Mark’s account of the healing of the Gerasene Demoniac is a powerful story for us, here and now in the US in 2010. Ched Myers, first of all, parallels this story with the exorcism in the synagogue which occurs earlier in Mark’s account. Jesus confronted the power of the Scribal class when he performed that exorcism. Now, in the land of the Gerasenes, Jesus repudiates the imperial power of Rome.
Demonic possession can be a cover up for the impact of oppression. People internalize the oppression because they are unable to do anything about it. Here, Jesus is lifting the mantle of Roman oppression from the people. The terminology used throughout the narrative is military language. The name of the demon is Legion (Roman legion). The pigs are said to be “herd” but pigs do not herd. Herd is a word used of bands of military recruits. Driving the swine into the sea is reminiscent of the charge of a Roman legion. Myers has argued convincingly enough for me to believe that this is a story that repudiates and challenges the Roman oppression of the crowds that follow Jesus.
We need exorcism from the military demons that possess us. Peace and justice seekers, powerless to stand up to and repudiate the military industrial complex, possess legions of demons which weigh them down.
Militarism is destroying us. Ignacio Martín-Baró, martyred Jesuit psychologist from El Salvador, cited three effects of war. The first is that war disrupts our relationships. Violence comes to be the only tool for resolving differences. Second, war causes polarization in our society and are we ever polarized. Third, war forces us to live the lie–WMDs, freedom for Iraqis (= we want their oil and hegemony in the Middle East).
War disrupts relationships because we come to think that violence is the tool of choice in resolving conflicts. Nonviolence takes a back seat. The demon of war and militarism is causing rifts in families and among friends and colleagues. Video games, movies, televised news reports are inundated with violence.
Violence is definitely polarizing our society where civil political discourse is a rarity. At town hall meetings people thought that the group that shouted the loudest would win. Words like liberal, conservative, and socialist label and divide. Painting the opponent into a corner is more important that addressing human needs in our society. It is no longer about finding ways to provide health care for the 37 million Americans who do not have it. Rather, it is a contest in acrimonious political posturing leading up to the next election. If we can label (= divide) health care reform as a government takeover and the goal of free spending liberal democrats, we can maintain the status quo for the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and health care industry and, most important, win reelection or unseat proponents of health care reform (power for our party!). Biblical values tells us that we need exorcism. We need to be freed of the demon of violent greed and restored to a sense of solidarity and concern for the common good. It is not us and them. It is we. Merton captures the insight of mystics from all ages—we are all one. We all come from the same stardust. We all have the same Creator God although we may call God by different names.
War forces us to live the lie. Powerless to expose the lie for what it is we internalize our frustrations and end up beating ourselves up individually and collectively. In the wake of recent elections and Supreme Court decisions, Patrick Leahy had the courage to alert us to the elephant in the political living room—corporate power. Eisenhower’s warnings about the demon of the military industrial complex have come true. Ike originally called it the “military-congressional- industrial complex.” Our elected leaders, with few exceptions, have now written themselves out of the formula and have become the pawns of corporate power. Howard Zinn repudiated the lie by telling the truth of our history. In his last days, Howard Zinn agreed with Rabbi Waskow that we needed exorcism. Zinn replied to Waskow:
You are absolutely right, this is the time for the resurgence of a national movement that begins with a co-ordinated country-wide action.
The theme you describe, “independence from the military-corporation” is one that all sorts of people and groups can unite around. I believe millions, probably tens of millions of people are ready for this because there is little left of the early euphoria that greeted Obama’s election. (http://blog.sojo.net/2010/01/28/howard-zinns-last-advice-independence-from-the-military-corporation/)
Waskow and Zinn would agree that the national resurgence has to be nonviolent.
I can think of no better way to end this than to cite Waskow’s farewell to his longtime friend:
And — dear dear Howard, I wish you a joyful New Year making trouble for the Authorities in Heaven. If ever the memories, the teachings, of a tzaddik — a practitioner of tzedek, justice — could bring blessing to those who are still scrabbling for justice on this stricken earth, it’s the memories and teachings you left us.
Let us all be tzaddiks for justice on earth! Let us strive to exorcise the demon of the military-corporate complex which enslaves us.