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Devil and God
A defense of the proposition that God is greater than Devil, an idea that may not be as self-evident as it seems on its face.
Write Club was a popular “live-lit” show created by Chicago’s Ian Belknap, in which pairs of essayists were assigned opposing topics to defend in orations of no longer than seven minutes, with a live audience determining the winner on the basis of applause level. For the program on April 16, 2013, I was assigned (no doubt for my many sins) to defend the topic “God,” in contrast to my opponent’s defense of “Devil.” This is the tale I presented.
I come before you tonight, brothers and sisters, to defend the proposition that God is greater than Devil. Now, this is a proposition I happen to believe with all my heart. But my believing it to be so, my wish that it be so, don’t make it so. As someone’s grandaddy used to say, wish in one hand and shit in th’other, and see which fills up first.
No, I can in no way defend God’s greatness through means so simplistic as my own personal testimony. Nor can I trot out that tired old saw about how God—by definition the Author of all things—is Creator also of Devil, and how can a mere creation ever exceed its Creator in greatness?
This might seem to make a powerful argument for the notion of God’s greater greatness—but first off, what parent don’t take every measure in their power to ensure their child exceeds them in greatness? ‘Twould be a poor parent indeed, but then again, we ain’t even talking about no parent/child relationship. It’d be more true to say God and Devil created each other than to say one gave rise to th’other in a singular act of demonogenesis.
Why, I cain’t even resort to linguistic trickery to make my case for me, for when you reverse the letters in the word DEVIL, you come up with the word LIVED. On th’other hand, when you turn GOD around, all’s you come up with is DOG.
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No, my brothers and sisters, all’s I can do to make my case is relate a small tale for you, a story the veracity of which has been vouched to me on the most reliable of authorities. Indulge me now.
God and Devil, it seems, were whiling away the hours together, as is their wont, when Devil says to God, he says, “God, you ain’t so great, you know.”
And God, God leaves off blowing clouds into phantasmagorical shapes, and leans back and says, “Never said I was, Devil.”
And Devil smirks and says, “God, I say you ain’t just not so great. I say you ain’t great at all.”
And God, because God knows Devil’s wily ways, nods thoughtfully, and God says, “Devil, I do believe I hear a wager in the offing.”
And Devil, he smiles and says, he says, “No wager here, on my life.”
And God says, “Because I know you recollect the time Mr. Daniel Webster handed you that smokin’ red ass o’ yours, and I know you know I’m a greater being than Daniel Webster.”
“I know it well,” says ol’ Devil, “and I know you’re smarter, too. So no, this ain’t no wager. Just an observation.”
And God, God just raises those magnificent eyebrows until Devil, discomfited, clears his throat and points.
“A’right, a’right,” he says, Devil says, “if you must know, I been thinking on your Somali children, how they wither and starve far from home in yonder refugee encampments.”
“My thoughts, too, bend toward them often,” says God.
And Devil, he says, “But your thoughts, God, offer no food, no shade, no iota of comfort. If you truly were great, would you not cut off the littlest of your toes and offer it to me, that I might carry your nourishing flesh to those in such great need, that they might be fed?”
And God says, “Devil, you speak true.” And God, God breaks off the littlest of the divine toes and hands it to Devil, and says, “Take this, my flesh, and feed my children who hunger.”
“Forthwith,” says Devil, who speeds himself to Earth. But Devil, out of his pockets he takes nigh unto billions of bushels of grain and deposits it with God’s Somali children, and the toe, God’s toe, he pops it in his mouth and swallers.
And Devil, he returns to God, and he says, “Lo, your Somali children are fed.”
And God, God says, “Devil, it is well.”
But before God can take up with the clouds again, Devil, he says, “Yet still am I troubled, God. For do your North Korean children not yet starve in their cities and their towns, when could not the littlest of your fingers feed them and their progeny for years to come?”
“Devil,” says God, “you speak true.” And God breaks off the littlest of the divine fingers and hands it to Devil, and says, “Take this, my flesh, and feed my children who hunger.”
“Forthwith,” says Devil, who speeds himself to Earth. And Devil, he feeds God’s North Korean children from his own pockets, but God’s finger he swallers for himself.
And Devil, he returns to God and says, “Lo, are your North Korean children fed.”
And God says, “Devil, it is well.”
But Devil, he’s not done, for God’s Afghani children do yet starve, and God’s Appalachian children, and God’s Bosnian children, and so it goes, nation after nation, part after part, until Devil, he’s fed all the children of Earth, and eaten up all of God but God’s red, beating heart.
And now Devil, he picks up that heart of God and raises it high, and Devil says, “Who’s greater now, God? For ain’t I fed all the children of Earth, and eaten you right up in the bargain?”
And Devil pops that beating heart down his throat, he swallers it right down, and now suddenly Devil, he cain’t breathe so well, being that God’s warm arms are tight around him.
And God, she lets go of Devil and steps back, and God, she says, “Did you not do my work, Devil, and feed my children? And was I not inside you already, even as you’re inside me, and as we both are inside all our children?”
And Devil, he hangs his head and says, “God, you speak true.”
And brothers and sisters, may God strike me dead if she ain’t still as great as the day we made each other. Amen. ∅
My victory, as decreed by audience applause, earned a donation on behalf of my selected charity, One Tail at a Time. They do good work. You should support them too.
Now watch this video and tell me I can’t command a room. I mean, come on, people.