There is a reason why we say that those who are unfairly labelled are “Demonized…”
Let us pray… … Lord God, may your peace and Holy Spirit fill this place. Open your scriptures to us, and may I clearly communicate what you intend us to receive. May your Word take root and flourish within each and every one of us, and through it may we be strengthened and transformed by your unconditional, living, and limitless love for each and every one of your children. In Jesus Name, Amen.
This morning’s reading about the tormented Gerasene, a Gentile, is the second in an arc of three stories in Luke. In the first story Jesus calms the waters: showing he is Master over Storms and Nature. In the last story, Luke tells us of the resurrection of Jairus’s daughter, showing that Jesus is Master over Sickness and Death.
In this, the second story, Jesus is Master of Demons. But, what are these demons? Are they real? Or, are they a metaphor for something else?
In this story, the man is seen with no clothes, no home, not even his own will. He is unclean by every measure of judging “uncleanness” the audience knows of. He doesn’t have any community or friends. He’s alone, in a sort of living death, as outcast as any outcast can be.
Slapping a label on someone is a defense mechanism, it distances “the other” from us: making them seem to be “less than” in our minds. Labels can make others seem inconsequential or less than human, and so easier to dismiss, or ignore, or exclude, or oppress – or hate.
Not that this isn’t uncommon; but I’ve recently encountered quite a string of people who, being frustrated with my (admittedly) Progressive views, labeled me with various terms, including: “Anti-Jew”, “Palestinian Lover”, “Left Winger”, “Commie Extremist” (really?), and (my favorite) “sheep scattering GLORY SEEKER!” (A close relative of this is the tendency some have to use phrases that reveal the unspoken labels they’ve applied to you. Some of the most galling of these – for me – are when such phrases are used in a patronizing way, such as: “Your heart’s in a good place.”)
These attempts to make me into something other than I am got me to thinking: I was slapped with a label; then condemned or belittled for being (in their eyes) that label. But, they know almost nothing about me beyond their label. So, they are condemning a label, not me – a phantom that has no reality. There is no reason why I should accept such labels – or any label – as reflecting the “real me”; and in fact they say more about the person who bestowed the label upon me than they do about who I am (or who you are).
We all have a tendency to label people and things – it’s a perfectly natural thing to do. In fact, we are far more likely to do it to someone we don’t know than with someone who is close to us – and I’ll tell you my theory as to why…