In a marvelous piece for First Things, Maureen Mullarkey, an artist and essayist, writes about the deceptive nature of evil. It rarely appears to us in forms that are crude or ugly. More often than not, it appears beautiful and alluring. That’s why temptation is so difficult to wrestle to the ground.
Lucifer is her prime example. In the arts, he is usually a “grotesque” creature, complete with “claws, hooves, horns, bat wings, and loathsome grimaces,” accompanied by “misshapen monsters rising out of hot pitch to ride herd on the damned.”
But the English painter and poet William Blake, she insists, portrayed Satan more accurately: “Lucifer is alluring. How radiant, lithesome, and well formed Blake presents him.”
Mullarkey’s description of how Lucifer might be perceived at a dinner party with the glitterati or as a speaker before a room full of adoring politicians is clever – and frightening: “However he comports himself in other times and places, in our own the hellion keeps up with fashion. With an eye on all things current, he guards a natty wardrobe of ideas. Charming at table, polished at the lectern, he talks with passion about the good, the true, and the beautiful.”
Charming. Polished. Passionately talking “the good, the true, and the beautiful.”
The devil? Talking about things good, true and beautiful?
Why not? Language is twisted and misused all the time. Why can’t the words good, true and beautiful be brought to heel in service of hell? After all, who is to say what is good? Or true? Or beautiful?
Only God can define such realities. For a society that has told God to get lost (defiant rebels that we are in America), how can we ever behold reality accurately? How can we help but get lost in the wilderness when we have tossed out our compass with the leftover pork and beans?
So, evil has a tendency to masquerade as beauty, and human beings have a corresponding tendency to fall for the trick every time. This is why many in our culture portray abortion as “choice.” Same sex marriage is “love.” Pornographers state that their actresses are “empowered” by their “acting” in smut films, etc.
And a certain angel of light is laughing at us all the way to the lake of fire.