oprah and ted and recognizing demons

I watch Oprah. Not religiously, not even regularly, but from time to time, when she pops onto my TV screen, I find myself interested. And having been a member of her audience, I feel like I know her (no not really, but it was really fun).

Anyway…a couple of weeks ago, Evangelical…maybe more correctly, former Evangelical Pastor Ted Haggard was a guest on Oprah. And he has an HBO special coming out soon. You may recall that Haggard, a few years ago, was arrested and publicly disgraced as he was caught buying drugs and soliciting a male prostitute. Fallout, understandably, followed. He was removed from the church he had pastured and built. He talked about being suicidal and asking his wife for a divorce, which she flat out refused. I listened with skeptical if interested ears.

Oprah finally got down to the details. Had he had a change of heart in his understanding of Jesus’ love and acceptance for homosexuals. Haggard and his wife danced around it for awhile—and to be honest, he never said the exact words I was hoping to hear—but he did say that he now understands as he did not before that Jesus loves and accepts all.

Oprah asked if he thought he had been possessed by a demon. And I was impressed with Haggard’s answer. He said that he very much believed in Angels and Demons and the casting out of demons. But he was clear that his homosexual inclinations were not demons—they were part of him, part of who he is. He stopped shy of saying that his homosexual longings were part of who God made him to be, but he came close.

While Haggard and I remain, I suspect, very different in our overall theologies, I was drawn to what seemed to be his new understanding of Grace and Love and Relationship with Christ. I was happy (relieved? surprised?) that Haggard didn’t explain away his homosexuality to the work of a demon. The once gay condemning pastor now says that the problem was not being gay, but lying about it, about lying about who he was.

So what about demons? The post-Christmas/Epiphany season has had the Church reading Mark’s Gospel, which is rich with images of demons and Jesus reluctantly casting them out. The problem, for Jesus, is that people don’t know who he is yet. He’s just a rabbi, a teacher. Probably respected, but few, if any have any thoughts about him being a Messiah. He’s just a regular man. Except to the demons. The demons see him for who he is: What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth, one demon cries out. Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.

It’s not the righteous, it’s not the disciples, it’s not the faithful who first recognize the Holy One of God–it’s the demons, it’s the ones who have the most to loose. I wonder what that means for us today.


all parents make mistakes with their children. parents are, after all, human and so they’re bound to be less than perfect.

this is the story of one of my mother’s mistakes (sorry mom).

all my siblings are half siblings. my father has three children (i’m the middle one). i’m my mother’s only child. so my sister is 8 years older than me and my brother is 13 years younger. and none of us grew up in the same household (or city).

my sister would come to visit for christmas and summer vacation. her visits were moments of such pure and complete joy for me. i looked forward to them far more than anything else i can remember. airports were part of my life from infancy…trips to the atlanta airport were full of expectation when going to pick her up and full of tears when dropping her off. after we put jessie on the plane for her trip back (yeah, it was awhile ago, because we would walk on the plane with her), we’d get in the car, me sobbing, and my father would drive us to the closest gas station, where he’d buy me a package of peanuts and a coke, give them to me, and tell me that i was eating the same thing as jessie, so even though we were far away, we were still connected.

but i digress…

my sister’s arrival meant that jessie sometimes got to pick out special actives or treats. going to the varisity for my sister’s beloved lemon custard ice cream was one standard. going to the movies was another. in 1975 the movie JAWS came out. i know my mom didn’t take me to the first one, because i would’ve only been 4. so maybe it was JAWS 2. i was about 7 years old. and my mom took my sister and me to the movies. and we saw JAWS (i’m guessing 2). and it changed my life.

i developed an overwhelming fear of sharks and the unseen in water (which i love). i remember that year seeing a Carol Burnett show sketch where the shark came up through the bath tub. i was terrified of bath tubs for awhile. but more than anything else, i was scared by the idea of still water being disturbed in strange, fast, unstoppable ways by a destructive force. because i was a georgia girl who was an infrequent guest at the ocean, i transferred my fear to the grate over the deep end of the swimming pool. irrational? you bet! still with me? 100%.

tonight i went swimming in the hotel pool, a lovely 9 foot deep pool, with a waterfall attached. i swam over the grate about 4 times before my fear got the best of me and i found myself running (well, swimming as fast as this body will move) to get out of the tub. yes, i am overwhelmingly aware it’s an irrational fear, but i’m still scared shitless about swimming in slow, still pools over grates.

of all the irrational fears in the world, it’s not the worst. i’m glad i’m not afraid of flying or wine or coffee or chocolate (are those actual fears?). but it’s mine. and it’s with me and now you know.