WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- So now the incurably anti-American demonstrators have taken to the streets again -- in the Far East, the Middle East and even in parts of Europe.
And what's their grievance? Not the unspeakable crime of some fanatics who hijacked passenger jets and rammed them into New York skyscrapers, killing more than 6,000 people.
No, they agitate against America's military campaign designed to eradicate terrorism. This begs theological questions: Why is it so difficult to acknowledge evil, even where it manifests itself beyond any trace of a doubt before the eyes of billions of television viewers worldwide?
Why do people rejoice in the suffering of innocent people? What is so difficult to understand about the need to do war against blatant iniquity?
The answer is as old as Hebrew Scripture: People are struck with blindness (Genesis 19:11), and in Judeo-Christian terms this blindness is a sign of unfaith.
This condition is so much part of the human condition that it runs like a red thread even through Hollywood films. There's a splendid line in the 1999 movie, The Confession: "It's not difficult to do the right thing. It's difficult to know what is the right thing to do. Once you know it, it's easy to do it."
Actually, says William H. Lazareth, one of America's finest systematic theologians, "The problem is not so much acknowledging evil as the work of the Evil One."
It is one of the baffling signs of our time that the devil is not given his due. While over 90 percent of all Americans believe in God, according to the Gallup Poll, only 68 percent think that Satan is real.
And that's already considerably more than 10 years ago, when a mere 52 percent acknowledged his existence. "There are four reasons why more and more Americans are beginning to recognize him," says Episcopal theologian Gerald McDermott, "and these reasons are: 1. Hitler, 2. Stalin, 3. Mao Tse-tung, and 4. Pol Pot."
We can now safely assume that as of Sept. 11, a fifth reason has been added to this list: Osama bin Laden.
But the phenomenon that Satan has been played down for a long time going back to the Enlightenment is worth probing. McDermott attributes it to the fact that "too many people have swallowed the liberal myth that all humans are basically good."
The liberal worldview may make allowances for the existence of evil in an abstract sense of the word. But ignoring Jewish, Christian and Muslim Scripture, it refutes the idea of evil as an enormously powerful cosmic force, according to McDermott.
"The problem with the Satan is that he doesn't pull a grimace," explains the Rev. Johannes Richter, a retired superintendent (regional bishop) of Leipzig in Germany. "He doesn't go around saying, I'm the devil."
He disguises himself as an angel of light (Acts 16:17-18 and 2 Corinthians). He, the accuser, the slanderer, the destroyer, the liar, the tempter, man's archenemy, slides up to Adam and Eve, feigning concern:
"Did God (really) say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the Garden?'" (Genesis 3:1). When Eve replies, "God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die," Satan replies, "You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:2-3).
These three verses describe magnificently the struggle between God and the Evil One over man's identity. "God created Adam and Eve in his image but not as gods," Lazareth makes clear. "But the devil tells them that they were in fact made as gods."
According to Lazareth, then, man does not recognize Satan for what he is because he caters to humanity's pretensions: We want to be gods, not just images.
Man's inability to recognize the Evil One and with him evil has a root cause, which is called hubris, McDermott suggests. The late theologian Paul Tillich ranked hubris as a mark of man's estrangement from God -- along with unfaith and concupiscence.
"Hubris, the so-called spiritual sin of pride or self-elevation, according to St. Augustine and Martin Luther, precedes the so-called sensual sin," Tillich wrote.
Thus arrogance sometimes blinds people to the worst of evil; hence the demonstrations not against an unfathomably evil deed, but against the response to it. It is the same phenomenon -- hubris -- that makes bin Laden tick, McDermott believes.
"Pride, the source of all sin, makes him declare a jihad (Holy War), and now he has the world at his fingertips, with his overbearing self-exhortation on television."
The remedy to man's frequent inability -- or unwillingness -- to recognize evil for what it is lies in Scripture: By their fruit you shall know them (Luke 6:43-45 and Galatians 5:22-24).