In Reviving Old Scratch, popular blogger and theologian Richard Beck reintroduces the devil to the modern world with a biblical, bold, and urgent vision of spiritual warfare: we must resist the devil by joining the kingdom of God’s subversive campaign to interrupt the world with love.
Beck shows how conservative Christians too often overspiritualize the devil and demons, and progressive Christians reduce these forces to social justice issues. By understanding evil as a very real force in the world, we are better able to name it for what it is and thus to combat it as Jesus did.
Beck’s own work in a prison Bible study and at a church for recovering addicts convinced him to take Satan more seriously, and they provide compelling illustrations as he challenges the contemporary—and strangely safe—versions of evil forces. The beliefs of liberals and conservatives alike will be tested by Beck’s groundbreaking ideas, fascinating stories, and clear thinking. Because if Jesus took Satan seriously, says Beck, then so should we.
In the 1980s in California, New Jersey, and New York, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Ohio, and elsewhere, daycare workers were arrested, charged, tried, and convicted of committing horrible sexual crimes against the children they cared for. These crimes, prosecutors said, had gone undetected for years, and their brutality and sadism defied all imagining. What's more, the abusers had photographed and videotaped their victims, distributing the images through a sophisticated international network of child pornographers. More often than not, violent satanic cult worship had also played a central role, with children made to watch forced abortions in cemeteries and then eat hacked-off bits of the little corpses. In just over a decade, thousands of people in every part of the country were investigated as child sex abusers, and some one-hundred and fifty of them were sent to prison.
But, none of it happened. It was an epic decade-long outbreak of collective hysteria – on a par with the Salem witch trials or the red scares of the 1950s.
Using extensive archival research conducted in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and elsewhere, and drawing on dozens of interviews conducted with the hysteria's major figures, Richard Beck shows how a group of legislators, doctors, lawyers, and parents, all working with the best of intentions, set the stage for a judicial disaster. A number of opportunistic journalists helped to carry the story from state to state, and the silence of their colleagues, who should have known better, allowed it to keep spreading long after it became clear that the story was simply unsupported by evidence. Beck reveals how a small group of skeptics finally began working to slow the runaway train in the last half of the decade, and he explores the fates of those accused and convicted of these unbelievable crimes, the casualties of a culture war. It is this culture war that is the books pervasive subtext – the conditions that made possible the demented frenzy of accusations were very specific, and at the root of them were competing visions of society and the things that threatened it most.
In another creative interdisciplinary fusion, Richard Beck blends Eastern Orthodox perspectives, biblical text, existential psychology, and contemporary theology to describe our slavery to the fear of death, a slavery rooted in the basic anxieties of self-preservation and the neurotic anxieties at the root of our self-esteem. Driven by anxiety--enslaved to the fear of death--we are revealed to be morally and spiritually vulnerable as "the sting of death is sin." Beck argues that in the face of this predicament, resurrection is experienced as liberation from the slavery of death in the martyrological, eccentric, cruciform, and communal capacity to overcome fear in living fully and sacrificially for others.