attacking others, looting, and burning, the police are all that stand in his way. They are equivalent to God’s army of faithful angels preventing Satan’s takeover of Heaven. They are also, in some cases, the only persons who have ever set limits on their behavior. No wonder the protestors are enraged and seek revenge. Those who throw bricks and bottles, or who gather to beat a fallen officer in the street, are expressing their wrath because, for once in their lives, someone has told them “no.” The police may be the only real authority they have known, and they are filled with rage.
In the absence of the police backed by strong city and state government radical protest would literally burn down our country. Decent Americans would cower in their homes, defending themselves as best as they could and waiting for help that never comes. The weak – the elderly, the disabled – would become the particular targets of roaming gangs of thugs. More and more “autonomous zones” would spring up, each ruled by a murderous warlord heading a small legion of heavily armed predators.
This was Satan’s vision of what the world should look like. When he was stopped, he corrupted Adam and Eve and led them to violate God’s trust. After that expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Adam was condemned to labor for a living and Eve to suffer the pain of childbirth. Worse yet, their innocence was lost. Afterward, they lived with suspicion and doubt and with the knowledge of their own corruption.
Many people think that America was once close to the Garden of Eden. There was justice and opportunity for all, or nearly all, and the basis of that happy condition was a shared moral code. Looting, vandalizing, murder, and rape were uncommon.
There was a time when the police were respected for their role in maintaining law and order, and they could operate with a light touch because of the cooperation they received from the public. Traffic stops did not often turn into shootouts, and arrests did not often involve suspects struggling with and fleeing officers. Nor did the public accuse officers, or anyone else who stood in the way of criminality, of racism. That tactic itself is another arrow in Satan’s quiver.
At the heart of Satan’s rebellion as depicted in Paradise Lost is the sin of pride. Satan rebels against God’s authority because his sense of self-importance will not allow him to bow to any authority outside himself. Milton understood, unlike many people today that pride, in this negative sense, creates an endless cycle of resentment and hostility. For those who believe they possess unlimited free will, there is no end to their rebellion. It may begin with George Floyd, but it soon leads to smashing windows, looting, and burning. It may begin with the statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, but it quickly takes aim at George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.
At the heart of today’s protests is a refusal to accept authority. It may feel godlike to swarm though the streets, smashing, burning, and assaulting the police, but that sort of criminality can only lead to worse things. When Satan was defeated in his rebellion against God, he was condemned to spend the rest of his days in Hell. He spent eternity as a bitter outcast, seeking revenge and plotting against God.
That gives us some idea of what’s in store for radicals protesting in the streets today. While some will be saved, others will spend decades joining whatever protests arise, acting out their love of self and hatred of authority. Their story is not so different from that of Satan in Paradise Lost. Milton understood what happens when an individual is eaten up by pride and when he/she rejects every form of authority, even that of those who only wish to protect him.
Closing observation: We are living in very evil times and most American’s are totally unaware that unchecked evil is at the heart of what’s happening in America and the world. In fact, very few of us even believe in the reality of evil and that makes us sitting ducks for evil’s uncontested advance.
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