Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Reflections from The Hill – Demons or Madness - June 23, 2013


As I was reading this week's gospel text, I re-entered the familiar world (for me) of mental illness. As I did, I began to wonder about the myriads of carers of the mentally ill, especially those who cared for this one. 


This much I know, mental illness doesn’t get better quickly. It isn’t like having a broken leg or dealing with the ‘flu or something, but requires a whole raft of people to keep the caring going because it’s probably been going on for quite a while.


Then I had to ask myself a few difficult questions like “Who was this guy’s mother?” Did she send him to live in the tombs or did he run away all by himself?

This was followed up by some other questions, like “Who fed him?” “Did people from the village bring him food from time to time or did he scramble for tucker in the dirt and among the rocks?”


“Did people from roundabout leave food for him at a safe distance or were there people he trusted to come near? Did he have any friends? Who were they?”


“Did he have bouts of sanity? Or was he sick all the time? Was he like so many suffering with mental illness, who had periods where he was seemed to be on the planet and functioning?” 


“How did his friends or family interact with him during his times of wellness? Were they on edge waiting for his behaviour to take its well-known and inevitable turn?”

The world of mental illness is a world defined by fear, depression, suicide, chemical imbalances, sleep deprivation, anger, rage, sadness, crying, confusion, hallucinations. And that’s just the carers.


For those who are afflicted, it’s worse. Even after thousands of years, the mentally ill are still people we shun.

When you get involved with people who have a mental illness, there is always volatility, always unknown outcomes, always concern, and, only rarely, stability – your own and that of the sufferers.

To name all ‘mental illness’ as ‘demon-possession’ can be as problematic as naming all ‘demon possession’ as ‘mental illness’. Plainly, like any generalisation, neither are true yet both are true.


There are too many examples of successful exorcisms to dismiss them that easily. What’s more, The Bloke’s entire ministry is liable to be explained away in terms of logic and science if they were and that’s not on.


We forget at our peril that he spent most of his time in the spirit realm, so to try to pass the miracles off as some kind of ordinary event is just fanciful.


Luke has gone to great lengths to link a dead man and a lady of dubious character with a nutter. Then he places this young man in the cemetery of a Jewish town (yes, Jewish) where the main source of income was raising pigs. Luke couldn’t be any more offensive if he tried.


In the context, it seems that Luke wants to help the reader see that The Big Fella’s intention is to include those who previously have been regarded as contaminating and unclean.


Spare a thought for the poor pig farmers who have just seen their precious porkers plunge faster than the fortunes on Deal or No Deal and so terrified were they that they asked The Bloke to get on his bike real quick.


At the end, we have a man was made whole and he wanted to follow The Bloke. We have a town community was made whole and it begins to notice that the young man’s health was emblematic of theirs.


I guess it’s only my curiosity that wants me to know what happened next and how the man’s story ended.

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