Exorcisms for Modern Times

Exorcism, healing of the Gadarene demoniac
Matt 8:28-34, Healing of the Gadarene Demoniac

Matt 8:28-34 is weird all by itself. It features a naked guy, stronger that chains, howling in a graveyard and terrifying townspeople. Need we say more? Add the special effects and twisted imaginations of ‘Hellywood’ and the images ‘exorcism’ conjures in our minds become outright bizarre.

Independent Fundamental Baptists, the broader evangelical version of fundamentalism and mainline believers share this in common: they see exorcisms as the special preserve of eccentrics, Charismatics, occasional mystic, and perhaps Roman Catholic exorcism specialists.

The gospels make exorcisms seem fairly routine in Jesus’ ministry. One explanation is that as spiritual oppression deepened as his ministry began. Another sees exorcisms as a demonstration of God’s power, with the cross itself as an ultimate exorcism. Jo 12:31 says:

‘Now judgment is upon this world;
now the ruler of this world will be cast out.’

Speaking to ongoing US political crisis, Morton Guyton recently wrote:

‘God raised up Pharaoh so that God’s power might be made known through the wrath he pours out on Egypt’ [Ex 9:16].

He also makes this extraordinary observation:

‘I think the evangelical church today is like the Gerasene demoniac. We’ve been shrieking in the tombs of culture war with a louder and shriller pitch every year.’

And he asks this stunner:

‘What if God did in fact raise up Donald Trump as a means of pouring out his wrath on the religious right who have been blaspheming his name for the past three decades?’

As I see it, any attempt to recruit God for our partisan interests is unwise. But this does not invalidate Guyton’s point. Morton also asks:

‘What if the next four years will be the political Chernobyl that completely destroys the political power of the religious right forever?’

Justice requires that punishment fit the crime. He rightly notes that this sometimes means living with the consequences of getting what we want.

President Trump faced much criticism on the campaign trail and on his first 100 hours in office. And it is well deserved. But is the import of what is transpiring around us truly understood? President Trump:

  • Packed senior cabinet positions with generals, including those that supervise the military.
  • His inaugural address invoked ‘absolute loyalty to America;’ partisanship didn’t matter so long as citizens [embodied by Trump] hold the power.
  • In that speech he said twice that ‘America first’ must now be the rule.
  • He emphasizes military power as key.
  • He is introducing legislation to further expand the already gigantic U.S. military machine.

The question begging to be asked, but which our subservient media will never ask, is this: What do you do differently if you’re planning a coup?

I don’t intend to offer a place to speculate about answers. It I do believe that we are in a precarious situation. A Reichtag fire incident [by terrorism or a false flag operation] could lead to many changes very quickly.

It isn’t my intention to be alarmist. But acknowledging the unhealthy environment in which we live does lead us to ask, ‘how we get here.’ Here, Morton Guyton perhaps speaks most pointedly:

‘I think the evangelical church today is like the Gerasene demoniac. We’ve been shrieking in the tombs of culture war with a louder and shriller pitch every year.’

In the past, I’ve connected spiritual power and culture. I’ve noted that:

‘Moses’ confrontation of Pharaoh has the character of an exorcism. The struggle of Moses and Pharaoh manifests itself in the competing claims of Yahweh, God of Israel, and Egypt’s gods.’

And I said that:

‘The claims, magicians, miracles and plagues that follow are a wrestling of spiritual power, evil and good, each to subdue the other.’

However far some think our society has departed from the Biblical mind, events currently unfolding attest that the same forces which have always dominated history are the ones which continue to impel us into the future.

This leads to the point that Morton Guyton is correct to say that the operative power of hatemongering, warmongering, uber-nationalist, racist, anti-everything which so often finds refuge and strength in confessing Christian circles means one thing:

Evangelical Christianity stands in need of an exorcism.