Saturday, December 31, 2005

The church was silent

This is an autobiographical poem. My father was a Lutheran pastor, from the main conservative Lutheran denomination, and when I was 9 or 10 years old, a man came into our church during Ash Wednesday services. After church, he told dad he was demon-possessed and wanted an exorcism.

Well, we had a psychiatrist who was a member, and at church that night. He picked up the phone and called the main local hospital and made the necessary arrangements for the man (I’m guessing a schizophrenic) to be admitted.

Meanwhile, though, rather than do a mock exorcism or try a real one, my dad said, “I can’t do that,” or similar. I understood him to be saying, “I don’t have the power to do that.”

I knew the “longer ending” of Mark had Jesus explicitly giving his disciples power to cast out demons in his name. Earlier in Mark, chapter 6, he sounds out the 12 disciples, in a passage accepted as authentic from all early manuscripts, and “gave them authority over evil spirits.”

Now, my dad was working on a graduate degree involving comparative religion of different American Indian tribes and groups. We lived at the edge of the Navajo Reservation. And he took seriously things such as witchcraft.

So, to hear him say, “I can’t do that,” well, read on.


The church was silent
The darkness as thick as death
The fear oppressive.

The demoniac
Came seeking deliverance
From reverend dad.

“I don’t have power
To accomplish that,” said he.
Wilting at the call.

For the first time, then,
Reverend dad did stumble
And loose all his masks.

The clinging velvet
Of fear-born suffocation
Was, was that darkness.

My liberation
Began that night in Gallup
The night dad fell short.

My fear of the dark
Was already within me
From other sources.

This was little more
Trinity’s darkness little more
Than the other fears.

A bit more of fear
Was a small price to pay, then
For liberation.

Liberation from
Old ideas began that night.
In Trinity dark.

- Written July 1, 2001

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