Monday, December 22, 2014

Call & Response

Andrea Dworkin once said, "I'm a radical feminist, not the fun kind."

I suppose I could say the same thing about being Christian.  Just as any damn fool can call herself a "feminist" (Camille Paglia comes immediately to mind), there are plenty of people out there who claim Christ, but manage to say and do things that are the very antithesis of what he did and said.

That analogy doesn't just apply to the easy marks, those "God, Guts, and Guns made America free" folks, or the shop-til-you-drop prosperity gospel acolytes, but the liberals, too.  I'm not among those who find a Democratic instead of a Republican Jesus, and say, "Jesus was a nice guy, and a little religion can be therapeutic, but obviously I don't accept demonic possession or angels or virgin birth."  No, I'm a fairly orthodox Christian who isn't jumping on either of these bandwagons.

Just as a radical feminist can say, "being a woman is to be a member of a structurally oppressed class, whether you recognize it, or like it , or not," I am a Christian who says, "Jesus is God, The God, who crashed through infinity and became flesh in the womb of a Palestinian teenager.  He provoked power by speaking a new truth and was tortured to death by the authorities for it.  He was resurrected on the third day, retired back into infinity, and will come again to judge the living and the dead."

Dworkin and I are not the "fun kinds" who are willing to accommodate our beliefs to make everyone else feel a little easier.

With that warning, I can go ahead and say what I need to say, and if you've already dismissed me, so be it.  I believe in God; and I believe in demonic possession.  Not the head-spinning, green-projectile-vomiting possession with which Hollywood likes to thrill us.  The real one is subtle.  He makes us think that we are him, and that he is us.

I believe that the Evil One tempted Jesus in the wilderness.  He likes to catch us alone with our own thoughts, because for most of us, upstairs alone is a good place to get scared and confused.  He just didn't count on Jesus, who wouldn't play the game.

How's that game played, you may ask.  Here is what I think.  I think the devil calls to the devil.  That's the way he breaks into the world.  He's a malevolent spirit that requires a mirror to become manifest.  When you least expect it, he will say the cross word or commit the injury, but that's not enough.  This is just the opening gambit.  He's trying to fume himself into existence again.  That happens when the insult or injury is returned.  This is how possession works.  I know.  I've been possessed plenty of times.  The insult or injury is received, and I can feel the spirit swell up inside me... okay, bring it, goddammit.  I'm ready to strike back with the hurtful word or the actual hurt.  In extremity, this spirit still tells me to kill.  It feels like a fantasy, but I'm telling you, it is an attempted possession.  You think it doesn't work like that?  This spirit had a long time to etch itself into my habits of thought.  Hit.  Hit back. Hit back harder.  Go for total destruction!  That's him.  He possesses more than one of us at a time. The game goes on long enough, he can settle himself everywhere at once.  He can beat a girlfriend bloody one place, put Kalashnikovs in the hands of eight-year-olds in another, blow up a church, abuse a grandmother at a checkpoint, send armies against one another in an orgy of blood.  He just needs to call and get one answer.  Then he is manifest, and we are possessed.

You can explain it to me if you like, patiently - because obviously I'm either nuts or being metaphorical, that no devil is required to explain this dynamic.  You can tell me about things like primate behaviors or neurotransmitters or psychological "scripts."  But these are not the whole he-and-the-she of causation.  Even Aristotle knew that.  These are material causes, with maybe a touch if formal or efficient cause, but there is no account for final cause.  For that, you have to know the author.

The devil calls to the devil.

I am watching this in the drama unfolding since the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.  The devil possessed men to kill him, to leave his body laying in the street for hours, and the devil responded more than once.  But another thing happened.  There was a response of love and a response of truth-telling that refused the devil's call.  People didn't hit back.  They held up a different kind of mirror.  They held up their hands and said, "Don't shoot."  They said, in response the police killing of Eric Garner, another unarmed, African American man, "I can't breathe."  They said, "Black lives matter," because in white America, far too often, this is not the case.

Police are men with guns; and the devil loves men with guns.  No one can give that demonic call and response better than a man with a gun, or better than a lot of men with a lot of guns.

But the devil never rests.  And so, while America was being confronted - as Jesus confronted power with uncomfortable truths - with the words, "Don't shoot," and "I can't breathe," and "Black lives matter," the devil found another man to possess, a man with a gun.  Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot his former girlfriend in Baltimore, then went into New York City and murdered Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, two uniformed police officers, making the claim over social media that he was avenging Michael Brown and Eric Garner.  Brinsley then killed himself.  Who he was avenging when he shot the woman and himself is hard to discern.  Until you realize who the true author of these actions was.  That was a call.

It received its response.

NYPD members sporting their new t-shirts

This gave both the defenders of the white status quo and the police who have been thrown on the defensive their opportunity to strike back.  Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were killed by a disturbed man, one possessed for some time now by the web of conflict in a world of demonic call and response, would have their own horrifying and unjustified deaths transformed by opportunists into an attempt to push aside the responses the devil doesn't want to hear - peaceful voices raised in grief that spoke to power - and replace them with Us v Them.  It's the cops versus the protesters now.  The devil never rests.  He calls until he gets his response; and he got it with the police blaming a mayor for stopping a racist "stop and frisk" practice... any criticism of the police is now the scapegoat for the crimes of 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a young man with a gun who was possessed unto death.

Call.  Response.

Now, another response.  People are coming out now, pretending they are somehow edgy or revolutionary, to say they don't care about the two police who were killed, or - worse still - that they got what they deserved.  I've been around them.  I've almost been one of them.  The would-be revolutionaries who fantasize about war in the streets.  While Fox News and clannish, defensive cops seize on the Us-Them red herring, the tough-talkers of the verbal-left have given the devil what he wants, too.  Another mirror response.  Another whack across the net.  It's a game.  The devil made it.  Let's play it.

Call.  Response.

Did anti-police propaganda from President Obama and other Democrats create a political climate that resulted in the weekend murder of two New York City police officers?

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and some other Republicans are making that provocative charge. If nothing else, the allegation seems sure to heighten the national debate about Ferguson, Mo., and stoke relations between the police and minorities to a new level of intensity.  (Christian Science Monitor)

Call.  Response.

Can love interrupt?


  1. It goes from micro to macro. The young man kills his girlfriend and the two policemen. ISIS... And nation-states. Only Love can change the story.

    Thanks, Stan.

  2. I've recently had experience with a friend's parents, who are the social conservative holier-than-thou brand of "christian". They put down their daughter for being overweight, for not getting married to a man with money (did I mention they have investments?), and of course not going to the "right" church, regularly. In fact, she rarely goes at all, but practices love anyway, while they watch church on TV, and they are how they are.

    The devil loves hypocritical class war, too, not just the shootin' kind.

  3. Does "the tempter" resemble "original sin" in any way?

    Hugh Trevor-Roper, in "The Last Days Of Hitler", said "God is capricious in designing the human mind."



    So, Stan----you were a sniper. Care to comment on this?

  6. I can't remember if this came out of your book reading list or not, but I just finished "Between Jesus & The Market", by Linda Kintz. Written in 1997, it is nonetheless frighteningly current on the broken-ness and awful twisted-ness of the American civic religion. The chapter on "Warriors & babies" especially.

  7. My goodness, the situation vis-a-vis ISIS has certainly turned into a classic case of call & response, eh? Much like Israel-versus-the-world....

    I believe there will be general war soon. The coinky-dink of ISIS, Russia, Oil, & American Sniper are too obvious. And draft legislation is waiting in committee for the spirit of general blood-lust to take its majority, since 2001.

    Satan plays a zero-sum game, doesn't he/it??

  8. More....