I was born smack in the middle of the last century, and, like many of my cohort, I’ve bobbed around on the whole Satan thing. We’re modern, right? We’ve got science. We don’t need superstition. But Jesus cast out demons! What about that? Ah, our teachers (and if you want to find out how our culture got into this mess, don’t look just at the Boomers, but also their teachers, the Professors Jennings) offered various weak ways around that little problem (“just mental illness, you know”). “Science has proven . . .” Well, no.
The longer you live, the more inexplicable horrors you see. On the one hand, you sure don’t need demonic power to explain some of the truly horrible things that people do. We’re selfish to the point of narcissism, violent, greedy, lustful, and by and large will do anything to dodge God. We have seen nations inexplicably give themselves over to mass murder and genocide. That we can also be generous, loving, and self-sacrificing just adds to the confusion.
I finally came to the conclusion that Jesus would not mislead his followers, us included in our time. There was no hidden rolling of the eyes as He cured the schizophrenics of his time, no muttered, “I’d better give them the line about demons here.” I’m sure that really advanced progressive Christians can come up with a way around that.
“Advanced Progressive Christians” like the Most Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church (you knew I was getting here, didn’t you?). Recently while in Venezuela, she for some reason felt obliged to preach on Acts 16:16-19. Others, many others, have dealt with the uniquely bizarre way she chose to interpret this section. I’m going to content myself with the small – I can’t possibly do better than Pewster, Fr. Tim, or CJ. But the approach, the filters she has used, are of interest.
First and most important, there are no demons. That’s right out. So the ability to discern who Paul and Silas were, and Who they served, had to come from some gift they girl possessed. So, on to No. 2: at all times, find a way to emphasize the Ministry and Gifts of Women and how they are better than men (this is a minor example of this principle, of which the nonpareil is that Jesus “learned” about His mission from the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:25-30)). A corollary is principle No. 3, Whenever possible dis St. Paul, he was a benighted and repressive fool whose sole purpose in life was to repress women.
Whether demons exist or not is not especially relevant or important at this point – only that rather than elucidate the actual text, the Presiding Bishop has essentially rewritten it to mean something entirely different from its author’s intent. Well, she wasn’t elected to be a theologian. She was elected to be a hammer, and here she has smashed anything like meaning to bits.
One does have to wonder, though. The Peeb and her associates have been taking actions which cannot possibly lead to anything other than the collapse of their church, and don’t actually seem to have any other outcome in mind. Eventually, not even the resources of Trinity Wall Street will keep the wreckage afloat. So perhaps, just perhaps, they are all (no doubt unwittingly) doing the will of their own deceitful master. Hm. Have to think about that one.