I might be the only one running around claiming that the demon Jesus casts out in Mark 5 is a particularly Roman demon. I don’t know for sure, but in all the commentaries I am familiar with and all the citations in various monographs from various scholars, I have never found anyone seeing in this demon what I see. So, you might be excused for thinking I am just some kook. But, let me be on record at the start of this post saying, I find “Legion” to be very Roman in nature.
“Legion,” for English-only readers this is distorted, is a Latin intrusion into the Greek of the original (or earliest extant copies of) text of Mark’s Gospel. That is just the first hint. Not only is “Legion” in the Latin language, but it is in fact a Latin idea. The story of this demon encounter occurs in the “Little Italy” district of the Holy Land (thus the pigs). This demon is powerful and scary and cannot be subdued (sound Roman to anyone else?). And this demon possessed man comes running to bow down to Jesus as he is getting out of the boat (something that sounds like subsequent imperial history, almost).
There, that will suffice as my evidence for now. I don’t actually want to talk about Mark per se in this post, but this observation lends itself to my topic, I think. Perhaps there are many aspects that lend credibility to this linkage, but to my way of thinking one of them has to do with the way we modern types often construe demon possession with mental health (and vice versa). IN MY LIMITED EXPERIENCE, I have encountered people in Bible study frequently who bring the discussion of demons to bear with a discussion of mental health. I also have met many people suffering from mental health problems who believe they are demon possessed. Whether the Bible intends us to think this way or not, in my experience we often do, and I think very likely in yours as well.
Okay… with these things in mind, let’s talk about American politics vis-a-vis the Kingdom of God – especially the contemporary state of American politics vis-a-vis the church. Let’s talk in spiritual terms, specifically, but with sensitivities for the language of mental illness. (Maybe a strange, and even foreign, idea, but let’s see where this leads….)
There are some stark differences between The Kingdom of God and the Constitutional Law and Order of the United States. I cannot deal with all of them here, but I can note a few very important ones that surely are not controversial. For starts, the founding fathers, authors of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, very purposely set out to separate church and state. The US, it seems, was welcome, maybe even encouraged, to give lip service to the Judeo/Christian God and Jesus Christ, but most certainly under no obligation or compulsion to do so. There was a notion that God would be in charge of spiritual matters in a heavenly realm, but down here on earth, the Americans would take charge AND make up the rules as we go.
Yes. Make up the rules as we go.
The Constitution was designed to facilitate a “rule of law” which would be amended according to the will of the people. The very point of that inherently expects and intends for changes in the law. The law would not be the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, thus forever, but would change over time AND would answer to the will of the subjects it governs.
This is something detrimentally NOT the Kingdom of God. And while I am using that terminology, let me make sure to define it carefully, since that terminology in the English language can be a bit misleading. The KINGDOM of God is not a place – not a territory – such as “heaven.” It would better (more accurately) be translated as the RULE of God. It is about his authority, his lordship, specifically, and only tangentially has anything to do with the territory. However, as the Lord’s Prayer teaches, we petition God’s Rule to come “on earth LIKE it is in heaven.”
God created America. It is his turf. But the Americans, and in this case I mean the Europeans (mostly) who came to America rather late on the stage of world history, came to this turf giving God lip service, but kicking his Rule completely out of the governing process.
And up until fairly recently, this all SEEMS to have made a lot of sense to Americans.
However, it is my observation that Americans are finding out now, after almost 250 years, it is increasingly obvious that this arrangement does not in fact make any sense at all – except for the denial which keeps us holding forth despite that. The continued denial of the Americans seems to make us a danger to ourselves and others. I can’t help but think how the Chinese and the Russians must be watching the last remaining superpower in the world gashing himself with stones, wandering around in the graveyard of shopping malls and boarded up and shuttered military bases while no one can subdue him, not even with chains. Our own rhetoric which we direct at one another, rhetoric that used to be reserved for mortal enemies, not only shows dangerous hostility for ourselves, but exposes how little sense it ever made in the first place.
Someone please tell me exactly what “conservative” is. I once thought I knew, but I am clear now only that it no longer is clear to me.
Were the founding fathers being conservative when they revolted against England? Were they conservative when the devised a rule of law devoid of meddlesome deity? Were the founding fathers being conservative when they devised a system of amendments to the Constitution? If they were, then why is it that any desire to change the “rights guaranteed” therein is considered “liberal”? What is the standard there of liberal or conservative when the whole point from the start was to make up the rules as you go?
How can you (from either the “Right” or the “Left”) sit there with a straight face and claim you are beholding to what the founding fathers always intended? That is just as crazy as taking advice from a psych patient in the throes of psychosis!
Now… Someone will say, “Yes, Agent X, you are right… AND the form of government we have here in the US is the very worst possible form in the history of humankind EXCEPT FOR ALL THE OTHERS.” And I am almost inclined to agree. I was born into the blessings and comforts and freedom and prestige of the USA in the Nuclear Age. I expect our nation was truly at its “greatest” (MAGA anyone?) in the late 1940s and early 1950s with only the slightest tarnish on the gleam between the Korean War and the Vietnam War. However, Vietnam did kinda raise a few questions about just how solid our hegemony really was, questions, some of which, found their answer on 9/11/2001. Thus, I can see how the non-Kingdom-of-God oriented person would feel a deep sense of urgency and duty to “Make America Great Again.” But, that knee-jerk reaction just does not hold up to the scrutiny of sound doctrine in the Light of God’s LOVE.
The God our founding fathers marginalized at the start called his subjects to humility, to take up a cross and follow, to offer our lives in loving sacrifice to a world in need of God’s redeeming LOVE.
Of course, not all Americans are “Christian” or even beholding to Christianity at any level. Plenty are atheist, agnostic, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or very marginally Christian – enough that “Christians” certainly cannot be the majority anymore IF we ever really were. And even when we were, the very idea of “majority rule” was always antithetical to the Rule of God – BY DEFINITION! So, even when it SEEMED to be the case, that was a psychotic delusion at best or a demon’s lie at worst.
Yet one of the major, driving forces behind the rise of Donald Trump and his MAGA political agenda is/was American “Christians.” I am referring to people who claim Jesus, who fervently give him lip service as if that means something, and thus take his name in Donald Trump’s vanity!
What kind of psychosis is that?
This man is the ultimate vanity, having his cake AND eating it too! This isn’t actually anything new, for surely Caligula and Nero were the worst of the worst, but I find absolutely no evidence that the earliest Christians would ever jump on the Make Rome Great Again bandwagon. On the contrary, the Christians of those days would sooner take center stage in the arena surrounded by lions than to even give in to this kind of heresy – how much more would they not endorse such a freak?
But here we are in America. It’s been almost 250 years since our founding fathers specifically separated church and state and thus the rule of law from the Kingdom of God. To be honest, I think (and this is really just me making very Agent-Xish conjecture) it took so long to melt down only because on the one hand, the people lured into this psychotic idea at the start (Puritans and their early descendants) were steeped in a culture of fervent devotion that did not wear off for several generations, and on the other hand, because once we dropped a vaporizing atomic bomb on the world, there were about 40 years of such perceived hegemony, so ironclad on the imaginations of both those inside and outside America, that Americans were drunk on the privileged status it afforded them, thus, the infighting was too pointless to take too seriously. I think this is why it has taken so long for the wheels to come off the cart.
But the wheels have come off, and are coming off now. The cart is barely on the road at this point, and was actually going the wrong way all along anyway. If we really start firing upon one another in civil war now, it will take someone as big as Russia or (more likely China) to step in and help us sort it all out, and they will be only too happy to do that. But the dread and hate we have for one another in this country now is so dangerous, that we don’t even care anymore, I think.
I recall working in the psych ward some years ago and meeting a beautiful young woman who, for all the world, appeared to have everything going for her. She was lovely to behold AND a talented musician who would sit and write music during her hours of isolation, just to pass the time. But she was put in restrained isolation because of her other deeply determined desire to cut herself and bleed profusely. There was just no talking her out of it.
That is us.
No doubt Christians have a calling to pray for the city/nation in which we find ourselves, and the seek the peace of it too. We are meant, by God, to play the role of that kind of glue – or to be that kind of salt and light. But we are not called in any way, shape, or form to give our allegiance to that city/nation. Our allegiance belongs to the self-sacrificial lordship of Jesus who takes a crown of thorns and shows the world the healing LOVE of God. We were made in his image, and that is what his image looks like.
Our nation needs THAT, today as much as ever. And we Christians need to set about praying and working on THAT rather than the vote. We have Jesus! And Legion bows to him!