Solving the problem of evil in the twenty-first century

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Shout at the Devil-Motley Crue

Motley Crue is a band that has been known for their controversial lifestyles and content in their lyrics.  Each member has dealt with drug and alcohol addictions and has been in multiple conflicts with the law, which might lead a lot of people to associate them with evil.  One of their more famous songs, “Shout at the Devil,” might strengthen this association because it references the devil and the evil that many people think they promote.  Even though the lyrics mention the devil, the songs meaning is not at all praising the devil.  In fact, it is almost doing the opposite.  Both verses name off parts of everyday life where the band sees the devil’s presence.  In the first verse Vince Neil, their singer, says, “He’s the tear in your eyes being tempted by his lies.  He’s the knife in your back…He’s the razor to the knife.”  Here, Neil acknowledge that the devil is a tempter, but he is also saying that the devil is the worse part of the bad in peoples’ lives.  He is the razor, the dangerous part of the knife.  In the second verse, Neil says, “He’ll be the love in your eyes…and then have you crying for more.”  Again, he recognizes the devil as a tempter and trickster.  He says that Satan tempts people to fall in love and then leaves them feeling broken and alone when it doesn’t work out.

The chorus, however, shifts away from all the places Neil sees the devil and evil in the world and yells repeatedly “Shout.  Shout.  Shout.  Shout at the devil.”  This is the part where Neil says to “shake it off and move along.”  He says there are bad things (the devil and evil) out there, but don’t let them become a big part of your life.


“Tribute” by Tenacious D

It is common knowledge that most of the work done by Jack Black isn’t meant to be taken seriously.  Whether it is through his movies or his band, Tenacious D, Black’s goal is always to make his audience laugh.  This is clearly demonstrated in his band’s most famous song, “Tribute,” and the music video they made for it.  The story of “Tribute” is very similar to the story of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”  It is about Black’s and Kyle Gas’s (his band-mate) encounter the devil while walking down a road together.  The devil challenges the two to create the best song in the world and threatens to eat their souls if they fail.  The two accept the challenge and stun the devil when they do, in fact, play “the best song in the world.”  After they perform the song for the devil, he asks them if they are angels.  Black responds by saying “Nay.  We are but men.”   Then, the devil, who had been defeated by Black and Gas, disappears.  At the very end of the music video the band’s CD is dispensed out of the fake recording studio that the Black and Gas had been performing in.  The cover depicts both men standing naked and smiling while being chained to the devil.  This is ironic to be shown in the music video for “Tribute,” because the song is about man’s victory over the devil, but this cover clearly shows the devil’s power over the men.

Just like in “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” the men are a part of a Faustian bargain.  They accept a challenge by the devil that they easily could have turned down.  However, unlike in Dr. Faustus (and similarly to The Devil Went Down to Georgia), the men beat the devil at his challenge.


The Exorcist

 

Exorcisms have always been a major interest of people because every religion talks about the idea of spiritual possession.  This interest is clearly demonstrated in the recent increase of movies about exorcisms.  However, none of these recently made movies have the lasting effect and cultural impact as the movie The Exorcist (1973).  The Exorcist is consistent with many actual religious beliefs about possession.

The movie tells the story of the possession of Regan MacNeil, and Father Lankester Merrin’s and Father Damien Karras’s fight with the demon inside of her.  Throughout the movie, Regan experiences several paranormal occurrences that lead her mother, Chris, to realize that something is wrong with her daughter.  Chris witnesses her daughters levitate above her bed, demonstrate great physical strength, and speak in a very demonic voice.  All of these characteristics are consistent with actual beliefs about exorcisms.  In Christian Scriptures, it is mentioned that a demon can give its host special powers and that it can also speak through the person.  It is because of this that Chris reaches out for help from Father Karras.  Later in the movie, when Father Karras, with the help of Father Merrin, are actually conducting the exorcism on Regan, other things happen that are consistent with actual beliefs about demonic possession.  During the ceremony, Regan taunts both priests, especially Father Karras.  The demon talks to him using his sick mother’s voice. According to Mark Bancroft, “Spirits who communicate with the living through channelers often provide certain facts relating to specific individuals in the audience which the person channeling could not possibly have known.”  At the end of the ceremony, Father Karras convinces the demon to leave Regan’s body and enter his before killing himself.  Reagan than returns to normal, without memory of anything that had happened to her.

 


Mr. Brooks

Mr. Brooks is a 2007 thriller starring Kevin Costner, Dane Cook, and Demi Moore.  It is about how Earl Brooks (Costner) is s serial killer who decides he will never kill again.  However, his alter ego convinces him to just do one more killing to satisfy his urges after not killing in two years.  He chooses to murder a couple in their apartment, only to realize that the curtains had been open the entire time.  Later the next day, Mr. Smith (Cook) shows up to Earl’s office bearing pictures of the murder.  He then blackmails Earl into taking Mr. Smith on his next murder.  Throughout the rest of the movie, Earl teaches Mr. Smith how to prepare for the murder.

Although there aren’t any direct religious references in the movie, one can infer that the idea of Earl’s alter ego, Marshall, plays a similar role as Satan and the serpent in Paradise Lost.  Before learning that Earl is a serial killer, he comes off as a normal man.  He is extremely successful as the owner of a box-making company and, has what appears to be, a very loving, happy, and normal family (later in the movie you find out otherwise).  It is only when you are introduced to his alter ego, Marshall, that you realize something is wrong.  Similarly to Satan in Paradise Lost, who talks to Eve and tries to corrupt her by eating the forbidden fruit, Marshall constantly talks to Earl and tries to convince him to start murdering people again.  He tries to convince Earl that no harm can come from murdering again.  Neither Eve nor Earl want to give into the force tempting them because they are both presented as pure.  However, they both do give in and are corrupted, therefore losing their innocence and living a life with sin.  Unlike Paradise Lost, the force tempting the main character in Mr. Brooks is presented as being a part of the character. In Paradise Lost, Eve is being tempted by Satan, who isn’t a part of her soul or body.  In Mr. Brooks, Earl is being tempted by the evil part of himself, representing how Satan is actually the sinful desires that lurk in every person.

 


Prince of Darkness

 

Even with the controversial satanic imagery in many of his songs, Ozzy Osbourne has become an iconic figure in rock’n’roll.  Although he claims to not be a Satanist, many people believe that his song lyrics prove otherwise.  An example of lyrics that have lead people to believe that Ozzy is a Satanist is in the song “N.I.B.”

The chorus of “N.I.B.” is “Now I have you with me under my power. Our love grows stronger now with every hour.  Look into my eyes; you’ll see who I am.  My name is Lucifer, please take my hand.”  (http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/47790/) These lyrics have lead many people to believe that the song is Ozzy claiming to be Lucifer trying to seduce people into following him.  This interpretation of the lyrics is consistent with the motif of Satan as a temptress as depicted in Paradise Lost.  In Paradise Lost, Satan tempts Eve to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.  In this interpretation of the lyrics, Lucifer (Ozzy) is tempting the listener to follow him into a life with sin.  Although it is understandable to interpret the lyrics this way, according to Black Sabbath, they didn’t intend for the lyrics to have this meaning behind them.  They actually meant to have a meaning that is almost the opposite of this interpretation.  The band claims that the song is about how the devil falls in love with a human woman who tempts him to become a good person.  Another misinterpretation that many Ozzy-opposers have is that the name of the song, “N.I.B.” stands for is “Nativity in Black” or “Name in Blood.”  However, the title is actually a result of an inside joke between the band that has nothing to do with Satan or any other demonic ideas.

 


The Omen

 

On the surface, most would assume that The Omen directly portrays Protestant Christian beliefs.  This is because the movie tells the story of an artifact that is central to the idea of the end of times in the religion, the Antichrist.  Although the movie is about the Antichrist, it fails to emphasize some of the most critical aspects of it in actual Protestant Christian beliefs.

In The Omen, the U.S. Ambassador of Great Britain, Robert Thorne, and his wife, Katherine, have a child that is swapped out at birth for another child.  Although Katherine isn’t aware of the swap, Robert is.  Throughout the child’s life, many things occur that lead the parents to suspect that their son, Damian, isn’t a normal child, such as his nanny sacrificing herself for him and many other bizarre deaths.  Later, a priest from the Rome comes to warn Robert that his son is the Antichrist, and that he will attempt to bring about the end of times, after killing Robert and inheriting all of his political power.  In the movie, this idea is the most consistent with actual Protestant Christian beliefs; that the Antichrist will have political power and will attempt to gain worldwide power, leading to the end of the world.  Even though this part is very consistent with actual religious beliefs, it isn’t emphasized much in the movie.  After this, more bizarre occurrences happen, which convinces Robert to travel to Rome and learn more about the child he had been raising as his son.  While at a cemetery, Robert learns that the mother of Damian is a jackal, indicating that he really is the Antichrist.  In actual Protestant Christian beliefs, the Antichrist will attempt to imitate Christ in every way.  Because of this, he should be the child of an unclean and sinful woman, not a jackal, and the devil.  At the end of the movie, Robert is killed during his attempt to kill Damian, leaving him all of Robert’s political power, just like the priest had warned.