Let’s Have Ourselve’s an Exorcism

What does a Church Leadership meeting and an exorcism have in common? Quite a lot really. When I first joined a leadership team some twenty plus years ago, I was warned that in doing so I would experience “Satanic Oppression”. It was explained to me that because I was now going to be doing the work of God, Satan would now take a special interest and try to hinder this work. Have I in fact experienced this oppression? I think it would be easy to look at the conflict that inevitably happens at these meetings and point at Satan and say “Look at all the stuff he is doing – people are hurt, disillusioned and divisive” So we double down and pray against the work of Satan. But do we really see who and what Satan and “His” work is?

I think Hollywood portrayals like “The Exorcist” are as exciting as they are unhelpful. I think they help us to miss the point. By looking at the dynamic of the “Church Leadership Meeting” I think I can help us to see the point.

Call me cynical if you like, but I see our Church meetings as a battle of ego’s. Despite the traditional short prayer that invokes God’s presence and asks for guidance, it is soon apparent that the strongest ego wins.  Now the Pastor is not necessarily the strongest ego – in our tradition he doesn’t have voting rights, but there is an unwritten rule that he is closer to God so his opinion is sought and often carries a lot of weight. The losers feel the pains associated with this battle and there are often unresolved conflicts and hurts brewing under the surface.

The problem here is that the ego is a deception. The self that you have built up as you have grown up is designed by your world view, your education, (your age, the time period you grew up in and which geographical location) your culture, your religion/denomination and your experiences. Note here that I could make a link here with deception and Satan. An example of what I mean is found in Jesus rebuke of Peter: “Get behind me Satan!” Peters upbringing was in the Jewish cultural setting during the Roman occupation and as such he was looking for a Messiah that married up to his perception of reality. When Jesus says “Get behind me Satan, you are a stumbling block to me”, I don’t think you have to stretch too far to see that the deception of the self is the stumbling block of Satan. Jesus is rebuking Peter, yes, but Jesus is also a Jew, he shares the same upbringing – he therefore is rebuking his own upbringing as a Jew and has to place his ego behind him and become what God has in mind and not what his religion and upbringing tell him. The ego is self referential, it looks to see how something will affect itself or its tribe and therefore can not be trusted to know the things of God. Where Hollywood has done us a disservice the biblical writers have written about “Satan” in a helpful way if we will just see it.

Nothing in our Lutheran Theology addresses this blindness or our ability to look above it. We need to remember that Jesus was fully human, he wasn’t a “super human”. He recognized the deception of his own ego in this situation as he did in the desert and I believe we can too – he tells us we will do greater things than him.

There is a frustrating objection I see at this point. Many would point at me and say, that is why you must submit to the authority of the written word. I wish people could see the danger in this deception. It is the cry of fundamentalism and fanaticism and it is the cry of fear as we face uncertainty at this time. The template of the written word is only as straight as the ego that reads it. And we have therefore doubled down with our ego’s views and the deception of self is causing havoc in our churches (and the world). I could point specifically at males, but I think we all do a lot of grunting and snorting as we mark our territorial boundaries by urinating on our opponents – our church isn’t broken, we have just lost the tools of spirituality – we believe that the “self” we know is the true one.

2 Responses to “Let’s Have Ourselve’s an Exorcism”
  1. lcamyopinion says:

    Im guessing you had a good meeting then? 🙂

    • Tapman says:

      I haven’t actually been to a meeting in probably over 7 years – I will try to again one day but my cynicism doesn’t get past the opening prayer. My cynicism is softening but that doesn’t mean I am returning to my own vomit – I believe the answers are in the Gospel but its dang hard to hear it above the stuff that has been drilled into me. Cheers.

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