The Society gathered for the fifth time this semester to consider: Resolved: The Devil is a Tragic Figure. Mr. Patrick Musgrave (COL ’16) of Indiana keynoted on the affirmation with Mr. Jeff Naft (COL ’17) of New York on the negation.
According to Mr. Musgrave, the tragedy in question is not the Greek tragic hero archetype, but “something that did not have to happen yet somehow happened” in a “what if” or “If only” context and brought horrible and irreversible consequences. Asking us to put ourselves in the shoes of Milton, he recounted the fall of Lucifer, “the chosen one,” in a rebellion against God for greater power.
Relying upon the Society’s (apparently solid) grasp of Star Wars, Mr. Musgrave analogized the Devil with the equally “powerful and charismatic” Skywalker, who was “seduced by the power of the Dark Side.” Refusing to be “God’s No. 2 God,” the light-bearer Lucifer fell tragically because of the same arrogance. Mr. Musgrave also regretted the Angel’s loss of potential as he ended up “delirious, small and defeated.”
Mr. Naft took up the challenge to prove the Devil’s fall inevitable (and with no redemption in a new GUSA ticket). It was the omnipotent God who planted the seeds of evil in Lucifer so that humanity could truly have the free will to choose between Good and Evil. And despite the tragedy of his fall, the Devil is not tragic, because he harbored no consideration of repentance when exclaiming “I am the goodness and God is the evil.” The Devil also didn’t fall into temptation because he had no previous knowledge of the dark side until his fall – he was destined to be the dark side and lead people away from God.
Endorsing the Affirmation as a more nuanced side, Mr. Fletcher sided against Milton, who attempted to explore the root of social evil in Paradise Lost. When 40 Mexican students were taken by the police for speaking out against the drug war, It is “not the Satan, but the people around them” who brought about this evil. Rejecting this literal approach to theology, Ms. Hernick saw tragedy in a psychologist who forgave his mother’s murderer and that murderer who could no longer live with himself. “The world is complicated” and the Devil is not tragic. But Mr. Mellon questioned whether the “God” in Paradise Lost was given too much credit — he should have forgiven Satan and prevented the Hell’s existence, but he did not.
Stunned at Mr. Musgrave’s “nerve to bring Star Wars into this,” Mr. Dinneen countered that Satan, hating every single one of us, thought it “better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven” when there was no higher power than God — “For those who’re religious, Satan means something more.” Having claimed Mr. Dinneen’s fines for an improper remark on Archangel “Michael,” Mr. Perez-Reyes defined tragic figures like Hamlet as flawed in their very nature. Flawed by pride, Satan challenged the being who made him and estranged himself from spirituality. But with the example of Bellerophon aspiring to be God, Mr. Hallisey contested that hubris was an internal drive that inevitably leads to self-aggrandizing. However, Mr. Ahmed reminded us that “bad people can be tragic figures” because with an omnipotent and omniscient God, nothing is inevitable yet there is still tragedy. As for Lucifer’s fall from Grace, “to God it’s inevitable, but to us it’s not.”
At this point, Ms. Burke had to stand up in defense of her inspiring role model the Devil, who never failed to amaze her by not submitting to God and creating “a whole other thing” of rebellion to redefine himself. Vice President Thanki immediately rebuked that the Devil made the most human decision possible to rebel and “God will not forgive him, ever” despite his regrets. What’s more tragic, he was never told of the two options when he chose the wrong path. “A good Catholic”, Mr. Schafer informed us that God’s omniscience is of the full possibility of every action. So the Devil, in rejecting the dirty Amanuensis work on God’s left-hand side, rebels with free will and perfect knowledge of God (something this Amanuensis dare not do). Finding the coexistence of God’s omniscience and Satan’s free will absurd, Mr. Kendrick concluded that the Devil was created to be evil and destined for a tragic end.
Ms. Egan accused God, for planting seeds of evil into Lucifer without his consent, for putting his son at the right-hand side with nepotism and for condemning people as “living a life of sin” just because of who they are. She believed that “Satan is happy where he is,” kneeling no more “away from a God who set him up for derision” and “giving a home to people placed out of what God classified as Good.”
Ms. Zoe Sun (SFS ’18) found the Devil’s pursuit of power similar to Frank Underwood’s in House of Cards, but Lucifer lost his battle because he chose the wrong one to fight. A very confused Mr. Kyle Rinaudo (SFS ’18) asked the Devil’s fall was “unexpected to whom exactly.” As biblical scholars get tenure from asking who created the serpent, we should abstain for lack of knowledge. For Ms. Sarah Griffin (SFS ’18), the Devil’s fall was unexpected to himself or he wouldn’t go along with a doomed rebellion. Ms. Brittany Logan (MSB ’18) picked up the wasted potential argument – just as “Frindle”, the Devil fulfilled his purpose by opposing God.
Reflecting upon the ineffectiveness of brain skins to indicate psychopaths, Mr. Wang stressed the importance of environment over genetic dispositions. Though genetically destined evil, the Devil still had his chance with a good environment. But Ms. Ringwald rejected religious caricature and interpreted God as “living a life of love” and Lucifer as “the possibility of not living in a state of love.” Calling Paradise Lost a fan fiction, Sgt. Willis discerned a characterization of biblical characters that ignored their inherent contradictions. Both tied to and not tied to a fate, Lucifer can be a tragic figure. But Mr. Young called the framing of this debate (and Mr. Naft’s pants) tragic. According to him, tragic figures are all somewhat beautiful and lend some wisdom. Thus tragedy has God in it, where Satan, the absence of God, is not allowed to be.
Ms. Kurek defined religion as a leap of faith from us to the unknown. The Devil can either prompt us to fight an inner war against our flaws or enable us to intimidate others, a tragic in itself. Reciting the Catholic Act of Contrition, Ms. Coccia pointed out that Lucifer never asked for God’s forgiveness. Urging us to “keep reading” and see the Devil’s sins beyond his fall, she had no pity or fear for becoming the Devil who confessed “in my choice, to reign is worth ambition though in Hell.”
Ms. Christensen countered that we are all interpreting the Devil under imperfect information. But the Devil miscalculated under perfect information and made a wrong choice without thinking of others. Reflecting on the “peculiar situations of human beings,” Mr. Wilson observed how we “finite, limited and pathetic” human are cast in between the infinite of goodness and the void of death. Just as Adam and Eve, we brought about our ruin seeking the infinite, but Satan made a choice none of us are capable of – “In the highest good, he chose the void.”
Mr. Mouch then dived into the history of American Revolution where Benedict Arnold’s betrayal was least expected. Similarly, we only have the hindsight to declare Lucifer guilty for he fell with free will and the element of chance. But Chancellor DiMisa fully expected the fall of this perfect being who was “misplaced in the hierarchy of God’s angels.” While Revan in Star Wars always looked for a chance to kill the evil Sith emperor he served, Satan never thought of turning back to the light. Mr. Edgar, however, pitied the Devil who was “trapped by the way he sees the world” and placed him in a circular epic narrative that offered us no real surprise.
Mr. Naft reiterated that the Devil never fell from grace because, made evil, he was not in a state of goodness. Acknowledging our non-member’s brilliant points of confusion, he contested that the burden of proof is on the affirmation and dutifully promoted the Speakers’ Workshop. Citing Darth Vader’s selfless act of redemption, he characterized the Devil as self-indulgent and contrasted his treatment of followers with God’s. However, Mr. Musgrave shouldered the burden and found the Devil “so stubborn and so pigheaded that he couldn’t see the light.” His shortsightedness that makes us almost want to shake him is a tragedy indeed. “Closest to the source of all love” as God’s left-hand man, Lucifer rejected his destiny as a spiritual being and reigned in Hell, a state of being in the absence of love.
The Society then voted to award Merrick points to the five most eloquent speakers that night:
- Mr. Young – 1 point
- Mr. Musgrave – 2 points
- Ms. Egan – 3 points
- Ms. Coccia – 4 points
- Mr. Wilson – 5 points
And this brings the Merrick totals to:
- Mr. Wilson – 11 points
- Ms. Coccia – 10 points
- Ms. Egan – 7 points
- Mr. Dinneen – 5 points
- Ms. Christensen & Mr. Edgar & Mr. Perez-Reyes – 3 points
- Mr. Musgrave – 2 points
- Mr. Young – 1 point
Finally, with a vote of 32-2-31, this resolution is affirmed with so much knowledge of Star Wars imparted!