The new CW television show “Reaper,” in addition to being relatively funny, also raises an intriguing theological question. The premise of the show is that a 21-year-old slacker is the Devil’s bounty hunter. Apparently souls escape from Hell from time to time, and our hero’s job is to capture them.
Now, what makes it possible for the audience to root for a guy who works for the forces of darkness? I love anti-hero shows, but they don’t seem to find success on any channel besides FX and HBO. (Seriously, try to think of any successful anti-hero show on a broadcast network.) What makes Reaper's protagonist sympathetic is that what he’s doing isn’t really wrong. Evil people deserve to go to Hell, so putting them there is ultimately a respectable calling.
And thus the theological question: In what sense is the Devil evil? After all, he provides punishments for dead sinners, as well as strong incentives for the living to be good. Despite the alleged enmity between God and Satan, it seems an awful lot like God has simply kept the carrot in-house while outsourcing the stick.