Egypt and the Demons of Oppression

The following is a letter to the editor I sent the day Hosni Mubarak resigned–just hours after declaring himself to be the indispensible man for Egypt.

 My Name is Legion

Tens of thousands of people are in the streets of Cairo. A few weeks ago and they were silent, cowering in corners, deathly afraid to speak because they and their friends had been beaten and tortured whenever they opened their mouths.

But they are silent no more. The hornet’s nest has been kicked. The volcano has erupted.

Where have we seen such force before? Where will we see it again? And where is history taking us—where is history’s Author as such explosive events unfold?

American Christians have fallen asleep. They have been lulled by two millennia of misdirection. The screams of the oppressed cry out from their Bibles, but they do not hear.

A wild man once charged toward Jesus out of a graveyard, then bowed, then screamed. Jesus recognized at once that the man was tortured and oppressed by a powerful, evil spirit. He demanded that the spirit leave the man and then demanded to know the spirit’s name. “My name is Legion!” was the answer.

You can grow up in today’s domesticated American church and hear that story a hundred times and never be reminded of this crucial truth: Everyone in Jesus’ world knew the legion as the prime tool of Empire: of Roman dominance and oppression.

Jesus drove Legion out (Mark 5:1-13), and the only other place where that notorious word is again used in the Bible is in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Jesus’ disciples are tempted to prevent his arrest with violence, Jesus commands them to put up their swords, saying he could easily call on the Father to send twelve legions of angels to his defense. But then, Jesus says, Scripture would not be fulfilled. The new regime and new community will not use the tools of the old (Matthew 26:53).

The point is, the Author of history feels the force of the explosive events in Cairo. The voices of the Christian Bible are often screaming voices, and the Lord answers, “Demon, come out!” And the demon is Legion. The evil that lives in the machinery of torture and oppression—and desperately seeks to hold onto power no matter the human cost—that evil will be cast out and drowned.

If American Christians miss this point of the story of their Bibles, they will never recognize Christ when he returns to judge us all.

About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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