The Bible and the ‘other’
[Image is my own, taken of the art work ‘Gaia’ #earthwork art installation at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. The artist is Luke Jerram].
I was going to use a snappier title, but I know some people like to skip the theology posts so I wanted to be transparent.
I had been feeling fatigued the past few days and was worried I was coming down with something or experiencing burn out. Luckily it seems to have passed. This morning I picked up a friend from the train station to come to my church, and I have left feeling inspired and energised.
Sunday is the day I replenish myself. I’m up by 6am, I walk my dogs, go to church, clean my house, do my laundry, sort my clothes for the week, plan meals, reflect, write, read and see loved ones. It is my favourite day of the week.
Today (23rd June 2019) our gospel reading was Luke 8.26-39. Although I like Luke, this is usually a section that I struggle with. However our Reader Allan reminded us that we can read the scripture in many different ways, and we can read this section as a metaphor.
In doing so this passage becomes less about a man with demons, and instead about a man who is demonised.
It is about a man who is marginalised and made to feel unwelcome. A man who is seen as frightening and constructed as dangerous. Allan stated that if you tell someone something for long enough, that’s what they become.
The ‘casting out’ of these ‘demons’ puts the judgement and demonisation back into the society that created them. Why? Because demonising people and excluding them should have no place in our society. So those demonising voices are returned to their origin.
It is the demonising voices that are sinful.
Now we can understand the public’s reaction to Jesus in the passage and why they wanted him to leave. We can see their discomfort. The multitudes wanted the status quo and to enjoy their comforts and privilege. They didn’t want to engage with someone who made them uncomfortable. They didn’t want their unkindness and judgement to be called out. After all, it’s always easier to shine a light on other people’s perceived flaws than look at our own.
The man who has been demonised is a plea for understanding from those on the margins. Who do we as a society exclude? Who is constructed as dangerous, or contagious, who do we ‘other’? I could list groups here, LGBTQIA+ communities; sex workers; drug consumers; homeless people; asylum seekers; migrant workers; prisoners; people living with mental illness; survivors of sexual violence and child sex abuse.
It may seem easier to cast people out because they make us uncomfortable. But we are not complete without embracing all other people.
The recent campaigns against trans people and sex workers have left me deeply saddened.
Whether you are a person of faith or not, the world needs radical love and for us to stand with those at the margins and fight for their inclusion.
I wrote here about Jesus and sex workers and was profoundly moved by the response from those who are current or former sex workers.
A dear friend reminded me of the quote the other day: “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you”?
Love people, help them, facilitate a space for their voices if you have a platform and relentlessly challenge those who harm those at the margins.