Frightening, Yet Liberating

On page 231 of Circle of Life: Traditional Teachings of Native American Elders, James David Audlin says the following about a Vietnam veteran’s experience in a Native American lodge:

“I was told that one of my teachers took a Vietnam War veteran into the lodge, to help the man work through his deeply repressed anger.  During the ceremony, his anger came bursting forth in a screaming rage.  The vet told me later that, without thinking, he balled up his fist and swung it at our medicine man friend.  He felt a hand grab his wrist, forestalling the blow, and hold it still with a great strength the vet could not break—-until the anger slowly dissipated.  After the ceremony, he asked the medicine man how he was able to see the punch coming in the dark and grab his wrist in time.  The medicine man replied, ‘I didn’t.’  Again, it was clearly the spirits.”

A number of conservative Christians, were they to accept that story as having occurred, would probably say that the spirits were demons.  But why should we assume that?  Jesus denied that he was casting out demons through the power of Beelzebub because Beelzebub would not undermine his own kingdom by enabling Jesus to perform exorcisms.  Well, in that story that Audlin tells, the spirits are helping a man to let go of his bitterness and anger.  They are doing good, in short.  Why would demons undermine Satan’s own kingdom by helping a man to be released from his emotional pain?  So how could one account for the spirits, from a Christian perspective.  Perhaps they were angels.

That’s not to say that I want to mess around with the supernatural realm, for I actually do fear demons.  Perhaps that’s because I was raised to do so, coupled with the frightening stories that I have heard about the supernatural.  But Audlin talks at great length about how one should not approach the supernatural flippantly, for approaching the supernatural often entails protocol and cleansing, plus the supernatural is frightening.  And yet, there is a freedom and a release that come when one experiences the supernatural (at least certain elements of it).  Is that not like the God of the Bible, in certain respects?  Could the same God be interacting with people of different religions?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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