Recently I’ve been playing a lot of video games – it’s the best way to avoid the scariness of Ph.D. applications. So far, I’ve worked my way through Halo, Resident Evil, Dante’s Inferno, Constantine, and Blood Rayne. I love these games. The graphics are amazing, the stories are amusing, and I’ve done some of my most fun theological musings while playing them. See, all of these games have basically the same theme:
Kill the monsters!
Whether they be devils, demons, aliens or zombies, these games pit the heroic (mostly) human against some form of evil monster bent on destroying the world. It’s a fascinating theological problem.
What do we do with the monsters?
Torah gives us several different viewpoints. In Job we find Behemoth and the Leviathan as glorious monsters who reveal the aweful glory of God. These are the monsters of Halo and Resident Evil, the monsters who frighten us, who kill us, who bring about the end time promises of the prophets. Torah is a textbook on the creation of these huge and frightening monsters. One only needs to read some of the Psalms or a bit of Isaiah to see the creation of these terrifying beasts.
However, Torah is hardly universal in its treatment of monsters. Psalm 104 gives us a different view of both God and the monsters. Here we see a childlike God who frolics in the waters with the Leviathan. Every time I read it, I picture God with a giant beach ball playing with the Loch Ness monster. Hardly the frightening Leviathan who brings chaos to the world in other parts of the Torah.
I have to admit to liking the second view of monsters better. I want to sympathize with them. I want a video game where I am the monster, and not the one being violent. I want a game where monsters and humans get along. Idealistic and silly I know, but every time I play these games, I have to wonder: to whom do the monsters pray at night?
Maybe we can learn from the Leviathan of Psalm 104. Devils, demons, monsters, aliens – Judaism allows us to see these are the beloved children of God, no less than we are. Perhaps, if we cannot begin with loving each other, we can begin with loving the monsters. We can work to see them as children of God and work from there. It seems as though we find it easier, after all, to love the monsters than it is to love those with whom we disagree on political, religious, or personal lines. If love is a practice that must be learned and worked towards (which I believe it is), then perhaps loving the monsters is where we should begin.
After all, I’m pretty sure they say the same bedtime prayers as I do.