"It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never “radical,” that it is only extreme, and that it possesses neither depth nor any demonic dimension. It can overgrow and lay waste the whole world precisely because it spreads like a fungus on the surface. It is “thought-defying,” as I said, because thought tries to reach some depth, to go to the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated because there is nothing. That is its “banality.” Only the good has depth that can be radical." – Hannah Arendt
Just like you, my first association with exorcism came from the movies. The plots vary but usually involve a helpless innocent under the control of a supernatural, demonic force followed by head spinning, levitation and flying furniture. When nothing else works a priest is called in. He yells a bunch of prayers in Latin, throws some holy water around while holding a crucifix. The movie is over when the demonic force has no place else to go but back to hell.
To this Hollywood version of evil I say "if only".
If only evil could be contained in an isolated, freaky old house. If only it announced itself by speaking extinct languages and pitching chairs at people. Instead, evil has no power but the power we give it. If the world needed any more evidence, it showed up with tiki torches and swastikas last week at the University of Virginia.
Hundreds of white nationalists marching was more frightening than any Hollywood movie about evil, but the spectacle of that rally was a distraction from seeing the way evil spreads. When avowed terrorist David Duke declared that white nationalists were gathered to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” our President did not respond. Sometimes evil’s greatest power is in silence.
The good news is that while evil has no power of its own, exorcism does.
When we gather in the name of Christ, after getting spun around all week in the world and by the news we are oriented again by compass of our shared faith: The world is good because God made it and human beings are holy because they are made in God’s image. Any act or word that posits exceptions or adds parenthesis to this confession is a lie. Affirming for each other that this is true is exorcism.
Asking for forgiveness and being told again that our pardon was granted two thousand years ago by Jesus from the cross is an exorcism. Exorcism is the defiant claim and acceptance that there is no power on earth or in heaven capable of separating us from the love of God.
The church has no greater responsibility than to demonstrate this with bread, wine, holy water, the confession of sin, assurance of forgiveness victorious songs and in faithful, fearless acts of love.
Church family: the devil is still a liar. Your love is enough. Your witness is sufficient and Christ victory is final. Tell everyone you know and do not be afraid.
Your sister in Christ,
P.S.: Please click here to see a response to the recent events in Charlottesville from our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry: www.episcopalchurch.org/library/video/where-do-we-go-here-chaos-or-community