The gospel reading for this past Sunday was the story of the Gerasene demoniac in Mark 5 and Luke 8. For anyone unfamiliar, it’s about a man in the region of the Gerasenes who is possessed by a legion of demons that make it so he has to live naked among the tombs ostracized by his surrounding community. When Jesus meets him, he agrees to cast the demons out. The demons beg to be cast into a herd of pigs, so Jesus lets them go into the herd. The pigs stampede down a cliff into a lake and are drowned. The townspeople come and tell Jesus he needs to leave town. The man is back in his right mind, so he goes around telling everybody about what Jesus did for him.
Those of you who have followed the blog for a while may recall that I used this passage to make a prophecy about the evangelical church in 2012. I prophesied that the white evangelical church would receive an awakening and exorcism just like the demon-possessed man as its legion of demons are cast into a herd of pigs (Fred Phelps, Steven “Him that Pisseth” Anderson, Dinesh D’Souza, Matt Walsh, etc) who are furiously racing to throw themselves into the lake of fire. I had no idea in 2012 that four years later, the white evangelicals would throw themselves at the biggest demon pig of all and make him our president.
I do think this prophecy is being fulfilled. In the last seven years, I’ve met so many awakened evangelicals. But this past Sunday, I was sitting in my parents’ evangelical Sunday school so I had to go with a different reading of the passage in order to avoid creating scandal. It’s always awkward to talk about the Bible in evangelical Sunday school class because you’re bound by the rule that whatever Jesus does is the best, most loving thing he possibly could have done and if it looks like it isn’t, it’s because we’re ignorant and sinful.
But there were some brave people in this particular evangelical Sunday school class. And they kept on saying things like wow, it must have really sucked for those swineherds to lose their entire livelihood when Jesus cast the demons into their pigs. Jesus didn’t exactly make himself popular with the Gerasenes. He didn’t do a careful needs assessment of the region before performing miracles there to ensure maximum impact. I do think we need to give ourselves permission to see the pig drowning as a dick move on Jesus’ part. It’s the kind of unflattering story that makes Jesus complicated, kind of like when he calls a Canaanite woman a bitch or when he fails the first time he tries to heal a blind man.But if we’re stuck with the premise that whatever Jesus did had to have been the best possible thing he could have done since he’s Jesus and we can’t question anything about him, there’s actually an interpretation that is pretty remarkable and very applicable to our world today. To Jesus, it was worth destroying the Gerasene pork market which probably had residual effects that reverberated throughout the regional economy if it meant that one outcast who had lived naked and miserable in the tombs could be restored to his right mind and reenter society. He was willing to crash a local economy in order to make life better for a single outcast.
This is consistent with the Jesus who talks about leaving the 99 sheep who are sticking together to find the one who is lost. Jesus cares that deeply about each human on this planet. There are billions of people who live “among the tombs” in our world today. They don’t have access to the resources we Americans take for granted in our country. And they’re out of sight and out of mind except when we want to go on a mission trip to get some selfies with their children. It works fine for us until they start migrating to the US border to seek asylum; then they put our economy at risk.
Jesus doesn’t give a damn about our nation-state borders and the rules we come up with to make people born south of the Rio Grande somebody else’s problem. Jesus just sees people. And the people who are on the outside looking in are the people he goes to. The refugees at our border are creating a genuine logistical crisis that the government and its contractors wouldn’t have been ready for even if we didn’t have a president who has made openly racist statements about them. These migration patterns are not sustainable. It would be much better for everyone if the home countries of these refugees were economically and politically stable.
In Honduras right now, right-wing dictator Juan Orlando Hernandez is using the military to crush a massive political protest against his corruption. When he won a fraudulent election in 2017 in which the electoral commission literally stopped counting the votes because the opposition candidate was ahead, the US quickly recognized him as the legitimate president. When we consort with dictators in Central America which the US has been doing for decades, the people they oppress come to our country. While our state department cannot and should not try to fix everything that’s wrong in Central America, they should at least avoid supporting tyranny and terrorism.
In any case, Jesus doesn’t ignore any outcasts. Every Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran who swims across the Rio Grande matters to Jesus. And he will crash our economy if necessary to give them the dignity of life they deserve.