“The entire population of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them because they were seized with great fear. So he got into a boat and returned.” (Luke 8:37)
It is amazing. Our Lord has just freed a man from a legion of demons, a man that presumably these folks had, at one time, counted as one of their own and had been living among tombs in such a state that not even chains could hold him. This man is now free, free to return to his family and friends; and his family and friends ask Jesus to leave.
Why? It’s more than just ingratitude; these people were afraid. Of what? Of what the cure had cost—in this case, on the surface, a herd of swine, so some of it may have had to do with losing food and money. Maybe, though, it was more than that. It might have been what our Lord was alluding to when he said in another instance, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come among you” (Matt: 12:28). In other words, I think it is very true that some people just don’t want God in their lives. Again, why? Because that means repentance. These Gerasenes may very well have been afraid that, since our Lord had changed the life of one man, he would call them to change their lives too.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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We all have places we ask our Lord to leave; certain faults and sins we want left alone. Not only individuals have these places, though; nations and cultures can have them.
I think of those in the abortion industry; those to whom the only solution to an unplanned pregnancy seems to be abortion. It is odd. Here is a woman facing a crisis. We can, on the one hand, provide her with what she needs—medical care, emotional and psychological support, food, housing, etc., and bring a new life into the world; or, on the other hand, we can snuff out that life and psychologically scar and perhaps physically cripple the woman.
Why is abortion the first “solution,” the only “solution,” for so many? Why can’t they admit that allowing that life to be born might possibly be a better solution for all? Why are they so afraid to allow the mother to have all the information regarding alternatives to abortion? Why would they ask the Lord, the gentle healer, to leave?
You would think that those who claim to be “pro-woman” would be the most vocal, the most demanding of insuring that a woman receive all the information, all the help possible. You would think that they would be the most strident in protecting the female, both in and out of the womb. But they’re not. Why? Because they are afraid, afraid of the cost, not only in dollars (although for the multi-million-dollar abortion industry that would be enough), but more so of the cost of repentance, of admitting they were wrong.
For at least two generation now, politicians, doctors, corporations, universities, churches (yes, churches) and ordinary men and women have based their lives and careers and staked their souls on the belief that killing a child is the right thing to do.
I cannot imagine the courage and humility it takes for a woman to go to confession for the sin of abortion. I cannot imagine the pain she feels, nor the healing she must need, to go on living and endure with that on her mind. I cannot imagine her suffering, for all healing involves suffering. The same is true for all those who, like Dr. Bernard Nathanson, have left the killing fields.
Imagine for a moment if World War II had ended differently. If, having conquered Europe, Nazi Germany had remained the prosperous and well-ordered country it seemed to so many before the war. And Dachau and Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen and the “final solution” had remained. Who would have dared raise his voice to stop such madness? What politician, doctor, professor, church leader, ordinary man or woman dependent on the status quo would have said, “Stop. We are killing human beings”? Would they not have asked, as we have asked, our Lord to leave?
As I said, healing involves suffering, sometimes great suffering. It involves saying, “I was wrong.” It can mean saying, “I did a terrible thing; I was bad. I succumbed to the smooth, easy voice of evil, and I did not want to admit it, because of what that means.” It can be excruciating; but the pain and harm if it is not done is worse. I suspect this is what our Lord meant when he said it was better to enter Heaven without an eye or a limb than to be thrown into Hell. Our Lord can heal the eye or the limb, but only if you’re with him.
With abortion, that could mean parents admitting to children, “We killed your sister”; or for others, “We coerced our daughter into killing our grandchild.” Doctors would have to admit, “I preferred to kill, and to teach and promote killing, rather than to heal; I wanted the money, the prestige.” Politicians would be forced to admit they preferred votes and popularity to life. Church leaders would be forced to confess they valued large congregations and full collection plates more than children. The office workers, technicians and others would have to admit they wanted a paycheck more than a clean soul. Instead, we ask our Lord to leave.
I wonder if the same dynamic is not now being played out with regards to the LGBT phenomenon; the rush to “support” and “understand” and “accept” which comes down to a command of “Approve, celebrate, and don’t ask questions.” I know I shall be accused of ignorance, intolerance, and bigotry (at best), but I wonder if as parents we don’t ever ask ourselves, “Could this not have been, at least partly, my doing? Did I raise my children properly? Did I talk to them, at all, about the sacredness of life and the relationship between a man and a woman? What movies and shows did I allow them to watch? Books to read? Did I supervise their education in this regard and know what they were being taught at school? (Most public school education in this regard is thinly veiled indoctrination into sexual perversion.) Was I careful with their choice of friends? Was I home when I should have been? Did I provide a good example as a man and as a father? As a woman and as a mother? Was I, in short, a good parent?” And rather than admit the possibility that we may have failed in these respects, and coupled with the natural—and laudable—instinct to side with our child, we “embrace” and “accept.”
Let me be clear. We all fail as parents; but some failures are more severe. It is one thing if we don’t vet a particular movie our son or daughter is going to see. It is another to allow repeated and unmonitored access to Netflix. Also, I am not saying that parents are at fault for all the frailties of their children; there is free will and a culture set against them. Nor am I saying we tell our son or daughter to go to hell. I am saying we look in the mirror and ask ourselves whether we may be going there.
There is no sin that hurts only oneself.
For more than half a century our nation has seen the family unravel; from easy divorce, to unlimited contraception, to ubiquitous pornography, to abortion, and now to free-lance, celebrated perversion. And just as we have enacted laws to prevent women from getting all the information regarding their crisis pregnancy, there are now laws that prevent anyone—including a parent—from seeking help for a child who may be sexually confused. That is wrong.
I don’t know if we, as a nation, can ever come to the national repentance necessary to admit how we have let the family fail. History provides few hopeful examples. Individual repentance is hard enough. But it has to start there. A legion of demons has infested us. Once we ask our Lord to leave, anything can happen. And it has.
Editor’s note: Pictured above is a detail from “Swine Driven into the Sea” painted by James Tissot.