Terry Mattingley opines here about an article in The Atlantic which discusses the increasing need for exorcism. One of the discussion points in Terry’s article and in the Atlantic piece was the supposed clash between the modern age and the Stone Age.
Stone Age man was all barbaric, bloodthirsty, superstitious and sub human. We’re so much better because we have iPhones, air conditioning, zippers, cosmetic surgery and zip lock bags.
The narrative proposed by progressives has always been based on the assumption that mankind is getting better and better every day. Despite the disappointing events of the twentieth century, the starry eyed progressive still looks at the ascent of humanity as irrevocable and irresistible. Now there is certainly something to be said for this point of view. Statistics are clear that we are indeed making progress. Health, education and welfare are improving around the world. There really is less poverty, less pollution, less infant mortality, less tyranny and less slavery. There is more clean water, more food, more schools, hospitals and clinics. The technology we have really has made the world a better place.
But it’s a fallacy to imagine that we have made much progress morally, spiritually or culturally. I reckon when it comes to matters of the heart and soul we’re just as rebellious, blind and wounded as we’ve ever been, and maybe much worse.
What made me think this through again was this young Evangelical missionary who was killed by the Stone Age tribe on that remote island. We think Stone Age people only lived long ago. They’re still here. Furthermore, when you look hard at the values of the Stone Age man, are the only present day Stone Age tribes on remote islands? There are traits of Stone Age tribes in the gangs of Mexico, El Salvador, Los Angeles and Chicago. What are those values? A primitive survivalism, a dependence on violence to subjugate others and take their stuff. It is also evident in the religion and customs of the inner city tribes. Where there is religion it is the religion of Santa Muerta–the religion of death and violence.
At Clear Creek Monastery I led a retreat for the monks and we examined some of the earliest religious practices of ancient civilizations. We talked briefly about the Sumerian Creation myths and how the ancient people developed extravagant mythologies to explain the foundation of the world. We think we are beyond that, but what are all the theories of evolution and modern cosmology but our own version of creation myths? Most of them are just as much speculation as the Sumerians–but with a different set of assumptions.
So to exorcism. One of the common traits of humanity in every age and in every cultural manifestation is a belief in the invisible world of angels and demons. Demonic possession and exorcism is a constant feature in religious rites and cultures the world over. The progressive believes that we have moved on from all that, and that we have discovered that it is no more than mental illness. Sure. Often it is mental illness, but sometimes it is not, and I have experienced the reality of this and can testify as can many others that we are dealing with a real interface between the spiritual world and the physical realm.
This is where modern religion is so utterly ridiculous and useless. The modern Christian who dismisses the spiritual realities or turns them into a kind of self help class is removing the very heart of religion. The interface of the physical with the spiritual realm is what religion is all about. That’s what religion IS for goodness sake, and to turn religion —any religion–into a self help course, a plan to make the world a better place, a system of morality or a set of dogmas is to rob religion of its heart. It is a hamburger without the meat– a car with no gas–a lamp with no electricity and a basketball game with no ball.
The tragedy of it all is that modern man is in more need of true, vital, red blooded religion than ever before. What we do NOT need is more Disneyland religion where everything is squeaky clean and fun and fantastic, but fake.
At the monastery the theme of the retreat was sacrifice and we considered the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the cross and the evil that produced it. The cross is God’s kung fu with the devil. It is where Jesus wrestles with all the powers of darkness and defeats them through his own death. This is the stark answer, and why every religion before Christianity focused on blood sacrifices–because they were shadows and hints of that one sacrifice that was to come.
Modern religion with big screens, preachers with tattoos, skinny jeans and clutching a latte? Modern religion that is more concerned about saving the planet than saving souls? Modern religion that is starry eyed about heaven but ignores hell?
It doesn’t work not because it’s modern and trendy, but because it’s not even religion. It’s an escape from religion.