"Outside [the gates of the city of God] are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers..." - Revelation 22:15 (NRSV)
In 1875, Edward and Emily Crowley welcomed their son Edward into the world. They were members of a strict Christian sect, so when as a child he asked about inconsistencies in the Bible, they tried to curb his wicked behavior. Predictably, it didn't work, and he started to rebel against his parents' mores. As a result, his mother took to calling him The Beast—not a beast, mind you, but the Beast, as in Satan. She came down hard enough that he decided that if she was going to be inside Heaven, he'd rather be outside with the fornicators and sorcerers.
Li'l Eddie grew up, changed his name, and became Aleister Crowley, occultist, libertine, practitioner of sex magick, drug experimenter, and Uncle Fester lookalike. He also founded a new esoteric religion that used a lot of "satanic" symbols in its rituals. He was proud to become known in the press as The Wickedest Man in the World.
Poor Mrs. Crowley. She'd tried so hard.
Of course, trying so hard may have been the problem. Maybe calling her son Satan did more harm than good. Maybe if our religion is too full of judgement, of name-calling, too much of what we're against and not enough of what we're for, too much cruel anger, maybe we risk creating the very thing we fear.
If you scream a name at somebody often enough in the name of your religion, they just might decide it sounds better to be whatever it is you've been calling them than whatever it is you call yourself.
Holy One, let me never be scared to speak the truth, but let me always do it in love. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.