Much of Jesus’ work was healing, with many of his teachings illustrating the healings. Nine of Jesus’ healing stories are actually exorcisms. While the term may be off-putting, the fact that there are so many exorcisms in the Gospels speaks to their importance. I believe “possession by devils” refers to what we now call addiction. The “possessed” person is in some sense trapped by a larger force and is powerless to do anything about it. The only cure for possession is “repossession” by Something Greater than the disease. This is why Bill Wilson said that a “vital spiritual experience” is necessary for full recovery.
I’m convinced that when the great medieval spiritual teachers talked so much about attachment, they were really talking about addiction. We are all attached and addicted in some way. At the very least, we are addicted to our compulsive dualistic patterns of thinking, to our preferred self-image, and to the usually unworkable programs for happiness we developed in childhood—which then showed themselves to be inadequate or even wrong.
Jesus’ most consistent social action was eating in new ways and with new people, encountering those who were oppressed or excluded from the system. A great number of Jesus’ healings and exorcisms take place while he’s entering or leaving a house for a meal. In the process he redefines power and the kingdom of God. Jesus shows us that spiritual power is primarily exercised outside the structure of temple and synagogue.
As Christianity developed, the Church moved from Jesus’ meal with open table fellowship to its continuance in the relatively safe ritual meal we call the Eucharist. Unfortunately, that ritual itself came to redefine social reality in a negative way, in terms of worthiness and unworthiness—the opposite of Jesus’ intention! Even if we deny that our intention is to define membership, it is clearly the practical message people hear today. It is strange and inconsistent that sins of marriage and sexuality seem to be the only ones that exclude people from the table when other sins like greed and hatefulness are more of a public scandal.
Notice how Jesus is accused by his contemporaries. By one side, he’s criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10-11, for example); by the other side, he’s judged for eating too much (Luke 7:34) or with the Pharisees and lawyers (Luke 7:36-50, 11: 37-54, 14:1). He ate with both sides. He ate with lepers (Mark 14:3), he received a woman with a bad reputation at a men’s dinner (Luke 7:36-37), and he even invited himself over to a “sinner’s” house (Luke 19:1-10). He didn’t please anybody, it seems, always breaking the rules and making a bigger table.
During Jesus’ time, religious law was being interpreted almost exclusively through the Book of Leviticus, particularly chapters 17-24, the Law of Holiness. Jesus critiques his own tradition. He refuses to interpret the Mosaic law in terms of inclusion/exclusion, the symbolic self-identification of Judaism as the righteous, pure, elite group. Jesus continually interprets the Law of Holiness in terms of the God whom he has met—and that God is always compassion and mercy.
Both the Christian religion and American psyche need deep cleansing and healing from our many unhealed wounds. Only a contemplative mind can hold our fear, confusion, vulnerability, and anger and guide us toward love.
Contemplative Christians can model a way of building a collaborative, compassionate politics. I suggest we start by reclaiming the wisdom of Trinity, a circle dance of mutuality and communion. Humans—especially the powerful, the wealthy, and supporters of the patriarchal system—are more comfortable with a divine monarch at the top of pyramidal reality. So Christians made Jesus into a distant, imperial God rather than a living member of divine-human relationship.
.. Isaiah tried to teach such servanthood to Israel in the classic four “servant songs.”  But Hebrew history preceded what Christianity repeated: both traditions preferred kings, wars, and empires instead of suffering servanthood or leveling love.
.. We believe our elected officials are called to public service, not public tyranny, so we must protect the limits, checks, and balances of democracy and encourage humility and civility on the part of elected officials. . . .
We reject any moves toward autocratic political leadership and authoritarian rule. . . . Disrespect for the rule of law, not recognizing the equal importance of our three branches of government, and replacing civility with dehumanizing hostility toward opponents are of great concern to us. Neglecting the ethic of public service and accountability, in favor of personal recognition and gain often characterized by offensive arrogance, are not just political issues for us. They raise deeper concerns about political idolatry, accompanied by false and unconstitutional notions of authority. 
.. We already have all the power (dynamis) we need both within us and between us—in fact, Jesus assures us that we are already “clothed” in it “from on high” (see Luke 24:49)!
evangelicalism, a transdenominational effort to faithfully represent Christ in word and deed, shaped my life and outlook, helping me to interpret the world.
.. Some of the most impressive moral movements in American politics — the efforts to abolish slavery and to end segregation and the struggle to protect unborn life — have been informed by Christianity
.. Yet the support being given by many Republicans and white evangelicals to President Trump and now to Mr. Moore have caused me to rethink my identification with both groups.
.. I consider Mr. Trump’s Republican Party to be a threat to conservatism, and I have concluded that the term evangelical — despite its rich history of proclaiming the “good news” of Christ to a broken world — has been so distorted that it is now undermining the Christian witness.
.. “Evangelical is no longer a word we can use.” The reason, he explained, is that it’s become not a religious identification so much as a political one.
.. the term evangelical “is now a tribal rather than a creedal description.”
.. the events of the past few years — and the past few weeks — have shown us that the Republican Party and the evangelical movement (or large parts of them, at least), have become what I once would have thought of as liberal caricatures.
.. Assume you were a person of the left and an atheist, and you decided to create a couple of people in a laboratory to discredit the Republican Party and white evangelical Christianity. You could hardly choose two more perfect men than Donald Trump and Roy Moore.
- Both have been credibly accused of being sexual predators, sometimes admitting to bizarre behavior in their own words.
- Both have spun wild conspiracy theories, including the lie that Barack Obama was not born in America.
- Both have slandered the United States and lavished praise on Vladimir Putin, with Mr. Moore declaring that America today could be considered “the focus of evil in the modern world” and stating, in response to Mr. Putin’s anti-gay measures in Russia: “Well, maybe Putin is right. Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know.”
- Both have been involved with shady business dealings.
- Both have intentionally divided America along racial and religious lines.
- Both relish appealing to people’s worst instincts.
- Both create bitterness and acrimony in a nation desperately in need of grace and a healing touch.
.. Rather than Republicans and people of faith checking his most unappealing sides, the president is dragging down virtually everyone within his orbit.
.. Prominent evangelical leaders, rather than challenging the president to become a man of integrity, have become courtiers.
We need a new national narrative.
One way to identify one is to go back to one of the odd features of our history. We are good to our enemies after wartime. After the revolution, we quickly became allies with Britain. After World War I, Woodrow Wilson was humane to our European enemies. After World War II, America generously rebuilt Germany and Japan.
Elsewhere, enmities last for centuries. But not here. Why? Because we have a national predilection for fresh starts. Coming to this country is for many people a new beginning. We turn every new presidential administration, every new sports season, every graduation ceremony into a new beginning. It’s said Americans don’t settle arguments, we just leave them behind.
The story of America, then, can be interpreted as a series of redemptions, of injury, suffering and healing fresh starts.
- .. In the 18th century divisions between the colonists were partially healed.
- In the 19th century divisions between the free and enslaved were partially healed.
- In the 20th, America partially healed the divisions between democracy and totalitarianism.
.. The great sermon of redemption and reconciliation is Lincoln’s Second Inaugural.
.. This is a speech of great moral humility. Slavery, Lincoln says, was not a Southern institution, it was an American institution, weaving through our common history for 250 years. The scourge of war, which purges this sin, falls on both sides. Lincoln fought any sense of self-righteous superiority the Northerners might harbor. He rejected any thought that God is a tribal God. He put us all into the same category of ambiguity and fallenness.
.. The final prayer heralds a new beginning: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds…to achieve lasting peace among all nations.”
.. He combines Christian redemption with the multiculturalist’s love of diversity. In one brilliant stroke, Lincoln deprives Christian politics of the chauvinism and white identitarianism that we see now on the evangelical right
After almost 50 years as a priest teaching in many countries, I believe that many if not most people are attracted to religion because they want order in their own lives and in the world. This is not bad; it is a first-half-of-life need and task. But it is simply the warm-up for the real Gospel (see Galatians 3:24). Today even science demonstrates rather convincingly that asymmetry is what breaks the dead patterns and moves all elements, species, and ages forward. Life itself proceeds by the radical asymmetry of life and death: no new forms will form unless the old ones die out.
.. This is how the transgression myth was revealed through the Gospel: Jesus, who is judged—by objective criteria—to be a sinner/offender/failure/
transgressor by both high priest and Roman Empire is, in fact, the one who “redeems the world”! Paul repeats this message and calls it the “mystery of the crucified,” which forever discounts both “the Law” (his Jewish religion) and “reason” (Greek philosophy) which at that point were the two great ways to achieve order in their world. Yet these are so deep in our psyche that Christianity went right back to both of them—with a vengeance!
.. The Gospel and the cross say that the only honest and healing order is the acceptance of disorder. This is God’s surprising and scandalous plan.
.. Pope Francis is the first pope I am aware of who has had the insight and courage to say that Divine Love is the only absolute, not law, Scripture, church, or moral behavior. Law and reason can never achieve their own goals perfectly, but love and mercy can and do. “Where are your philosophers now? Where are the scribes?” Paul shouts (1 Corinthians 1:20). Love alone, he says, is the “fulfillment” of the law (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14), which of course is what Jesus said (see Matthew 22:40).
The very emergence of the monks, the early Desert Fathers and Mothers, is an unexpected and surprising third-century movement because there is nothing in Jesus’ teaching to suggest there should be different levels of discipleship in his vision. We are all equally called to follow Jesus, but we created our own caste system; some people were supposed to “get it” and take it seriously, and some were just along for the ride. The very term layperson implies someone who doesn’t know anything. We were left with the professionals and the amateurs. But we were all meant to be professional disciples.
Could meditation or contemplative prayer be the very thing that has the power to both democratize and mature Christianity? Meditation does not require education; it does not need a hierarchy of decision makers; it does not argue about gender issues in leadership or liturgy; nor does it demand licensed officials for sacraments. Meditation does not need preachers and bishops; it does not have moralistic membership requirements. Meditation lives and thrives with dedicated pray-ers who have every chance of becoming healers in their world, each according to his or her gift. And let’s be very honest, Jesus talked a lot more about praying and healing than anything else.
Christians who meditate are self-initiating. Since we no longer have formal rites of passage in our cultures, we need contemplation to change us. Faithfulness to contemplative practice can achieve the same radical inner renewal as sacraments and formal initiation rites. Contemplation addresses the root, the underlying place, where illusion and ego are generated. It touches the unconscious, where most of our wounds and need for healing lie. With meditation or contemplation, I think we have every likelihood of producing actual elders for the next generation, and not just elderly people.