Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. – Luke 8:36-37

This Sunday’s RCL passage about the Gerasene demoniac is a very touchy text to be preaching, especially given the shooting in Orlando this past Sunday. Demon possession is an accusation still leveled at the LGBT community on a regular basis. It underlies the whole idea that you can “pray away the gay”; that you can “love the sinner and hate the sin” – as though sexuality and gender identity were things that possess us, rather than integral parts of who we are.
Knowing that this is the text that will be preached in pulpits across the nation this Sunday scares me to death. Knowing that some preachers will call the LGBT community demon possessed, that my identity will be conflated with mental illness and the possibility of healing. Knowing that this text will be used to point to the “demons” of others, creating an atmosphere of judgment and incitement.
But you know what scares me worst? The preachers who will read this text and who will not say one single word about the way that this text has been used. The preachers who will not add to the violence that this text has done, but who will not speak against it either. Silence is complicity.
Silence kills.
The way that this text has been used to do violence to the LGBT community needs to be named. The way that we use this text to justify ourselves and pass judgment on others – to rip people apart, to dismiss parts of people’s identities, to appear to get Jesus on board with our hate – needs to be called out and stopped. We are not Jesus, speaking to the demons. We are the townspeople, too afraid to invite Jesus to stay with us and work healing among us; to afraid to admit we, too, might be possessed.
Pastors: don’t tell me about my demons if you’re too scared to stand naked in front of Jesus and talk about your own. Don’t tell me I’m possessed if you’re not willing to confront the demons of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia that possess us as a society and push us to read this text with such judgment and willingness to do violence. Don’t shame me if you’re not willing to confront your own feelings of shame. Don’t try to heal me from your place of fear. Don’t continue the violence against my already-traumatized community, by your words or by your silence.
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