Which demons haunt you?
For many people mere mention of the word demons conjures images of faith healers, shamans, witch doctors, voodoo dolls, and devils all of which can prey on fictions and superstitions.
Demons can also be understood as personifications of forces and ideas outside an individual’s control or even the control of a community. Peer pressure can be understood as a demon. In this sense demons can be good or malicious.
The Gospel according to Luke tells of Jesus healing a man plagued by a legion of demons. He greets Jesus naked, having broken chains and shackles and escaped guards, and choosing to live among the tombs. Even today we restrain those whose actions we do not understand to protect them and those near them and to facilitate their care. But by confining such persons do we not also give power to those demons, so that we need not change.
I am fascinated by the reaction of this man’s neighbors after Jesus allows his demons to instead enter a heard of swine. They are not pleased and excited for this man’s healing, that he could now sit quietly at Jesus’ feet, instead they are seized with fear and tell Jesus to leave. There was an economic cost (a heard of swine) and a social cost (new relationships) for this man’s healing. Did they fear that if Jesus stayed among them that others might be healed with additional costs? Did they fear that Jesus might rid their demons, might expel behaviors that they had learned to accommodate and had used to hold power over one another?
Which brings us back to our own demons. What keeps us from connecting with people outside our comfort zone? How do we stigmatize perhaps demonize strangers and foreigners in our midst, people with different cultural norms?
I will have more to say about Luke 8:26-39 on Sunday, June 19th, 2016 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor