After Sunday’s airing of Home Box Office’s series “The Bible,” controversy erupted over the depiction of Satan. Series producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey denied any purposeful resemblance to President Barack Obama noting Moroccan actor Mehdi Ouazaani often plays dark figures. Silver screen satanic characters have taken many forms, from horned monsters to the slick New York lawyer played by Al Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate.” In Genesis, Satan appeared to Eve as a crafty serpent. It wasn’t until after Satan took serpentine form that God took away the creature’s legs, condemning all snakes, from innocent garter snakes to deadly rattlers, to life on their bellies.
Arguably, the satanic character in the HBO series only superficially resembles our president. The depiction also is Biblically and theologically inaccurate because evil usually comes to us disguised as good. Satan sold Eve on the virtues of nibbling the forbidden fruit, insisting God would never punish her. The innocent Eve couldn’t have recognized evil since she had not yet broken the one commandment God gave her and Adam. Had Satan been honest with Eve, it would have taken a “blonde moment” of apocalyptic dimensions to buy into the pains of childbirth, loss of a son to sibling murder, tooth decay, a likely painful death followed by a return to dust. The serpent promised a deeper understanding of life’s mysteries, theretofore known only to God, Satan and other angelic creatures.
Evil exists. Pure, unadulterated evil recently visited a nearby Tuscaloosa neighborhood where an unknown assailant butchered a 73-year old female friend of mine. Heartbroken, I listened at her memorial service while the pastor dwelt on the Psalmist’s poetic assurance that we need not fear evil while in the valley of death because a loving God will be there with us. Some years ago, in the midst of that valley, I asked “God, where were you when my child died?” The response I received, “The same place I was when my son died,” brought serenity and hope without fully satisfying the “why?” Presumably a complete answer awaits me in eternity.
Earl Tilford is a retired Air Force officer and college professor who lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is the author of several books on the air war in Vietnam. His latest book, Turning the Tide: The University of Alabama in the 1960s has been accepted for publication by the University of Alabama Press.