There lived in the land of Uz a man of blameless and upright
life named Job, who feared God and set his face against wrongdoing. —- The Book of Job
On a day that the Princes of Heaven and all the Saints took their places before God, Satan too was among them, for he was once one of the Heavenly Host, before being cast into Hell.
And the Lord said unto Satan, “From whence comest thou?”
Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro in the earth and from walking up and down in it.”
And the Lord said unto Satan, “And in your wanderings, have you considered that most worthy and exalted nation, the United States of America, whose money bears the motto, ‘In God we trust,’ recognizing the Most High even in the midst of commerce?”
Satan replied, “And why should they not feel exalted and worthy? You have endowed them with two deep oceans on their flanks for protection, broad fertile lands between the seas, majestic purple mountains, fine deep lakes of fresh water and, for their amusement, Sunday football and video recorders so that they may go to worship You and yet still follow their team. If they were made to feel less exalted and favored, would they still be so worshipful or God-fearing? I would wager not.”
And the Lord said, “You would wager with Me? I believe in the faith of these Americans upon whom I have smiled. Even were they to be tempted and tested severely by you, I believe they would not break. Only, you may not wreak physical damage upon the land or its people.”
Satan asked, “A 9.0 earthquake in Southern California? They’ll think You were doing what You did to Sodom and Gomorrah.”
The Lord replied, “It may yet come to that, but no, not now and not of your doing.”
Then Satan asked, “Well what about several good category 5 hurricanes and maybe a tsunami or two?”
The Lord replied, “Insurance companies have classified those as ‘Acts of God,’ not Satan. Will you wager or not?”
And Satan said, “Okay, I’ll take the bet. But to be fair, no peeking. You’ll need to limit Your Omniscience so that You will not know what I plan and how it will affect the future. You’ve done it before for humans with the question of their Free Will.
“Consider it done,” replied the Lord. “Now take leave of Us. Your sulfurous fumes are starting to discolor the Pearly Gates.”
And Satan bowed and took leave of the Lord, and descended to the smoky flames of Hell. There, sitting on his glowing, red-hot iron throne, he summoned his Princes to his side. They came to his call through the dim, sulfurous air. Among them Beelzebub, second only to Satan, Apollyon, king of demons, and Baal, commander of the armies of Hell. And Satan told them of his wager with God, and asked for their counsel.
“Sire,” ventured Beelzebub, “Was that perhaps unwise? Remember how that wager over Job, the righteous one, turned out.”
“The Lord was lucky on that one,” Satan replied with irritation. “Job was ready to declare God’s unjustness, when that buttinski Elihu spoke out.”
“Well, how about an asteroid hit on Washington, D.C.?” suggested Baal, every ready for direct action.
“No, the rules are that I can’t do anything physical to the land or its people.”
“Then, Sire, if you can do nothing physical, you must do something to subvert the minds of the American people,” Tiamanicus, Prince of Trickery and Lies hissed.
“What do you suggest?” Satan asked.
“Insure that their next leader will appeal to their basest appetites. The present period of good feeling is only a veneer over their darker instincts,” said Tiamanicus.
“And do you have such a person in mind?
“Indeed I do, Sire. One that I have cultivated for many of their years.” And Tiamanicus smiled thinly. “I will guarantee that he is elected president at their next election.”
And so it came to pass that the candidate under Tiamanicus’ tutelage blared a message of exclusion, suspicion, hate, and lies across the land. And this found a receptive audience in hate groups of every stripe.
Satan summoned Tiamanicus to report progress.
“Alas,” Tiamanicus said, “Although his words resonate strongly with those who already carry hatred and envy in their hearts, there are not enough of them to insure that he will be elected.”
“Ha!” exulted Leviathan, Prince of Envy . “You dared to guarantee success and you failed.”
“You are saying that I will lose the wager?” Satan demanded angrily.
“Not at all Sire,” said Tiamanicus smoothly. “For if we expand his appeal to more of the American people, he will win. But in order to do that, your intervention is needed.”
“Tell me your plan,” Satan said, leaving forward on his throne. “I will be the judge of its soundness.”
“We will need to recruit those who interpret God’s word to their followers, of which there are many, by convincing them that my candidate will be very beneficial to them.”
“And how will you do that, for from what I have seen, your pupil is antithetical to God’s teachings?” Satan asked.
“Let me have the aid of Lucifer, Prince of Pride. He will appeal to the pride of the so-called spokesmen of God on earth, tell them that they alone know what is best for their followers. And I will convince them that achieving their earthly goals are more important than preaching the Word of God to their following. That their goals are so important that the end justifies the means, which in this case means advocating for my candidate even though he is a most imperfect tool, as judged by God’s Teaching.”
“Ah,” Lucifer said, “My greatest pleasure is in corrupting the spokesmen of the Lord. I will be delighted to assist.”
Satan sat silent, pondering. Then he smiled, “Brilliant, Tiamanicus. Truly you are the Prince of Trickery and Lies. To use the so-called spokesmen of the Lord to subvert His Will!”
And Lucifer and Tiamanicus left Hell to busy themselves on earth, and on election day it came to pass that Tiamanicus’ pupil was elected president.
There was another day when the Court of Heaven assembled before the Lord.
And Satan again moved among them.
“Ah Satan,” said the Lord. “Truly you have perpetuated a most devilish and foul scheme upon my favored people.”
“Thank you, I try,” replied Satan with an ironic bow. “Are you ready to admit now that you have lost our wager?”
“I think not, for your pawn is so flawed he will barely last the four years that are allotted to him,” the Lord said. “Then the people will return to their rightful ways.”
“You broke your Word and peeked into the future!” accused Satan.
“How dare you accuse Me of cheating which is what you would do!” the Lord replied angrily. “No, I have faith that the Americans will themselves correct their course in the future, whereas all you offer are lies and deceit. Now leave my Presence. Saint Peter will see you out the Pearly Gates.”
Satan descended to Hell and again summoned his princes to him. “God predicted that your pupil will be gone in four years, Tiamanicus. Even if he were to do our bidding for that time, his influence on the people will fade away afterwards and the Lord will win. I cannot stand the thought of losing again!”
“Perhaps the Lord is wrong,” offered Tiamanicus soothingly.
“No, He is always right even if He did not peek,” said Satan.
“There must be a way to extend my protégée’s influence beyond four years,” Tiamanicus suggested.
“I’ll get back to you on that soon.” Tiamanicus thought and remembered how the crowds flocked to the rallies, wearing their red caps as tribal identification, and how they cheered his every exaggeration and lie. He returned to Satan and said, “I have a plan. He will continue to whip up fervor by holding continuous rallies as long as he is president. No one has done this before. And he will continue to lie, the bigger the better, and paint the news media as his enemies, until his followers can no longer distinguish fact from fiction and will come to believe only what he tells them. And he will cultivate and defend the hate groups so that they will coalesce around him.”
“A cult of personality. The indispensable leader,” said Satan. “Well, it did work well for Hitler and Mao. But in America with its tradition of individual worth and freedom?”
“Ah,” said Tiamanicus, “That will be his message. That the government is planning to take away their individual freedoms and that he alone can prevent this. And he will pound this message over and over and over.”
The strategy was working. The wealthy and near-wealthy prospered greatly but workers were barely keeping pace. And Satan was greatly pleased that, despite the prediction of God, the president seemed on his way to another four years.
But then a virus came out of the East and rapidly spread over the world.
“This is not of my or God’s doing,” said Satan. “But it is a chance for your protégée to cement his hold on his followers and perhaps win new ones if he acts with great leadership to contain the pandemic. Why is he not doing so?”
“Sadly he is headstrong and vain and believes his own lies. I have tried mightily to have him follow the lead of his most knowledgeable advisors, but he prefers instead to listen to the flatterers and to follow his instincts that are often wrong. Unfortunately, the Free Will Rule also applies to what we can do with humans,” said Tiamanicus.
“Does he not care that his people are sickening and dying?” asked Satan.
“He cares only for himself and his reelection. I have tried to show him that his actions will cause him to lose, but his vanity prevents him from saying that he was previously in error.”
“Am I again to lose my wager?” asked Satan.
“Not necessarily,” Tiamanicus said. “He has repeated his message of hate and lies so often that many Americans have come to accept them as their truth rather than believe reality. He may lose, but he has sown enough discord that his message may outlive the messenger. Given time, you may yet win.”
On yet another day that the Princes of Heaven and all the Saints took their places before God, Satan too was among them.
And the Lord said onto Satan, “You have seen that my favored people, the Americans, have voted your pawn out after four years as I trusted them to do. It seems that you have lost our wager.”
Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “I choose not to concede so quickly. For the affairs of men are measured in days and years, whereas the affairs of Hell and Heaven span eons and eternity. There is yet time for the message of my pawn to persist and spread among the American people though he may be gone. Let us wait and see.”
And so the contest continues with the outcome still very much in doubt.