Saturday, February 12, 2011

You Can Only Defeat It When You Believe In It...

I am not in the business of being a movie critic and, truth to be told, I do not see all that many movies (new ones, anyway).  But I did see a trailer for a new movie on exorcism and demon possession (sort of a redone Exorcist) called "The Rite."  Anthony Hopkins is the lead character hunting down demons and casting them out.  He has a new priest who assists him who is not so sure.  This fellow thinks that the demon possessed need a good therapist more than they need a priest.  At the very end of the trailer is this great line:  "You can only defeat it when you believe in it..."  A great line, indeed!

Sin and evil and death are concepts that have become rather, well, nebulous to the modern mind.  We think of sin more in terms of failure to launch (oh, that's was another movie) or rather failure to reach our potential more than dirt that cannot be washed off, illness which will most certainly lead to death, and death that corrupts everything we are, we do, and we hope to be.  In the same way, evil is often seen more in terms of those things that prevent us and others from blossoming out to our full wonderful human potential.  We are less likely to believe that there is evil, that this force of evil works against us to destroy us, and that this evil is personal and has a name.  We think of death as merely the end of life and not some terrible enemy that swoops low to carry off our lives and breath destruction into this flesh and blood that no medicine or treatment may heal.  We are less likely to see that death is the fruit of sin and eternal death the punishment for sin.  Sadly, this is even true among many who think themselves Christian.

We in this modern world would resonate well with the sensibility of the new priest who believes that most folks can be fixed through therapy (psychotherapy or drug therapy) more so than by a priest, a sacrament, and a gospel.  Sidelight -- if you are ever in need of a psychologist or psychiatrist -- good luck.  The mental health system in America is so broken as to be a maze in which darkness seldom gives way to any light.  But if you could find a therapist and a good psychiatrist, you just might be made whole again without any recourse to the primitive and draconian ideas of religion and faith.

You can only defeat it (them) when you believe in it (them).  The truth that comes from a movie trailer.  Within the Church the problem is a crisis of faith -- what we believe and not simply how we worship or how we behave.  In order for us make our way through this, we need to believe and trust.  This means a Scripture which is not only trusted to be true but trusted to do what it promises.  This means a rediscovery of our creedal and confessional heritage and regaining our confidence in the old expressions of this Scriptural truth.  This means a rediscovery of the liturgy -- not as some human plan for us to use to worship God but as the Divinely established arena for His Word and Sacraments so that they may do what God has pledged and promised to do through His means of grace.

When it comes to the world around us, we must believe again that they are in mortal and eternal jeopardy without the Divinely established remedy for sin, death, and evil.  For it is this belief in and awareness of the great fragility of this mortal life and the real danger of everlasting death that will help us realize what we have and what we have been given to speak and to do for the sake of the world.  In the same way we must out grow the doomsday fear that the poor you will always have with you -- for this dulls our sense of urgency and it diminishes any sense that we have something real to offer the poor.  When this happens mercy and service will not be the domain of the dogged do-gooder but the out flowing from our heart what has flowed into them in Christ, the Lord of mercy who came not to be serve but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.

Both within and without Christianity faces the real test of faith -- what do we believe.  And the movie line is worth repeating again, you can only defeat what you believe in...  faith merely adds, you can only defeat it with what you believe in, what has been manifest to us by the Spirit and the revelation of Jesus who leads us to the Father.


Anonymous said...

In the United States we are living
in the post-Christian era. This
means that a majority of our culture
does not identify with the Christian
religion as the only truth, but only
sees it as one of many possibilities.

The crucified Christ who died for
the sins of humanity and offers us
forgiveness does not resonate with
the self-centered man of woman of our
generation or any generation.

What is sad is that so many false
religions have taken hold in the
USA compared to 100 years ago.

Anonymous said...

One of the beliefs of the New Age
Movement is Reincarnation. This
is a recycled belief of the Hindu
religion. Unfortunately, the belief
of Christianity in the Resurrection
as been downplayed. We are afraid
of the label "pie-in-the-sky" and
surrender the fact that Christianity
is the only world religion whose
leader Jesus Christ conquered death.
He now shares His victory over death
with all who believe in Him.

Our culture likes reincarnation
because there is no accountability
in this belief. If you believe in
the resurrection of the dead, then
you know the Biblical truth that
unbelievers go to hell and the
believers in Christ go to heaven.

Anonymous said...

“Sadly, this is even true among many who think themselves Christian.” This is a rather convoluted sentence. If they “think themselves Christian,” that means that they are not; they only think they are. And that is because they do not believe “that death is the fruit of sin and eternal death the punishment for sin”? That and many others are beliefs of non-Christians. But this cannot be a “crisis of faith in the church”, because non-Christians are not in the Church, even if they come into the building on Sundays. The Church proclaims the Truth of our Lord regardless of what some people may believe. We do not need to understand every wrong belief outside of the Church, in order to proclaim the Truth, because it is not we who defeat the enemy but God through His Word. And again, the enemy is not all of those people who do not believe. They are the harvest. It is Satan himself who is the enemy, and He has already been defeated.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

PS.: and again, who are “we”? Surely we are those who pray, “Oh Christ Thou Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us”.

Anonymous said...

Gene Veith's Postmodern Times makes the good point that we are not post Christian. Far from it. We are post modern. The modern mindset would reject Christianity because it thinks it is not true. The post modern rejects the concept of truth. However, not everyone living in the post modern time embraces that worldview. Every age has rejected Christianity for one reason or another. The post modern is just the latest excuse/deception. We know the Church will endure and prevail because the work to ensure such has already been done.