Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. (Luke 11:14)
Many of us know that there is a subset of British literature that has come to be known as Christian literature. It is those great authors like Lewis and Tolkein, who have written tales full of allegory and symbolism that rival Jesus’ own parables. These stories draw us into another world to teach us more about our own. They use magic and mighty battles in order that we might further grasp the powers at work in our world. They give us great heroes like Eragon and Frodo, Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy – so that we might find the hero within ourselves and stand to fight against the powers of evil at work in our world.
What most people do not realize is that we have seen another great Christian literature author arise in our own time. Even better, this one is a Presbyterian. And her genius rivals, if not exceeds, that of her predecessors. If you have not guessed it, I mean none other than J.K. Rowling. From the Heir of the Potter, child of God, as the star character, to the use of that ancient symbol of the phoenix as a great champion for good – oh yes, Harry Potter is certainly a Christian literature series. If you would like more evidence, I have a lovely book I can recommend.
Now, as evil begins its rise to power again, embodied through none other than He Who Must Not Be Named – Voledmort himself – it does so quietly, sneakily, just insidiously enough that those who want to can get away with sticking their heads in the sand for a while.
As those who realize the danger and fight valiantly – well, they get blamed for crying wolf until one day it is too late, and evil has in fact taken over the structures of power in the wizarding world. Darkness falls. One wise sage put it perfectly poignantly: “the time is coming when we must decide to do what is right and what is easy.”
Like the great evil embodiment in Harry Potter, Beelzebul or Beelzebub also stands as an embodiment of evil in this world. After centuries of living together with the Canaanites, the Israelites have come to regard their little-g god Baal as a great demon. He is known as the Lord of the Flies. And Christians came to associate him with the great Tempter himself.
In the passage from which the verse above comes, Jesus casts out a demon and is accused of doing so in the Devil’s name, for all intents and purposes. Yep, that guy doing the great deeds of good is really a harbinger of doom – cry the people barely audible from their heads being so deep in the sand. The world around them is changing and it is far easier to ignore it as long as possible than to admit that there is work in which we must take part.
There is a fascinating aspect to this story that is often overlooked. It happens at the very beginning. Jesus banishes a demon that has kept this person silent.
How many of those silencing demons do we have lurking in our world? How many of us have been those demons? To ourselves? To someone else?
We have agency in whether our actions are good or evil. Yes, good takes a lot of hard work, because we are fallen and prone to act in our own self-interest and seek after power, fame, and glory. We want silence from those who would change the world for the better. We want silence, or at least removal, of those who are different from us in race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, class, beliefs – “we don’t care who they are, but do they have to be so upfront about it?” “Do we really have to talk about how women are still targets of harassment or assault?” “The world isn’t as bad as all that. It’s not like evil is taking over or something.” Really???
Studies have shown that our culture has become more comfortable in recent years with sexual harassment, racism, and other forms of hatred being out in the open and on display. Maybe we don’t like it, but it doesn’t affect many of us directly. So it’s not our job to do anything about it – so we tell ourselves.
When we pray for God to deliver us from evil, it is not evil people. For no child of God is ever truly evil. Overwhelmingly influenced by it so that their actions, words, and thoughts appear to have been completely compromised – Goebbels comes to mind – sure. But the moment we begin to believe that one person is evil, it becomes so much easier to start lumping others in with them: especially those who disagree with us, who hate us, who are different from us.
The evil from which we are asking deliverance is that evil that permeates our systems and structures, that influence our thought processes and words and actions. Perhaps it is embodied in that old fallen angel Tempter – but remember that he is not an excuse.
The real evil we must fight is the one trying to bubble up within us. We try to quell it so that all of those things that are against God – hatred, self-righteous anger, crookedness, deviousness, insightment, domination, subjection, objectification, perversely seeking power, rape, murder, and anything else that truly warps God’s creations and smashes relationships into pieces – we work on overcoming evil within ourselves so that we do not partake or perpetuate any of those things through what we think, say or do.
It is a mighty struggle. And the world wants to say that we are making up stories whenever an uncomfortable truth is uncovered. But we cannot remain silent in the face of evil when we see it – demon or no.
God will deliver us from evil, every day. God will do so when we use our voices, our work, our lives to fight evil by displaying that which ultimately fulfills God’s purposes: love. As my professor and Civil Rights Activist, the Rev. Dr. James Lawson once said, “Love is our only weapon.”
The time is coming, when we must make the decision between what is right and what is easy. That time is here. What will you decide?