Demons, Be Gone!

  • Reflection on Proper 7, Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year C, and “Juneteenth”
    (click here for biblical texts)

When you want to drive out a demon or maybe more than one,
an addiction perhaps or a fear that saps life and energy,
or maybe a really big demon that runs and ruins many lives,
an ideology of hate or greed masked as business as usual,
you need divine help—a prayer is good, a plea for help
from on high, or if Jesus is nearby his touch or blessing works
wonders.  In Gerasene land, across from Galilee, one body’s worth of demons
is moved and then destroyed; perhaps some are aware
that in Galveston in Texas land almost two millennia later,
with what seems like less holy help,
a big demon was, for a while at least,
moved, although not destroyed (indeed it lives today,
but disguised for many).


On June 19, 1865, 151 years ago—known today as Juneteenth—
when General Grainger and Union troops entered Galveston
he issued General Order No. 3, putting into effect
what Lincoln had decreed more than two years earlier:
the slaves are free. Demon slavery had not gone willingly,
hanging on through a war of rebellion that cost more lives
than any other in our national saga; and in places like
Texas, far from the fighting, ignoring whatever transformation
the local powers did not entertain or accept in what
they perceived to be their own interest. But with
the new order, now freed slaves celebrated, as we continue
to celebrate today.

The powers that were in Texas probably felt like the locals
of Gerasene, opposite Galilee, when Jesus arrived, upsetting
local customs and freeing one man from demons
who enslaved him in self-hatred and destruction.  
In Galveston, this was an act of restoration, renewal
of identity—each slave’s humanity affirmed, their community
suddenly, in law at least, given recognition and perhaps
glimmerings of social power (sadly all too soon erased,
deliberately, viciously replaced by the
caste system called Jim Crow).
In the country opposite Galilee suddenly order
is overturned as the man’s demons, cast out of him,
enter swine, destroying herds,
and the local population see the formerly naked,
incomprehensible man now dressed and in his
right mind. Afraid of what has come to pass
and what it portends, the locals
ask Jesus to leave—just as federal troops and others
would be recalled from Texas and elsewhere.
The old order it seems must always be restored,
demons given their due.

And yet, and yet, the blessed man lives to tell his tale
of liberation and we read it still today, just as former
slaves—technically free while burdened
with old racist ways dressed in new fashions
of oppression, abuse, degradation—carried and shared
body memories of those few short years,
to be and live more or less free.  Today we remember
the hope and joy that was then and join the struggle
yet raging to free people and their demons everywhere—
God’s claim on us to topple diabolical powers
raging inside addicted fearful souls
and resist daily hell on earth
that is war, misery, poverty, racism, religious prejudice
(massacres of innocents in the name of God?),
proclaiming and instituting divine reality:
all our demons, be gone!

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . . . I appreciate the confluence of two events on the same day this year: the reading of the Lucan text involving the healing of the Gerasene demoniac and the 151st anniversary of Juneteenth, the day the slaves in Galveston were told of their freedom. Demons come in many forms, and they are often persistent, baffling, and cunning.  Yet God continues to give us authority to cast them out, if we choose to confront them and risk creating a new world.


©Robin Gorsline 2016
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form