So I’m behind on the lectionary… one of the issues of non-real time particpation in the ELCA faith community. Anyhow, the text of issue is Mark 1:29-39, where in v 32-34 Jesus is curing the sick and casting out demons.
Lutherans, as a general rule dont get into the demon thing very much at all, or pretty much anything supernatural in this world, short of the sacrements. Even the more confessional branches such as WELS tend to de-emphasize demonology, albeit they admit it is very real. The ELCA seems to lean much more towards a rationalistic view. In part, its like a dont ask dont tell thing, no one wants to talk about it, and we havent had a rite for it for years.
The thing is, there are a kazillion unknowns out there. Back in my days of hard core metrology, whether it be NMR, or plasma physics, nearly everytime we uncovered something, there was always a huge door that opened up more. If anything, short of a very few who put their heads in the sands, their are more unknowns now than there were even in Luther’s day. Now, to the average Joe, probably not, we put guys on the moon, we attack diseases, and if they really knew what was going on inside their computer chip. they would really be amazed. The average Joe may percieve that the world has nearly been conquered outside of economics theory, where as I see it, we’re just beginning. Even in psychology, I’m amazed at fNMR, vibratory NMR, and PET scanning to map brain activity, yet in reality, these are baby steps when one looks at the whole.
In many ways though, their are millions more distractions to keep out focus from God than there ever were in the past. Food shortages and disease in the past often resulted in people focusing on God. Today, as Sarcastic Lutheran states it could be possession by idols, whether it be money, power, or a host of others.
However, I think we shoot ourselves in the foot by not taking demonic possession and/or influence seriously. Its very easy to rationalize things away, where as when contemporary pharma, and psych show no answers, and the church has no answers, rationalism really fails. Granted, at least the LCMS covers exorcism academically, and likely there are some practioners hidden away, but its not the sort of thing for the unknowledgeable, fearful, inept, or inexperienced…. and how does that work, when its concieveable a pastor could give 60 years of service to the church and never run into it? I’m certain I’ve run into 2 cases over the years, but then I’ve had dealings with tens of thousands of people… and for an average church size of a couple hundred members, statistically, its pretty unlikely in todays rationalistic world.
I do very much like what Father at Magdalene’s Egg had to say.
Our job is the cure of souls: calling sinners to repentance, reconciling penitents, praying for our people and leading them in their own prayers. In that context, it only makes sense for us to do things that many shy away from: to bless people, homes and objects, for starters. We actually have rites for such things, even if they are sometimes used reluctantly. And yes, this includes cleansing people who have been possessed by unclean spirits, a task for which we no published rite, and for which nearly none of us is prepared.
But, when you think about it, this ought to be one of the most basic tools in a pastor’s kit. Once upon a time it was, literally, as common as baptism. And the faithful have a right to ask: if a pastor can’t defend them from evil spirits, then — really — what good is he?
The other aspect, and I think its pretty validly supported by scripture to be sober, vigilent, and to just keep far away. I remember years ago, a university buddy of mine lived in a dirt cheap place that had thousands of projecting plaster pentacles on nearly every wall. When I visited him, its like whoa, whats this.. he said, its something likely not of God, and that he didnt want to know any thing more about it, so as not to be influenced.
However, there is a bit of a wrench in the works… televangelists, and charismatics talk about Satan and exorcism quite a bit. Why do they seem to have so much more of a problem, and why do they make so much of a public spectical of it… Its hard to say without coming across pretty judgemental, but in my Lutheran history research, it nearly seems some set the stage for it. I dont have anything rock solid right now, as the history project is a long term thing. However, often times I’ll do a quick scan ahead in my texts while cooking a meal and i did come across some pretty scary points of view. When I get to that point for real study, as contrasted with a preview, I will make an entry here in the blog.