Angels and Demons


Here is a quote from Darwin, Divinity, and the Dance of the Cosmos, by Bruce Sanguin:

Jesus is portrayed in the gospels as casting out demons. In first-century Mediterranean culture, demons were believed to be the cause of disease and psychological illness. Today we might think of them as the mythological equivalent of hostile takeovers in the corporate world. They coercively possess what is not theirs to possess. Recall that in chaos theory the basin of attraction defines the limits within which a system can experiment with new forms and still remain itself. Demonic presences can be understood as influences that desire to change a person or an ecosystem into something they are not intended to be.

In Mark's gospel, for example, the demonic presence tells Jesus that its name is "Legion" (Mark 5:9). There is no question that the author of this gospel is referring to the Roman Legion, which, by its occupying force, has invaded both the nation and the souls of the conquered people. Rome's political and economic order goes beyond even chaos. It is demonic in the sense that Rome's influence threatens the very definition and identity of what it meant to be Jewish. "Legion," therefore, represents an influence needing to be cast out, not experimented with. This demon ends up in a herd of swine, an animal associated with gentile culture. That's where it belonged, not in Israel. This is also why every empire is eventually cast out. The current neo-imperialist regime of the U.S. administration will be forced to withdraw for the same reason. American culture and values cannot be forced upon other nations. (p. 234)
This past weekend, my city of San Francisco played host to an air show by the US Navy's Blue Angels squadron. This event draws people from around the region who come to watch war jets doing high speed stunts in the air.

What is the Blue Angels show really about, other than making an entertainment spectacle of what are essentially instruments of death and destruction? Isn't this a way of sanitizing what these jets really are all about? The roar that the jets make as they fly overhead may sound wonderfully high tech, but there would nothing cool about the sound of such jets if you lived in a city where that roar signified another payload of death being unleashed on your people.

According to their web site, "the Blue Angels’ mission is to enhance Navy and Marine Corps recruiting efforts and to represent the naval service to the United States." San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom has given his full support for what the Navy admits is essentially a high tech military recruitment commercial by the Blue Angels. This same mayor, by the way, has instituted a new major crackdown that criminalizes the homeless, just in time for his almost certain re-election. One can't help but wonder of those two things are connected somehow.

The passage in Mark that describes a demonic presence in terms of Roman Imperial military force was a subversive expression of Jesus's opposition to the Imperial culture of his day. How do we remain true to that spirit today?


Jan said...

Interesting. You've given me a lot to ponder.