Note: This post is intended for those who aspire to following Jesus in the context of today’s interlocking network of institutional “powers and principalities” that make up the global economy. I hope that by “demythologizing” some of these terms, people of other spiritual or secular traditions will also find value.
While writing this Lenten blog series on “Creation, Cross, and The Powers,” I have also been working with others on Third Act’s Day of Action, as I write about below. It dawned on me as I was doing so that in Judeo-Christian terms, this action can be seen as a form of demythologized “exorcism.” Not spooky, but practical. Here’s how.
Third Act’s Banking on Our Future Campaign has called for a Day of Action (for the climate) to be held this coming Tuesday (3.21.23). Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people will gather in cities, towns, and small rural communities like mine for public actions focused on the top four funders of fossil fuel projects: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, and Citibank. Many people plan to change banks. They have opened accounts at local banks or credit unions and are prepared to go into these banks to close their accounts on the Day of Action. Some will publicly cut up their debit/credit cards outside the bank. This weekend people are gathering to make colorful signs, banners, and giant cardboard scissors that say, “Cut it out or we’ll cut them up.” Others are preparing songs, chants, and performance arts.
As part of Third Act Faith (an interfaith working group of Third Act), I will be part of a faith contingent in the larger Day of Action demonstration here in Grass Valley, California, as an expression of our spiritual/faith commitment to protecting and preserving creation (including our human family). There will also be a contingent of young people, including members of Nevada County Sunrise.
Why gather? As record-breaking snowfall has followed long-term drought and frequent wildfires here in Northern California, we are now living under an atmospheric river with seemingly endless rain. Does that mean that things are finally balancing out? Is the drought over? I would love that. My grandchildren have lived through record-breaking weather extremes their whole lives. I would love for them to get a break, to be able to get established and build lives for themselves without chaotic weather disruptions.
But these extremes of heat and cold, drought and precipitation, are exactly what climate scientists have predicted for decades. Heat increases evaporation and moisture in the air, which must come down somewhere—just not always when and where it has historically. With the melting of sea ice, sea level rise, changes in patterns of the polar vortex and the jet stream, our young people and future generations are bound to experience more frequent and intense weather extremes rather than less. Such is the reality that we call “climate change,” which sounds so benign. It is really a “climate emergency.”
How does all this relate to the theme of this Lenten blog series or to today’s post on “Demythologizing Exorcism.” Just this: If followers of Jesus are called to “cast out demons” (Mark: 14-15), we do not have to think in terms of spooky Hollywood portrayals of priests unsuccessfully attempting weird rituals to drive out some evil spirit that has taken possession of an innocent person, usually a child. Instead, let’s consider how to interpret what “casting out demons” might look like in contemporary terms that are relevant to the existential challenges facing humanity today, specifically climate change.
In previous posts in this series, and in many of my writings, I refer to William Stringfellow and other theological forebears and their practical understanding of what we call, in contemporary terms, “the Powers that Be.” These are the dominant principalities and powers that we read about in the Bible, “all rule and authority and power and dominion” (Ephesians 2:21),” against which we struggle “with all the armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-17). They are “the rulers of this age” who do not understand “the wisdom that comes from God” (1 Corinthians 2:6).
The institutional powers that dominate our world have outer and physical realities (a bank façade or the Capitol or the Pentagon), but also inner and spiritual (or psychic) realities that impact all of us who live under their authority. We tend to internalize their values. The most obvious expression today of the “rulers of this age” is the interlocking network of political, economic, ideological, and military institutions that make up the global “domination system” of today.
Part of the pain of facing the reality of our time is that we know we are complicit in climate change and other harms caused by this global system, in which we participate and from which many of us (especially white, middle-class, US-Christians) benefit. What can we do to remedy this situation? We can begin to “exorcise” the demon of complicity, and Banking on Our Future shows us a way to do just that.
By participating in this Day of Action at any level, including coming to show support, we renounce our complicity while “unmasking” the banks that promote the destruction of life and hope by funding the fossil fuel companies that continue to greenwash, promote doubt about climate change, and build new infrastructure to keep the fossil fuel party going indefinitely. By refusing to invest in banks that do so, we free ourselves (by the power of the Spirit) from this form of (literal) “possession” by the fossil fuel economy. At the same time, we call (urge, demand, entreat) these banks to assume their rightful role in society: to provide financial security and stability for bank “customers” while investing in ways that enhance life and serve the common good—in this case, by rapidly divesting our money from fossil fuels and investing it in just and sustainable sources of energy that can carry us into a clean energy future.
This is the fifth post in a Lenten Series, “Creation, Cross, and The Powers.” The other posts in the series will be linked here as they are published.
- Creation, Cross, and The Powers.
- Extraordinary Temptations
- The Spirituality of an Epoch
- Creation: Moving from Awe to Lament to Resistance
- Banking on Our Future as Demythologized Exorcism
For other blog posts by Sharon on the story of Jesus in the Wilderness, see Jesus, Temptation, and Worldly Power and Resisting Cultural Possession.
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