Get behind me, Satan

What we call the beginning is often the end.

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.

T. S. Eliot

snake-eating-its-own-tail

My family of origin–made up of Fundamentalists and New-Agers and lapsed Catholics–is my own laboratory of world peace. If we can speak to each other, if we can understand each other, if we can find common ground, then there’s hope for the world.

Back in 2004, I went to live with my sister in Florida while my husband finished building our house in Vermont.  During my time Down South, I picked up some Christian speak from my family and from the church bill boards that lined the roads on the way to the mall. “If God is your co-pilot, swap seats.” That was one of my favorites. Another favorite was an everyday exclamation from the people there,  “Thank the Lord. ” But the one that intrigued me the most seemed to be reserved for special occasions:

“Get behind me, Satan.”

This one tickles me still. I’ve always been concerned about the religious focus on good versus evil; so I was delighted to hear “The Devil” addressed with such levity.

In the years after I left Florida, I kept my finger on the pulse of some of the Christian world, not only to stay connected with my family, but also because (for a long while) the Fundamentalists were the only ones on main stream media talking about matters of spirit. So from time to time, I’d turn on the radio and take in a segment from Focus on the Family with James Dobson.  It’s not that I agreed with everything he said, but there was always something to glean, especially if you knew how to translate Christian speak into your own words.

Over the years, my sister and I learned to do that for each other.  She’d say “Universe” for me, and I’d plug in “Jesus” for her. We found that we could hear each other better that way, and love each other better too.

Recently she turned me on to a new ministry called Ransomed Heart. I loved the name, and she knew our voices would resonate.  Though we didn’t talk about matters from the same place, we were often exploring the same themes–living from a place of authenticity and alignment with truth.

Whenever I find truth aligned among strange bedfellows, I get fired up; like yesterday during the National Prayer Service. I cried listening to the interfaith leaders speak (Jew, Muslim, Quaker, Baptist) each, in their own way, on behalf of gun control, on the one-week anniversary of the awful massacre at Sandy Hook.

Like countless others, I’ve spent the time since then railing against the view that guns aren’t central to the violence in this Nation.  It’s not that I don’t eschew violence or understand it as fundamental to the issues we face, but as any wise parent or teacher knows, you take the rock out of the child’s hand before you discuss why he wanted to throw it.

But what is straightforward to the rest of the world is terribly complex to the U.S.  Our ability to see is confused by fear, entitlement, tradition and authority. This country needs to lie down on the couch of a good therapist.

After reading a sleuth of “secular” posts on the killings in Connecticut, I turned toward the religious, hoping to be inspired by what John Elredge of Ransom Heart Ministries had to offer; but when he opened with a paragraph likening gun control to a child’s suggestion of removing trees to stop the wind, I was appalled. It got worse.  He wasn’t protecting guns out of fear or allegiance; he was dismissing them, as besides the point:

We seem utterly devoted to avoiding the question of evil, to misdiagnosing it, completely committed to a childish view of the world. And our foolishness is proving very costly… “The great human heresy is that the trees move the wind.” …heresy that it is economics, race, poverty, a political party or doctrine that are the real causes of evil in the world; in this case, that it is the lack of gun control that causes evil in the world. Is the evil therefore located in the gun? Far more people are killed by automobile accidents each year in the U.S.—is the evil located in those vehicles?

His follow up post was even more alarming:

 I want to encourage and equip you to be praying Life over your households. Some sort of death assignment and/or spirit has been released, and we need to bring the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ against it.

When I later read what Dr. Dobson of Focus on the Family had to say about Newtown, I was numb with disbelief:

We have turned our back on the scripture and on God almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us.

Now before anyone goes and assigns the above views to all Christians, keep in mind that there are as many differences among Christians, even among Fundamentalists, as there are differences everywhere. But this is not to say that those who view the world in terms of good and evil don’t alarm me. I’ve seen the harm this view can do, and the wrong it can justify, or worse–ignore.

I once made the argument to my sister that one of the fundamental differences between our belief systems was that she was waiting for the world to end (to crash and burn, let’s say); while I was waiting for it to begin (to awaken and heal.) My sense was that her view led her to accept what was happening in the world and respond compassionately to relieve the expected suffering; while my view called me to imagine and create something more humane.

Do you think they’re one and the same?

Kelly Salasin, December 22, 2012

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