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What FOX’s “Lucifer” Gets Wrong…and Right (Part 3)

(This is the last in a 3-part review of the pilot episode of FOX’s “Lucifer“.  Here are where you can find Part 1 and Part 2.)

Warning:  SPOILERS beyond this point!

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A few minutes into the premiere episode of “Lucifer”, we have a meeting of angels — one being Lucifer (Tom Ellis) himself, the other being the good angel Amenadiel (D.B. Woodside) — both of whom refer to God as “Father”.  It’s a little weird hearing them speak in that fashion.  While Christianity does encourage thinking of God as one’s own Father in Heaven (provided one is a Christian, and therefore one of God’s adopted children), nowhere in the Bible do I recall ever reading an angel speaking of God as “Father”.  Actually, the notion that angels are spirit-children of God is more a Mormon concept than a Christian concept:  Mormons believe that God, having a physical body — something Christians do not believe, by the way — produced all the angels and, in fact, all of us (before we incarnated as humans) via actual sex with some sort of celestial mother who I don’t think has ever been named.  I’m wrestling with whether it’s therefore biblically appropriate for an angel to call God “Father”.  I think the best I could say is, “I don’t know.”  But certainly no work trying to be authentically Christian (which, of course, this particular television show isn’t even remotely trying to be) ought to adopt such a practice.  To consider angels “siblings” with mankind, or to suggest that the relationship between angels and God is in any way analogous to the relationship between humans and God, is opening up the door to all kind of wild ideas that probably don’t need to be in our heads.  One of the hallmarks of good Christian teaching is, “When in doubt, don’t teach it.”

In the middle of the pair’s discussion, Lucifer asks, “Now, do you think I’m the devil because I’m inherently evil, or just because dear old Dad decided I was?”  Apparently in this show, being “the devil” is more of an office that one might possess, rather than being just another moniker for Satan.  That’s not far from the role Satan plays in the Old Testament book of Job, where Satan is commanded by God to put Job to the test and probe him for weaknesses by making him suffer exquisitely.  The term “Satan” actually means “adversary”, be it God’s or mankind’s, either way.  It’s important to realize here that Lucifer is talking about holding a peculiar office, because most people already equate the terms “devil” and “evil one” — and in Christianity, it’s perfectly fair to do so.  But this isn’t a Christian show we’re watching, so these little distinctions matter.  They mean, in a nutshell, that Lucifer isn’t asking here, “Why am I evil?”  He accepts that he is evil and is perfectly okay with being evil.  Rather, he’s asking, “Why did God appoint me to be his adversary and the ruler of Hell?”  It’s still a “Why me?” question, but it’s not a “Why am I the way I am?” question — that kind of soul-searching would require the possibility of repentance in Lucifer, and I’m rather pleased to see that no such repentance seems forthcoming.  That much, at least, is in keeping with the Bible.  Satan will never repent.  He’s made his choice.

Once the discussion with Amenadiel concludes, Lucifer moves on to another conversation, this time with Delilah (AnnaLynne McCord), a former employee of his who has since gone on to bigger and better things…including booze and drugs.  It seems Lucifer suggested that she go into acting, and she hasn’t fared well from it.  So Lucifer offers her some friendly advice:  “Pull yourself together.”  He sounds genuinely concerned for her, like he really cares about her.  When she dies in a hail of gunfire moments later, he appears disturbed and upset, especially when arguing with the detective investigating the case (Lauren German) and demanding that someone be punished.

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Okay, sure, if there’s some ulterior plan that Lucifer had for Delilah that her untimely death foiled, then this is all perfectly understandable.  He probably had some grand scheme concocted involving her, through which he could have brought about not only her own deeper downfall but also the downfall of many others.  Because that’s what Satan is about:  making sure you fall down and stay down.  The only reason Satan will ever lift you up is to make sure your fall is that much harder and grander.  Ultimately, Satan is never on your side.  But Satan can’t foresee everything.  Someone was gunning for the girl, and there went Lucifer’s plan.  Evil scheme foiled.  Of course Lucifer’s mad.  That’s the only reason he would be mad…from a Christian perspective.

But, alas, “Lucifer” is decidedly not a Christian show, and Lucifer’s seemingly genuine concern for human beings proves it.  Satan cares for no one but himself.  The only care for human beings that Satan is capable of is fraudulent.  Thus, for “Lucifer” to ascribe genuine feelings of concern to the devil himself is to plant very suggestive seeds within the minds of the uninitiated (which, frankly, is almost everyone these days).  The Bible portrays Satan as very one-note in his opposition to mankind’s well-being, individual or collective.  In fact, Jesus wouldn’t even give Satan the credit I gave Lucifer above — i.e., building a person up just to tear them down more spectacularly later.  When Jesus miraculously drove demons out of a man, and the Pharisees accused him of doing so by the power of Satan, Jesus marveled that they would consider Satan so cunning as to ever work against himself, even for a time, or with bigger goals in mind.  Satan is crafty in his deceptions, yes, but he is simple and straightforward in his objective.  You know how a doctor’s first obligation is, “Do no harm?”  Satan’s first obligation is, “Do only harm.”  So when Satan appears to do something kind for anyone, you can bet that at worst, it’s actually something harmful, or at best, it’s leading to something harmful.  But Satan never, not even once, does good for its own sake, or out of genuine concern for others.  The devil don’t play that.

And at that point, there’s nothing more that really need be said about “Lucifer” with regard to its depiction of the devil.  Sadly, rather than the personification of absolute evil that the lead character claims to be, we get…well, a heroic prick who can delivery hilariously outrageous lines, not unlike Dr. Gregory House, but better looking and having no need to ask you a bazillion questions to find out what’s wrong with you because you’ll just tell him.

All that being said, “Lucifer” is a rather fun show to watch so long as you take it as it is — a work of fiction borrowing heavily from religion — and understand that it is not even remotely authoritative where that borrowed-from religion is actually concerned.  While it’s troubling to think that unsuspecting people out there might receive their first impression of the devil from this TV show and think, “Hey, the devil isn’t all that bad!” it has to be recognized that most of our first impressions of the devil and other religious figures — angels, Moses, Jesus, God, Muhammad, etc. — don’t come from original sources and have been distorted in some way.  We’re a media-saturated society, where a human being’s first knowledge of spiritual matters is just as likely to come from watching “South Park” as attending church.  “Lucifer” is just another drop in that poisoned well.  If we want to counter the effect of pop culture on impressionable minds, we have to tell those dear ones, simply, “Go to the sources.”  Get them reading the Bible, or the Quran, or the Book of Mormon, or the Bhagavad Gita — whichever sacred text corresponds to the religion they’re interested in.  Because no pop culture creation is a valid substitute for the actual source texts, not even when true believers are the producers.  (Anyone else remember how Christian producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett twisted the story of Samson’s marriage into a parable of the segregated South in their much-lauded miniseries “The Bible“?)  Go to the sources, and learn from them.  TV is strictly for entertainment.

 

Image credits:

  1. “Lucifer and Amenadiel” at http://bit.ly/1Tsn1b7
  2. “Poor, Dead Delilah” at http://bit.ly/1Kgb8TH

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Mike, Who Speaketh His Mind

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