|That sinner, the Queen of Sheba, getting God-wisdom|
Last week, we started a look at (among other things) demons in the New Testament. Today, we'll look at a few more, and talk about the demonic in relation to Good Religious People.
As always, you can find all our previous posts in this series, going through the Gospels chronologically to find the real Jesus, here.
And as always you'll find the scriptures for today are here. (Note that you can change the human-translation version on this scripture page as suits you. I default to the NASB to get the more literal translation, but do use the one that works for you. Note also that I have no theological or other tie to the bible site I list above – it's just one that lists the NASB, KJV, and The Message, and most folks I've corresponded with seem to use one of those. However, another brother says you can also get the NRSV human translation at bible.oremus.org. If you prefer yet another human-translation that isn't on one of these other pages, do send it to me. I will also list it here).
Today we see that "demon-possessed" people were brought to Jesus. What does that mean, "demon-possessed"? Does the Bible or science tell us the real truth about demons? Or is there perhaps truth in both – or neither?
To modern human philosophies, which discount everything that doesn't fit within a certain narrow way of testing and thinking about the biological and psychological world, demons just don't exist. The modern cultures with the most power in the western world today teach us that "demons" are only psychological or mythological mind-creations of "backward", or psychologically disturbed, or "overly-religious" people (who are often presumed by the most insistent believers in modern philosophies to be "backward" and "psychologically disturbed", as well).
Problem is, being made of fallible human beings just like religion is made up of fallible human beings, what most loudly calls itself "Science" has degenerated in the last century into a mess no more logical than "Religion". In fact (and to my great sorrow, since I have a lifelong love of real science), "Good Science People" today are really no different from "Good Religious People". Both:
- Either don't make a study, or make a poor one, of those parts of their base wisdom-materials (world or Bible) they accept as "reality", and then
- Either consciously or unconsciously decide what they will find, and then
- Use their base wisdom materials to "prove" what they decided was the truth, and then
- Refuse to think outside the tiny box they've invented for their minds.
This is true all over, in physics, biological sciences (including medicine), geology, and more – just as it's true in fundamentalist Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, and the "tweeners" like denominational Protestantism, emerging/emergent "churches", and so on. Why is it true? Because human beings are human beings, and without a lot of self-reflection and being willing to give up our self-focused crap, we naturally gravitate to ways of thinking and understanding that back up and "prove" our crap. There are people, both among those interested in science and in religion, who truly work to find the real thing beyond their own garbage – but they are few and far between, and in science just as in religion, they are ignored and trashed and even punished by the science/religion majority.
So what we’ve ended up with – in both "science" and "religion" realms – is a lot of exceptionally educated people who know crap. They're "educated idiots", heads full of years of documented study the majority conformity-culture says is "reality" – but what they've really done is just memorize a particular human philosophy, and then gone out into the world to help coat and re-coat reality with their philosophy.
So, what does all this have to do with demons? Well, the truth of the matter is, the Bible doesn't tell us a whole lot about demons, and almost all of what passes for religious "knowledge" about demons is simply human philosophy about demons – not demon-reality. Unfortunately, what most loudly calls itself "Science" today has nothing more to offer in helping us understand demons than "Religion" does, because in the slap-fight it started with its sibling "Religion" several centuries back, it decided that anything that Religion even talks about is automatically NOT REAL.
So we have two large, self-focused, domineering human philosophies, neither of them doing any real work to figure demons out based on the evidence that's there or might be there, telling us what to believe about demons. What a mess.
So all we "non-experts" can do is do our own work and decide for ourselves what we believe. And hopefully we do that in a way that isn't as full of our own crap! Several years ago I did discover a book that goes more specifically and only into what the Bible actually says and doesn't say about demons. Check it out if you're interested!
- Have you made an actual study of what the Bible itself actually says and doesn't say about demons? Where do you get your understanding of who they are (or aren't) and what they can do (or can't do)? Does your understanding need updating or refining?
- If you decide demons don't really exist, or decide that they do exist, how does that change or set your understanding of the various forces at work in the world today?
In our scriptures today we see that when Jesus healed someone who was demon-possessed and also had a physical ailment (like blindness), the physical ailment went away when the demon did. One of the important things to see here is the strong reaction this caused among those who were witnesses to it. The miracle-healing and throwing out of demons made them think, made them debate within and among themselves as individuals and as a collective people:
Is this God or God's power standing right here among us? Or is there something evil going on?
As we talked about last week, of course, Jesus reminds them that if evil was using evil to remove evil power, then evil would fall – and evil isn't that stupid. So here again is God visibly and powerfully using supernatural power in the world so that the people He told to look for these kinds of supernatural events to prove it was Him (and not some huckster pretending to be Him) with them would be able to recognize Him. We know, of course, that in the end very few of His Chosen People were even willing to recognize Him, even as He stood right there in front of them doing things no human or demonic power could ever do. Remember what John (the disciple/Gospel writer, not the Baptist) said?
There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens everyone. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. [John 1:9-13]
Almost all of the Jews of the day believed that simply being Jewish made them one of God's people, as if nothing more was required of them than religious rituals and attendance. And believing so, their hearts and minds weren't willing to see the greatest miracle of all: God standing right in their midst. In the end, nearly all the Jews of that day rejected God, and so they made a mockery of believing they were "God's People". And who ended up really being God's People? John tells us: those Jews and non-Jews whose hearts and minds were willing to see and accept God as He lived among them. Suddenly, being one of God's People didn't require anything from the Old Testament Mosaic Law, and didn't require being of a certain people – it just required being willing.
- We also have to ask today when we see miraculous or big spiritual things happening, "Is this God's power at work here, or is something evil going on?" Jesus and others in the Bible tell us to always question and test to make sure what we're following or seeing is truly from God, and not some evil fake. So the question itself is good. The Good Religious People back then just made it a reason to reject the real God because their fake-"God" suited them better. When in your life have you questioned whether something's really about God or not, for the right reasons? When in your life have you questioned like a Good Religious Person, and therefore done it for the wrong reasons?
- "Churches" and "denominations" today are rank with the insistence that we have to join up with them to be saved or one of God's People. It wasn't too long ago, in fact, when Good Religious People even had the power to torture and murder people who refused to submit to their version of "God" and being "God's People". Yet by filling their hearts and minds with their own version of "God" in the same way the Good Religious People 2,000 years ago did, they can't even recognize and accept the real One. Have you been guilty of this in the past? (I have!) Have you since recognized the error and sought healing and the true Jesus?
- The institutions and philosophies that Good Religious People create can be intensely addicting and absorbing, so that it can seem impossible to be free from the fear, guilt, and/or shame that keep us attached to them (physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually) even long after we've otherwise rejected them. One could even say that their complete possession of especially (but not only) those of us who were raised in their "reality" seems demonic, because of the dominating power they can have over us. Does Jesus need to heal you of any Good Religious Demons? Are you fully aware of the physical, psychological, and/or spiritual ailments you will also be free of, when Jesus drives the demon of religion out of you?
When Jesus confronted the Good Religious People in today's scripture, He told them something else very interesting – something He'd warned them about several times before, and would warn them about again, in other ways:
It's safer to be a repentant God-rejecter, than a Good Religious Person.
Why safer? Because the sincere repentance of even the evil pagans of Ninevah, and the sincere search for true-God-wisdom made by the idol-worshipping queen of the South, actually produced people able to recognize the true God and the need to live in His ways. This so much so that those who had been God-rejecters now had enough God-understanding to recognize and condemn the kind of false-God-connection the Good Religious People lived.
Good Religious People accused Jesus of being demon-possessed and demon-powered, yet who really was? Here again we see talk of demons – also called evil or unclean spirits – but this time in relationship to Good Religious People (go back and check today's scripture again, if you missed this context). Jesus says that giving ourselves a good spiritual housecleaning means nothing toward really making and keeping us spiritually clean. When we simply empty ourselves of evil (say, at a revival meeting, or during a church service, etc), but don't turn around and fill ourselves with God, then we stay religious – and Good Religious – but then end up even more evil than when we started.
Those of us not still trapped in this kind of Good Religious Trade-One-Devil-for-Seven Spirituality certainly can see this. We automatically curl our lip or step back defensively (physically, emotionally, financially, whatever) from those we find out are Big Christians or big churchgoers or big Bible-readers. Good Religious People like to pretend that people only reject them because they reject God, but in fact the Bible says that (many) people actually reject God because of Good Religious People.
Whether we are female, Gay, poor, a citizen of a weaker nation, or just an Average Joe on the street or in a workplace or family, we suffer under the huge amount of self-righteousness, self-centeredness, nation-worship, violence-worship, hate, condemnation, sexual and other kinds of abuse (of adults and children), Bible-twisting, clergy-elevation, and even just plain old lying, cheating, and stealing we see on a regular basis from Good Religious People (Christian and otherwise). And all of the evil ugliness we see in Good Religious People – whether 6,000 years ago, 2,000 years ago, 1,000 years ago, or today – is all part of what Jesus is describing here: religiously cleaning out one demon, but then ending up with seven demons. Starting out as a Level 1 Jerko, and ending up a Level 7 Smiling Ass. When we go the Good Religious Route, instead of the real Jesus route, our condition does go from bad to worse. It truly would have been better had we never become Good Religious People in the first place, but just gone from simple sinner to simple repentant sinner.
- People decide to focus on a lot of different things in the Bible. For example, Good Religious Heterosexuals like to pretend that the Bible is mostly about God blessing and obsessing on what their sex organs can do. Good Religious Power Worshippers like to pretend the Bible is mostly about domination, violence, and acquisition at home, work, at war, etc. And so on. But one of the things that fills a good deal of the Bible, but is rarely talked about (or even seen) by Good Religious People, is the amount of effort God has put in to trying to get Good Religious People to be and do what they claim to be (His real followers, doing His real things) – and how nearly every time Good Religious People have absolutely refused to do anything but their own way. Oh, they turn around now and again, usually after a huge punishment takes away all their material goods and feel-good religious rituals. But then they go back – again, and again, and again – to doing things their own way. How has this happened within your own life? How much effort has God had to put into trying to get you to be His (real) follower, instead of a Good Religious Person? What can you do to stop getting in the way of His efforts?
See you next week, when we'll talk about who Jesus counts as His family, and who Jesus says "gets" His message and doesn't - and why.
This article written by Lynne at http://NoJunkJustJesus.blogspot.com/. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.