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.