I Went to Church for the First Time in 9 Months

Episco door

Two weeks ago, my friend Shirley came to visit from Atlanta.

We met during a Spiritual Formation conference at Eastern Mennonite Seminary in June 2016. I was a Christian “none” who wore pink Chucks and asked unnerving questions. She was a purple-haired Episcopalian who wrote a thesis on Buddhism and Christianity and talked openly about how much she loved her cats.

We became fast friends.

Shortly after my husband and I married, she sent me a message about her plans to attend a conference in Alexandria, about an hour’s drive from our abode in Ashburn. She asked if we could loan her our couch, our kitties, and our board games.

I was more than happy to oblige.

The weekend was filled with lots of laughter, IPAs (for her and my husband), storytelling, and yummy food. It was refreshing, energizing, and wonderful for all of us.

And then Shirley had to ask me, the absentee Christian who had all but abandoned traditional church, if I was planning to attend a worship service on Sunday.

I wanted to be a good hostess and a good friend, and I figured if I was going to creep back into regular church again, Shirley would be a great person with whom to do this. As such, we spent Saturday evening surfing the web for local Episcopal congregations. We decided against the one 10 minutes down the road, whose website boasted a picture of an altar-housed American flag, in favor of a non-flag-flying church in a small town about 30 minutes away.

For the first Sunday in nine months, I found myself crossing the threshold of the red door characteristic of Episcopal churches.

It was a tiny sanctuary, quaint if you will. Most of the pews were empty, and the occupied ones contained no more than 3 people each. There were no kneeling bars, but there were adorable cushions embroidered with scenes both biblical and rural, from the Magi following the star to a map of the state of Virginia, from the Annunciation to cats snuggling in wicker baskets.

I also winced in internal discomfort when I noticed a plaque dedicated to past church members who served the Confederacy right above the pew of a black family in attendance.

My eyes and thoughts remained, for the most part, on this jarring example of Christian racism during the opening prayers and music. But the priest’s sermon drew my focus away from the walls. A seasoned metropolitan priest new to this particular parish, he began his sermon with jokes about Virginia Tech and University of VA fans and ended by calling out his own racism and the racism of our current administration and white Christianity, all while walking among us instead of standing behind his pulpit.

I sighed in relief upon realizing there are those who resist systemic evil in the name of Jesus, exist in flesh and blood, and do not just use Twitter as their pulpit.

After the sermon, as is traditional with an Episcopal service, we prepared for Eucharist, a meal I had not consumed at the altar in such a long time. So when the time came, I walked up to the bars, knelt before the priest, and partook of the bread and wine again.

Despite the hiatus, I did my best not to consume the meal too hastily. I savored the light, delicate wafer as it sat on my tongue and as I slowly chewed it. I let the small sip of wine saturate my taste buds, rich and sweet, before letting it fall down my throat.

It had been so long since I had known those particular tastes, and I wanted to hold onto them as long as I could.

After final prayers and final songs, and after taking pictures of our favorite kneeling pillows, Shirley and I had lunch at a nearby cafe, which boasted a much larger attendance than the tiny congregation. Over turkey sandwiches, kettle chips, pickles, and Coca Cola, we talked about God’s restorative work, living with mental illness, and eradicating white privilege and supremacy. In short, we had communion one last time.

And as I said my good-byes to my friend, I realized I had enjoyed my time with the congregation.

Yes, I had issues with the plaques on the walls, but I also had hope that restorative work could be done.

Yes, it was a 30 minute drive on a chilly morning, and it had been a bit unnerving to step into a church building again, but I had partaken of a physical and emotional communion, and I felt refreshed and excited.

To be honest, I do not know if this congregation will become my faith community, if I will search for one closer to my own home, or what my next step in this journey will be.

But I know that as long as my spiritual pilgrimage lasts, there will always be those to house me along the way, from visiting friends to small town churches with cat pillows, and everywhere in between.

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Church of the Gibborm or Church of Christ: Why Christians Need to Start Listening to Their Runaways

Marvels Runaways

Deadline

If you haven’t watched Marvel’s Runaways on Hulu yet, please do yourself a favor and either add it to your Watchlist or subscribe to the week-long free trial now.

Because it is wonderful.

There is only ONE straight, white male character in the teen group. There are more women than men in the main cast. The moms are solid as characters and villainesses in their own right. Among the teens are a Latina and two LGBTQ characters, a black teen boy acts as group leader, and a purple haired Social Justice Warrior crushes hard on the jock with a brain.

Not to mention the parents, evil as they may be, are damn attractive.

Parents

I’m looking at you in particular, Mr. Minoru.

But the diverse casting and hot parents aren’t the only reason to watch this show.

It is a great show for those who have run away from American Christendom, and it offers a challenge to those who would uphold it over Christ’s Church.

The runaways’ parents, also known as PRIDE, support the Church of the Gibborim, a growing, Scientology-esque faith headed by PRIDE member Leslie Dean, who is also Karolina’s mother. The Church espouses a propserity-ish Gospel and claims members who have enough potential can go “Ultra,” although we are not really sure this is an achievement worth pursuing once we learn what it could mean.

Not to mention, once every year, PRIDE performs a literal yearly sacrifice of the most lonely, marginalized, and abandoned person they can find to revive a being who, at the beginning, is seemingly decrepit. In return, PRIDE receives power and wealth.

The teens discover their parents in the middle of a sacrifice, and they turn to each other to figure out what to do next. They know their parents cannot find out what they know, because they could be just as disposable as any of their previous victims, despite being their own children. As a result, the Runaways grow closer to each other, and as the adults suspect their children might be onto something, they get outright manipulative with how they try to get their kids to confess/keep quiet.

Before you accuse me of making links that are way too broad, please consider this:

American Christendom has a history of sacrificing the LGBTQ+ community’s full inclusion into the Church at the altar of so-called “orthodoxy.”

Its abusive leaders go to great lengths to silence and slander their victims when they go public.

It tells us God is a God of freedom and prosperity, but only when we become “holier” or “better” than we are now.

It proclaims harmful theology and covers it up by describing it as “taking a hard stance against sin,” and doing so for the benefit of those who have sinned or are backsliding.

And y’all wonder why people leave in droves.

A majority of Americans, most of whom profess Christianity, enjoy Marvel entertainment. We love seeing the good guys beat evil. A majority of these same Americans would probably have sympathy for the teens in Marvel’s Runaways. The kids do not see this “greater good” for which their parents say they strive. They see only evil and corruption, and they both resist and flee their families with the audience’s support.

So why do these same American Christians devote so much time and energy attacking Christendom’s runaways? Why do they accuse them of doubting too much or being too progressive instead of dealing with the very real evil which has consumed this branch of Christianity?

Have the planks in their eyes permanently blinded them? Has the throne become too comfortable to leave? Do they not realize that they bear poisoned fruit and we are sick from it?

American Christendom, y’all need to be listening to the cries of those who are leaving, especially when what you claim is for their own good is actually killing them.

The Church of Christ does not bear the poisonous fruits of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism, ignorance, fear-mongering, or shame. She bears the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When people run away from Christianity, they do so because they do not see good fruit, and because they are starving, they move on to find it elsewhere.

When you’ve become the Church of the Gibborim, or the Church of America, it’s time to tear down the walls and start gardening again. Maybe when we see real fruit growing, us runaways will return.

Sometimes, Anxiety Wins

anxietyart

Anxiety by Giuseppe Cristiano

You try to keep it at bay by exercising 30 minutes a day or cutting sugar out of your diet.

You try to keep it under control with deep breathing, yoga, prayer, and spending time with loved ones.

You try to reason with it by finding the cycles, patterns, words and wording, and reminding yourself they are “just thoughts,” even when they feel like the most true statements in the world.

You try to fight it by telling it you’re more than those dark thoughts say you are, by saying you’re beloved despite all of the flaws it hurls at you like jagged stones, and by asking it kindly to shut the hell up.

Sometimes, you win.

The thoughts quiet to a dull roar and gradually subside. Calm returns, and you continue your routine, maybe a bit more weary than you were before but otherwise unscathed.

Other times, you are pummeled.

The stones cut deep, and the blood flows freely. You curl into a fetal position, out of defense and because everything seems to cave in on you. But still, the stones continue to hit, and they hurt something terrible, and when they finally cease, you lay there weary and languid, wondering if you will ever find the strength to rise again.

And as you nurse yourself slowly back to health with tears and fitful sleep, you wonder why nothing worked. You wonder why the medication or the lifestyle changes or the therapy sessions or any combination thereof didn’t fortify the floodgates.

Maybe you’ll even wonder the most paralyzing, frightening thought of all: was it all my fault?

 

You’ve had these experiences countless times before, but even though you’re used to them, each time can feel more unsettling than the last. Even if your recovery time is better than it has been in the past, it still shakes you to your core and leaves you trembling after the dust has settled.

Because, damn it, what did you do wrong? What could you have done better? What could you have done to have a fighting chance, to not be crushed, to stand strong and not lose the battle?

It’s a terrible question, crushing in its despair and isolating in its seeming loneliness.

And yet, most of us with a mental health condition have asked it.

I wish this wasn’t the case, but I have to admit it:

Sometimes, anxiety wins.

This shit happens. It still does and probably, to some extent, always will.

And it’s not because we didn’t try hard enough, or because we didn’t love ourselves enough, or because we didn’t do enough yoga, or because we consumed a teaspoon more of sugar than usual.

It’s because the exercise, medications, diet, and techniques don’t stop the attacks. After all, they are our tools, not our cure. They are our assistants but not our salvation. We carry them to support us in our lifelong diagnosis.

Sometimes, they keep the anxiety at bay. Other times, they fail us.

And that’s OK. And you’re OK.

You’re OK.

I know it can be hard to believe. The sense of hopelessness following an anxiety attack, combined with the cultural expectation that we hold ourselves together at all times, can be crushing.

But the hard days are as inevitable as the good, no matter how high your dosage or how many times you went to the gym or your therapist this month.

And when they happen, whether you stand victorious or lay defeated, you are OK. And you have permission to let go of the expectation that you’re only OK if you “won” the battle.

Because it’s not all about winning. It’s about surviving long enough to feel like we’re thriving again.

You are OK, beloved. You had a hard day, and you are OK.

And I’m glad you’re here.

“It’s Time for the church to End” How The Last Jedi Might Offer Comfort to Western Christianity

Last Jedi

A small segment of fanboys seem to have A LOT of feelings about The Last Jedi. 

They are alarmed by the “growing trend” of “warrior women protagonists who save the men” instead of playing their “natural role” of damsels in distress. They seem to fear no longer seeing themselves as the main characters, no longer in control of the narrative at large, seeing their roles “usurped” and “stolen” by those they once deemed “lesser” than them.

Good thing this isn’t a problem in society at large.

All joking aside, these fears and outbursts reflect a fear I see playing out in American Christianity, especially in regards to the so-called “death of the Church.”

Declining numbers, “compromising” (AKA “progressive”) theology, and the calling out of long-present hypocrisies and abuses give a number of church leaders cause for alarm, and they seem to think they are all related.

When congregational leaders embrace theology that welcomes LGBTQ+ people to the Table as they are, or when they say “Black Lives Matter” and take firm stances against racism and Nazis, they are seen as compromising the Gospel for political gain.

When esteemed leaders are accused of abuse, the victims are attacked for “slandering” someone who is obviously “a good man.” 

When people no longer identify as Christians because of the evils done in its name, the leaders attack them for being “wishy-washy,” and millennials are labeled the murderers of the Church, along with killers of styrofoam and the like.

These attacks are born out of fear, a fear of losing relevance in the world, of losing power and control over a nation and a narrative we have corruptly controlled for so long, a fear we call the “death of the Church” when really it is the “death of American Christendom.”

And for a people whose founder literally died and then rose again from the dead, we sure are terrified of death.

(WARNING: If you haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet and want to avoid spoilers, it’s best to stop here.)

I loved The Last Jedi for a number of reasons: the women and people of color in leading roles, seeing Carrie Fisher grace the screen one last time, the humor, the adorable Porgs.

My greatest takeaway, though, is the idea that no one side owns the Force, and whether or not specific orders exist to train people in its use, it will continue with or without them.

When Luke says it’s time for the Jedi to end, he looks at examples of how the Jedi have messed up in the past (with the rises of Palpatine and Vader within their ranks serving as examples). And rightfully so. After all, we need to be honest about the evil committed by and within our own ranks.

However, it is Master Yoda who convinces Luke that just because the Jedi were corrupt and failed countless times, the Force continues to call new people to do its work. And as they watch the Force Tree burn together, Luke realizes that the Jedi and the First Order  are not the end all, be all of the Force. They are only vessels. Some use the Force for more corrupt reasons than others, but they cannot completely extinguish it.

So when our cathedrals crumble, our fog machines fizzle out, our conferences cease, our seminaries close, and our rule books burn, God’s Spirit will continue to move.

And when our leaders fail, corruption consumes, and evil seems to permeate our holy walls, we may have to burn it down with holy, renewing fire.

But even when we must, the Body of Christ will rise anew from those ashes, and she will continue God’s salvation. And we will preach, teach, worship, and pray wherever They lead us, from the chapel to the wilderness.

Western Christianity as we know it may die, but the Church will live on.

It’s called resurrection, y’all. It’s kind of our story.

As Rey realized, death and decay bring forth new life, and underneath it all is a balance. And inside us is the same power to raise the dead.

May this comfort us when our ways inevitably die to make way for a Kin-dom beyond our imagination.

A Letter to my 20 (and a half) Year-Old Self, From My 27 (and a half) Year-Old Self

20 yrs

Earlier this month, I found a note I wrote when I was 20 1/2 (because those 6 extra months matter). It was a letter I wrote to my 17 year old self, how even though she felt stuck in a rut, she would grow closer to God, do amazing things, and become a stronger person. It’s a good note, and I’m glad I wrote it. At that point in my life, I needed to tell myself those things.

But that 20 1/2 year old girl, who was so optimistic about where God was taking her, would have the very same faith of which she was so proud shattered several months later, and picking up those broken pieces would be some of the hardest work she would ever do. All these years later, I’m still processing that time in my life and wondering how much I’ve really moved on from it.

So this letter is for that spunky, passionate, on-fire child of God from 8 years ago, blissfully unaware of what was to come. 

I doubt she’d listen to it if I actually read it to her.

But I write it to remind myself that 20 1/2 year old me is still worthy of love and respect, and maybe if I make some peace with her, I can make peace with myself here and now.

*****

Hey kiddo,

It’s me. Well, it’s you…who is also me…only several years older. It’s wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. Not that you know what that phrase means yet.

Look at you: re-reading Captivating and remembering your younger self, preparing to study abroad in New Zealand, nervous in your new relationship with your best-friend-turned-boyfriend. But mostly, you’re proud of how far God has brought you in this life, from the dramatic, insecurity-riddled teenager you were to the more confident and bold Christian leader you are now.

It’s pretty great, isn’t it?

Part of me is envious of you: your steady faith, your simpler worldview, your significantly less hostile political environment (trust me on that, sweetheart), the fact that you’re in school studying and stressing about exams instead of bills.

Another part of me chuckles at your naivety: the super simplistic theology which you find so deep and nourishing, the mediocre taste in music, the narrow-mindedness behind which you hide your deep, beautiful mind.

After all of these years, I hate to say that part of me still finds you pathetic. And yet, I find you so lovable and charming. Our relationship is a lot more complicated now, dearie. I wish it could be different.

Then again, I wish for a lot of things when it comes to you.

I wish I could tell you the ground on which you walk will remain firm beneath your feet, even though I know it will sink so fast you are only able to grasp a small, hardly sturdy remnant in your fingertips to save you from drowning.

I wish I could tell you that you’ll look at the old journal entries and Facebook notes without feeling brainwashed and misguided. But for a long time, you will not be able to read a single verse of Scripture without skepticism or fear of becoming that person you were once so proud to be.

I wish I could tell you the fire you have for God will never extinguish, that you will never doubt your faith or regret being raised by the people who loved you into it.

But I know one day, you will rush out of the backdoor of the church without a second glance. You will become a runaway who didn’t even leave behind a note.

You will see your church family as strangers in a strange land. You will distance yourself from and completely fall out with them, because you do not understand how the people who taught you about the God of Love could turn such a cold and callous shoulder to the most vulnerable in society.

Your youth group buddies. Your mentors. All the pastors and people you once aspired to be.

You will run away from every single one of them.

Some days, you will wonder if this was the right choice to make. Other days, you will swear you should have left sooner than you did.

You will abandon the theology. You will read the old entries and favorite books and wince at the problematic and downright harmfulness of their content. Your heart will break when you read the passages used to silence you as a woman who wants so badly to be strong and bold, and the notions of “purity” which continue to be a root of so many of the struggles in your romantic relationship.

In short, you are going to lose a lot, girl. And it is going to be painful and downright awful.

(Did I mention you curse like a sailor now? Because that’s a thing. I blame the Bridgewater theater department for that one, though.)

It’s not all bad news, though, at least from this side of things.

You won’t love Captivating, John and Stasi Eldredge, or even Donald Miller like you once did. But you will love Rachel Held Evans, Glennon Doyle, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. They will disciple you in ways you never imagined. They will unsettle and disrupt you and make you confront the evil systems into which you were born. They will bring tears to your eyes and make your belly hurt from laughter.

And they will make you think. Kid, they will make your brain hurt with the questions they bring up and soothe you with new understandings of wisdom and grace.

In the midst of intense questions, you will find yourself in a community of believers who hold the holy tension of belief and doubt, who wrestle with God while engaging in the holy work of serving those on the margins. You will preach and accept that maybe, just maybe, this really is your calling, and it will scare you, but not because you’re worried you’re a woman going against the will of God.

In the midst of living on your own and struggling to pay bills, you will find yourself in seminary. You will be compassionate to those wrestling with whether they want to follow this path called The Way anymore. You will think you have it all figured out, until your Missions professor starts talking about white privilege and supremacy and your place in it, until you take CPE and find yourself bringing a fraying family together over the comatose body they hold in common in the ICU on a late Friday night, until the person you were convinced had a backward theology comforted you in a way no one else knew how. You will love the community you find, in the academic halls and the black box theater, with pastors in training and wandering thespians, and it will be an oasis for your soul.

In short, it’s gonna be tough, but you’re gonna be fine.

I know there are moments in this letter where I sound cross with and disappointed in you, but it’s because I know the pain you felt, and I do wish I could have stopped it from happening. I wish I could protect you, or bring all of this to your awareness in a gentler way.

I know you will want me to say sorry, for the questions and the trials, when you will want me to take it all back and return to the way we were, when things were simpler and happier.

But I won’t. I will not apologize for where the journey has taken us, nor will I negate it. I couldn’t do that to you.

Remember this: You will wrestle with God. Each time you walk away from the struggle, you will come away limping like Jacob.

But you will grow, and you will keep opening yourself up to the Spirit’s calling.

And you’re still the loud, passionate, firey, anxious person you’ve always been (but now you have medication and counseling to help with the anxiety. You’re welcome for that.).

Love you,

Lindsay (Age 27 1/2)

PS: Be good to Bryce. He’s already been the best of friends to you, and he’s a great boyfriend, too. And a fantastic husband. He’s pretty much the greatest gift of grace you’ve received in this journey of faith and life, so hold onto that when things get real rough.

A Brief Hiatus…

TreeIt’s a time for words. Many words.

But mine are not coming. At least, the motivation to put them down is not.

It’s been a busy year, full of activism, new jobs, moving, and marriage. It’s been a year of first protests and first holidays as a married couple. It’s been a year of participating in life in wild and wonderful ways, and learning to be myself.

And part of that learning and participation has been letting go of the writing and the blog. At least for now. At least until I remember why I write, not so I can produce something to simply be consumed, but to get myself out there and share my “Me toos” with the world.

I will return after the holidays. I’m not sure if I will share weekly updates or what my new rhythm will be, but I will return with stories to share.

I hope to see y’all when I do!

Mind Flayers, Systemic Evil, and Other Demonic Forces

ST2 Will

***SPOILERS AHEAD for Season Two of Stranger Things***

“They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him.”
Mark 5:1-2 (NRSV)

One of the last classes I took in seminary was “Spirit World, Global Church.” It addressed topics surrounding what we in Christian-speak call spiritual realms, namely dealing with angels, demons, spiritual warfare, and the like.

I entered the class with great fear and trembling. I used to be a Pentecostal who believed demons could possess my soul if I fell into any form of backsliding, from “engaging in witchcraft” (because of my love of Harry Potter) to doubting basic tenants of Christian orthodoxy. Even watching horror movies and doing yoga could open me to demonic possession and cause me to fall out of God’s favor.

This seminary class seemed tailor-made to bring me face-to-face with this upbringing from which I had run so far away. And as such, I feared being in the class would force me back into the mold of the person I had been years ago: narrow-minded with a black-and-white view of the world and the supernatural. I feared I would abandon my interests and loved ones in an effort to stay “pure” and “untainted,” something I had done in the past.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen.

When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.”
Mark 5:6-9 (NRSV)

Despite abandoning most of my old Pentecostal beliefs, possession still scares the shit out of me.

I have never seen an exorcism movie. If I see a picture of Reagan from The Exorcist or see a clip from The Conjuring, I struggle to sleep. When things go bump in the night, I wait for a shadowy demon to jump out from behind a door and take me over.

I am 27 years old and have not set foot in a Pentecostal church in over 5 years, yet I am still held captive by the theology of demonic possession.

I don’t mess with this stuff. Even though I do not 100% believe in it, I give it enough respect in the hope that it won’t happen to me.

I am fully aware that this isn’t a foolproof plan.

But when I took the class, I began to think about ways our spirits and our bodies, the so-called “spirit realm” and the “physical realm,” are connected, how there are times when it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

A couple of months after I completed the class, I binge-watched Stranger Things.

Last month, my husband and I finished the second season, and once again, I can’t help but think of possession and the blurred lines between the two realms.

Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.
Mark 5:11-13 (NRSV)

Stranger Things tackles possession in Season Two. There is the “Mind Flayer,” a monster made of shadows and tendrils, who invades Will’s body, mind, and soul, forcing itself into its human host and causing Will to lose agency over himself.

It’s a parasitic relationship. There is neither camaraderie nor mutuality; the one uses the other for its own gain. In the process, the demonic force separates its host from his loved ones. It steals memories from and inflicts bodily harm upon Will. Under the Mind Flayer’s possession, Will unwittingly leads the soldiers who wish to close the Upside Down to their grotesque demise, and he is only able to communicate with his loved ones by tapping out Morse code with his fingers.

Fortunately, Season Two ends with the Mind Flayer fleeing for its life after a confrontation with some space heaters and Will dancing with a girl at the Snow Ball. But before we get our hopes up that all is well, we see a shot of the monster watching over Hawkins in the Upside Down while Sting’s creepy ass song fades out.

And as the music and monster fade, we are left wondering if everything really will be OK.

Stories about possession usually end on a happy note. Once the evil is gone, life seemingly goes “back to normal,” whatever that means. The possessed person has little to no memory of the horrifying experience, and they skip through life happier for having survived.

But how do we move forward after evil has touched and consumed us?

Some, like Will, go to the dance, hang out with their friends and family, and try to recover. Some, like the demoniac, work within their own communities to spread the good news of new life, new beginnings, and new hope.

But what about people touched by the physical evils of this world?

My church taught me it takes great trust in Jesus to cast out a demon, and where Jesus is, evil cannot dwell. But as the years went by, and I continued to see people possessed by real-world demons, I wondered if this meant not a lot of people trusted Jesus, or if Jesus is absent more often than he says.

I wondered how I’m supposed to look at evil and possession, not only through the lens of the supernatural, but as the very real and physical evils that nip at our heels every day.

Now, I believe we are possessed when we are separated from God, ourselves, and each other.

Systemic racism makes evil puppets out of us as much, if not more so, than a demonic entity can. There is demonic activity in our obsession with power and wealth at the expense of our human siblings and our very planet. Evil wins when we look at others, from our closest loved ones to strangers on the street, from avatars in cyberspace to our own reflections, and see anything less than the image of God worthy of honor and dignity.

I also continue to believe that good art turns our own reality upside down to show us how to confront and shape it. It creates monsters so we know they can be slain. It creates heroes and villains so we know how, as humans, we can rise and fall.

So while there may not be a physical Mind Flayer beneath our feet, there are powers that seek to do harm, first to the individual and then on a global scale. And we have the power to either destroy these powers or be drawn into doing their bidding.

We have the power to buy into white supremacy or break its stranglehold over us and over people of color. We have the power to buy into a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality or help those who are drowning under systemic oppression. We can go with the mob mentality of ignoring abuse and brutality when it happens in front of us, or we can call it out when it happens and prevent it from happening in the first place.

We have all received the holy calling to live in camaraderie and mutuality with each other, and we have all, at one time or another, answered that call by exploiting each other.

We have the capacity to be Mind Flayers, and we have the ability to slay them.

Which path will we choose?

*****

By the grace of God, may we realize when the demonic entities of evil are possessing us, as oppressors and as victims of oppression.

May those possessed and used as tools of oppression find ways to break free from our destructive cycles. May those possessed by oppression find freedom, identity, comfort, and love in themselves and their communities.

And when we break free from our yokes of possession and oppression, may we exorcise the demon-possessed systems, that their evil work may die for good, and new life may be born.