To Hell With It | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

To Hell With It 

There’s a reason Utah politics gives the devil his due.

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If you didn’t know it after reading reporter Robert Gehrke’s story in The Salt Lake Tribune late last week, you know it now: Third congressional candidate John Jacob believes in Beelzebub. In fact, the Dark One was behind sour business deals that prevented Jacob from priming his campaign against incumbent Rep. Chris Cannon with more filthy lucre.

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“There’s another force that wants to keep us from going to Washington, D.C.,” Jacob told Gehrke. “It’s the devil is what it is.”

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The candidate known for flirting with gambling in the past went on to tell the Tribune about how “adversity,” an “outside force,” and Satan, or “whoever you want to call it,” was out to destroy “a country created by our Heavenly Father.”

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Along the way, however, Jacob almost dismissed his conjuring act with a good old “aw-shucks” sort of demeanor. People who read of his belief in the devil, he said, will think he’s one of those “screw-loose people.”

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Jacob, my man, you worry far too much. The issue of immigration placed you within striking distance of Cannon’s five-term fort, but if you won the June 27 primary (the results weren’t in at press time), I predict you’ll have the devil himself to thank. I know it. You know it. Everybody knows it. Few people smart enough to make millions in real-estate development as Jacob has would be dumb enough to say something stupid. And to the ears of 3rd Congressional District voters in Utah County, Jacob said something very smart indeed.

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For if Jacob wanted to say something really stupid, he would have told Gehrke he doesn’t believe at all in the devil. Had Gehrke said that, Utah County voters would have recoiled in horror and observers in Salt Lake County would have yawned. As it stands, observers in Salt Lake City got a light chuckle out of Gehrke’s report, while Utah County voters rested firm in the knowledge that Jacob knows and respects the forces of good and evil that run the world. They might have scratched their heads that Jacob would have the audacity to reveal whom the devil favors, sure. But in today’s political climate, and Utah especially, surely it’s better to say you believe in the devil than dismiss him as a joke. Or, to paraphrase Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” That’s not to say Jacob’s a ruthless Hungarian crime lord, just a really smart politician.

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Personally, I don’t think much about Jacob’s theology. To say that the devil is behind his financial misfortunes, as well as those of Sen. Bob Bennett and Cannon since they arrived in D.C., as he told the Tribune, sells the devil just a tad short. Most people only begin invoking Lucifer’s name when they talk about war, famine, theft and child molestation'although I suspect even Satan himself would threaten a libel suit if someone accused him of molesting children. Reading the New Testament over several summers of Bible camps, it seemed obvious to me that Jesus had no beef with poverty. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth; Ye cannot serve God and mammon; and something else about rich men, camels and the eye of a needle.

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But if Satan has time enough to meddle in Utah politics, so be it. And who better to run your campaign than the Evil One? It’s flat out obvious that if Satan doesn’t want you traveling to D.C. for your very own congressional office, then he certainly doesn’t mind if your opponent holds office there instead. And that’s the beauty of Jacob’s argument. Satan is against me. Therefore, God must be for me. By extension, if God is for me, then Satan must be rooting for my opponent. Think about this for a minute, and it’s clear Cannon paid no attention to the art of Jacob’s sleight of hand. If he had, he would have stopped finessing his position on immigration in front of voters and taken time out to sock Jacob straight in the mouth. Then, perhaps, they would have settled into polite discussion about whom God favored.

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In Utah County at least, whom God favors is serious business. As The New York Times pointed out in an article early this month, only three states remain where President George W. Bush’s approval ratings hover above 50 percent, and Utah County is the strongest of hold-outs. Never mind Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq war and all that small stuff. What matters to Utah County voters most is your belief in God. “I’m not sure of anything he [President Bush] has done, but I like that he’s religious'that’s really important,” one Brigham Young University student was quoted as saying. Another Utah County denizen liked the fact that Bush was “God fearing.”

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So it was only a matter of time before someone got around to mentioning Satan. After all, if you believe in one, you believe in the other.

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As tired as the secular crowd grows of hearing constantly about religion in politics, there’s another angle to ponder here as well. According to the results of the online survey conducted by BeliefNet.com and published recently by Newsweek, conservatives believe in greater numbers than others that they’ll never go to hell, or that they’re certain they know someone who’s headed there. Liberals, on the other hand, are a lot less certain, both about their own salvation and proclaiming the future salvation of others. Little wonder, then, that conservatives admire a rush to judgment, voters complain about Democrats’ indecisiveness, and so many people find comfort in religion when contrasted against the world’s confusing intricacies.

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Who cares about whether or not God or Satan even exist, just so long as you know what side you rest on.

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