What is our fascination with the devil? We all have heard the famous story of Robert Johnson, who supposedly made a deal with the devil at the crossroads, exchanging overnight guitar mastery for his soul. In truth, the man practiced incessantly “in his shed” for years, and in truth died from overindulgence in women, boozing, and drugging — excesses like any modern rock star, but whenever we hear his name we can’t help but think of that muggy summer night some eighty years ago where two strangers met on a road and made an infernal trade.
The word “satan” originally derives from the Hebrew word meaning ‘the adversary” or “the prosecutor.” Millions of books, articles, films, and other creations have told stories of the opposer, veiled in one form or another. But why?
I recently read an analogy which describes the situation perfectly. Say you are on a baseball team, and you always win. No matter how much or how little you practice, you always score ten times as many runs as the other team. The game would quickly become pointless and boring. Only with a challenging opposer does the game become interesting.
The opposer challenges us and makes the game worth playing.
When our favorite team is playing against the team from that other big city, we shout epithets, we curse them, even loathe them. Aren’t they becoming our opposers, our devils?
We pay to go to baseball games; we pay to challenge the “devil.”
And in fiction, doesn’t the same hold true? Would Lord of the Rings be such a great epic if Sauron was a wimp? Would the armies of Middle Earth have united if not for such an evil opposer? Isn’t the mark of a good story where the protagonist is challenged every step of the way? (the root form of protagonist actually means to “contest” or “contend”)
We are fascinated with the devil and his many forms because he challenges us to be better than he, and in so doing, we define ourselves as something greater.