Tag Archives: the Gospel

Of Demons & Spiritual Warfare: Mental Demons & Beyond Ableism

Content Note: Discussion of depression, mental health issues, ableism

“28 When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who weredemon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. 29 And they cried out, saying, “[a]What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before [b]the time?” 30 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. 31 The demons began to entreat Him, saying, “If You are going tocast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” 32 And He said to them, “Go!” And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters.”

This passage and a few others in the 4 Gospels gives one of the famous accounts of Christ ‘casting out demons’. But as we navigate through this series for the month, we’ll come across different kinds of instances of demonic activity in scriptures. Of course, one of the themes is WHAT IS a demon? Is it the embodiment of evil or an actual being?… or maybe a little of both? And in what way does humanity’s crafted pop-culture units- movies, films, etc.,communicate even “secular” understanding of ‘demons’ ?

First thing’s first! It’s very clear that many folk ( some even Xtian! but many agnostics and atheists too) claiming that the demons spoken of in scripture are really just mental/psychological demons and they didn’t have another name for it at the time.. you know, since ‘modern science’ has all but disproven something like this, or at least made it very tough to believe..

Well, the problem with this is that it automatically concludes that those born with any number of mental/development disorders (including any number of intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, autism, etc.) are just perpetually demon-possessed and therefore unclean or inferior and to the extent that they could ‘have these demons cast out’ , they’d be healed and more righteous. I.e. disgustingly ableist. Now, I’d like to believe that most folks who make their case to all demons being only psychological don’t quite mean it this way, but this is essentially one notion we’re left with.. We must be mindful of that when we’re discussing the idea of ‘mental demons’.

The idea of a demonic stronghold in one’s life or in society as a whole, is often illustrated in scripture as something that the person may not have been born with as a biological/medical condition, but more so because of the presiding evil order of ‘the things of this world’. Perhaps because of empire? Let’s take a look at one- depression!

Depression is one of the leading psychological illnesses of our time in America. The recent death of Robin Williams helped to bring to light something that so many folks struggle with daily. Some say that that depression is akin to an illness that is diagnosable that we had no part in contracting, still I’ve heard other say it’s a matter of feeling a deficit in life purpose. Regardless, many will always state that if the person dies as a result of suicide due to struggling with depression, then “they had demons that they couldn’t overcome…”- so even in our Western materialist secular society we still hear the invoking of the demonic in everyday parlance when it comes to a disease as mentally burdensome as depression and suicidal thoughts. At its core, depression feels like a heavy burden on the mind of the sufferer that often coincides with some other event external to the person. Bullying, unemployment, and yes- even racism!

The mental burden placed on the mind of the one who if forced to immerse into some presiding hegemony often results in suicide. We see this in the sky-high suicide rates of Indian farmers who are struggling and embarassed by their inability to provide for their families because of corporate agro giants like Monsanto rendering them poor. Also, there’s even this article: The Link Between Racism And Depression , detailing the link between racism and depression. And speaking of colliding worlds causing depression, here’s this from the study : ‘”What’s more Asian-American women have long had the highest suicide rate of other women that age. Asian-American women age 65 and older also have the highest suicide rates for elderly women. For immigrants in particular, cultural isolation, language barriers and discrimination add to the problem”

One common theme we see between many cases of depression is the idea of , as stated earlier – a painful sense of purposeless, almost as if you’ve been forgotten or forsaken.  And I couldn’t help but think of the consistent theme of “the old forgotten mansion” or “shack”, etc. that is also haunted. It’s almost as if being forsaken/forgotten is a prerequisite for the demonic, even in popular fiction! And who feels more forgotten than those who are oppressed by empire?

Let’s meditate on the link between being forsake and forgotten. The idea that Christ came to set the captives free. ( think, the phrase – “God-Forsaken!”). Christ’s ministry and power over the demonic proves that God has not forsaken His creation.

Until next time – we will explore notions of the demonic further and from a different angle, then!

For relevant posts on Ableism and Jesus’ confrontation with evil, check out these recommended posts:

Jesus heals a possessed man, or a man with epilepsy? by Sonja at Women In Theology

The Failure To Bother To Love: On Ignorance and Ableism by Katie at Women In Theology

Christianity, Disability, and Nonviolence #TheNewPacifism by Rod here at Political Jesus

 

 

Do You Hate Your Enemies Enough To Love Them?

A VERY QUICK THOUGHT EXPERIMENT USING RIGHT WING CONTRARIANISM

In the latest edition of What Nonsense Is NeoCalvinism Preaching today, an employee for John Piper’s Desiring God, referring to Piper’s works, Do You Love Your Enemies Enough to Hate Them?| Desiring God, wants Christians to believe Jesus told us to hate our enemies. A hate, which in turn, will enable Christians to adopt a Crusader theocratic mentality to enact violence upon those we disagree. HATE IN THE NAME OF LOVE YALL. Enter Mr. Parnell:

“And when Jesus said “love,” we should be clear that he didn’t mean hollow good will, or some bland benevolence, or a flakey niceness that hopes our enemies stop being so cruel. Jesus never talks about love that way.”

Good will? Benevolence? Flakey niceness? “Surely now goodness and mercy will FOLLOW me all the days of my life” or “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you”; the concept of forgiveness means nothing but fire insurance? Oh Parnell probably just means any worldview that endorses nonviolence over bloodshed, and any man (literally) who isn’t a Just War Crusader is probably lacking in the area of masculinity. Did I get that right? Wanna know how many times Mr. Parnell quotes Jesus in his post? ABSOLUTELY ZERO! That’s right! Let’s talk about how Jesus discussed love without actually referring to the Gospels. Makes sense to me.

The one passage from John 5 that the author refers to is concerning the resurrection of the dead, and was completely irrelevant to the subject of Jesus “teaching hate.”

Parnell continues:

“Evil belittles God’s holiness and evidences that his name is not hallowed. We hate evil because it is wrong. But on the other hand, if this hatred is part of loving our enemies, we must hate the evil of our enemies because of what the evil means for them.”

If evil “belittles” God’s holiness, what an absolute puny god you must believe in.

HULK smash PUNY DETERMINIST GOD-LOKI!!

HULK smash PUNY DETERMINIST GOD-LOKI!!

Parnell’s theology (NeoCalvinism) is a god that remains distant, aloof, far above us, with a holiness that stresses separation rather than acts of goodness and redemption. What Piper and other NeoCalvinists are trying to do is to co-opt a set of harmful words usually geared toward the LGBTQIA community, and also apply them to radical Muslims. In both instances, they fail and will continue to fail. Love the sinner but hate the sinner is not only an unbiblical concept, but within the context of NeoCalvinist theology and its view of Total Depravity, it is incredibly harmful. Total Depravity is the extreme version of Augustine’s concept of Original Sin. If we are born inherently sinful, and that sinfulness is (as Original Sin argues) is passed down BIOLOGICALLY, then there is no separation between the sin and the sinner. Since then human fallenness is a natural phenomenon, a person who hates the sin also hates the sinner in Original Sin logic.

Now, not only does Jesus actually talk about what enemy-love looks like, the earliest followers of Christ like the apostle Paul did too. Let’s take a glance, shall we!

Jesus: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48 NIV)

I know Calvinists love Romans a lot, except for that 12th chapter thing. Ethics just gets in the way of everything. Here’s the apostle Paul, as recorded by his secretary, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord” (verse 19). Say it isn’t so! Pauline Christianity also means really trusting in YHWH’s justice rather than our own. Looks like Paul takes his cues from Judaism rather than pagan practices. The living, sacrificial love that Piper and NeoCalvinists completely get wrong is not about calling evil good, (warmongering, violence versus Muslims as a necessary evil to bring about “the Gory Glory of God,” but it is overcoming evil with good. It is engaging the defeated powers of death with the awesome, life-giving peacemaking of Christ Jesus. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head”

Well, now, that’s awkward. Seems like the apostle Paul is saying we are hoping for our enemies’ wellbeing.

Lastly, let us never forget that God does not die for His enemies (the ungodly as Romans 5:6 says) in Calvinism; since the Elect are predestined, they were chosen to be God’s friends since the beginning of time. So God in Christ cannot exhibit love for his enemies in the least, especially since the reprobate have not a chance in hell of getting into heaven (it’s been foreordained, folks!). Enemy-love as defined by Christ and the Good News gets redefined as worldly acts of needless retributive violence in PiperCalvinism.

God loves the righteous and the unrighteous. I mean, if Romans 3 is understood to be saying that we are all sinners, the logic of “love the sinner, hate the sin” turns on itself. I love myself but I also hate myself, and yet there is not one Bible passage that tells us that we lose the Image of God in us during or after “the Fall”? Even in the context of Matthew 5 (verse 22), Jesus condemns his followers if they rely on namecalling (distorting the Image of God in others)to the pit of Hell. Jesus seems pretty intent on us loving others, yes in a BENEVOLENT, HOPEFUL manner. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that NeoCalvinists would prefer to affirm a god as hateful rather than any form of divine benevolence. They’ve held that error for well over five centuries, and they can keep it!

Clement on Romans 8:38 & 39

It is inevitable, then, that those who confess themselves to belong to Christ, but find themselves in the midst of the devil’s works, suffer the most hostile treatment. For it is written, ‘ Lest he deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officers of Satan’s kingdom.’ [Luke 11:17-19] ‘For I am persuaded that neither death,’ through the assault of persecutors, ‘ nor life’ in this world, ‘nor angels.’ the apostate ones, ‘nor powers’ (and Satan’s powers is the life which he chose, for such are the powers and principalities of darkness belonging to him), ‘nor things present,’ amid which we exist during the time of life, as the hope entertained by the soldier and the merchant’s gain, ‘nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,’ in consequence of the energy proper to a man,— opposes the faith of him who acts according to free choice. ‘Creature’ is is synonymous with activity, being our work, and such activity ‘shall not be able to separate us from the the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our LORD. [Romans 8:38, 39]

-Clement of Alexandria, The Carpets [Stromata], Book 5, Chapter 14

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