The ‘unclean spirit’ or 'demon' places in the Bible make me more than uncomfortable. In the time of Jesus, folks with brain disorders/mental illnesses were thought to be possessed by unclean spirits - demons.. That idea has carried through in religious circles long after medicine has identified brain disorders/mental illness and has found ways, in many instances, to treat it. The “pray away the demon” theology is harmful to folks who suffer from brain disorders/mental illness. But ignoring medicine in favor or a "prayer only" solution to a medical problem ignores the healing ability of medicine as well as prayer.
What doesn’t make me uncomfortable about this instance of Jesus casting out an unclean spirit is that he did it without any fancy rituals – as the healers of the day would have done – and that when the man was healed the folks “got” that Jesus was something way outside what they’d ever experienced – he was the real thing while others were just pretenders.
- Jesus' way is one of restoration – not disdain. Have you ever treated someone with a brain disorder/mental illness, or any disability, as an outcast who just needed to “snap out of it?”
- Jesus' way of restoration is also one that has everything to do with justice for those who are outcast.