Cue the Mad Swine: A Biblical Lesson for Republicans

It’s impossible for me to think about the goings-on in the House Republican caucus without recalling the story of Jesus and the Gadarene (or Gerasene) demoniac in Mark 5. A lurid story if ever there was one, and absolutely one of my favorites from Sunday School days. 

“Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains [the demoniac] was always howling and bruising himself with stones,” reads the text. Without hesitating, Jesus first summons the unclean spirit to leave the poor man in peace, but the possessed one immediate shouts back, “What have you to do with me? I adjure you by God: Do not torment me.”

When Jesus asks the man his name, he replies, “My name is Legion; for we (the demons) are many.” What’s more, Demon Man seems okay with his situation; in verse 10 he implores Jesus not to send his demons away. 

But the demons have a different idea; they are ready to exit. They see a herd of pigs rooting peaceably nearby (this is Gentile territory), and they beg Jesus, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” Jesus grants them permission to leave, they enter the herd, and text reports that 2,000 howling demon-filled pigs run over the cliff and drown in the Tiberian Sea. 

What do we find here that is relevant to the caperings of the Tea Party set? We have the self-destructive behavior of the possessed; we have their unwillingness to release their rage against Obama for doing something compassionate for the uninsured; we have that herd of passive swine: Republicans who won’t stand up to the madness; and finally we have the spectacle of the entire herd becoming contaminated by the madness and rushing to its destruction.

Nothing avails against foam-at-the-mouth madness of this kind except to stand back and grant permission for self-destruction to occur. 

Yes, I know: these particular swine will take the rest of us—indeed, will take the whole world economy—over the cliff with them. There is nothing the least bit funny about it.

But this week’s nasty blowback in the House shows that it is quite pointless to try to get through to the likes of Bachmann and Cruz about how Obamacare is actually a Republican-designed plan, about how ruinous it is to sacrifice the country’s credit rating in order to get at the President, or even about what will become of the Republican brand if they pull the trigger. 

It sickens and depresses me. I miss the old Republican “sound money” voices. But if it takes the destruction of a disloyal and unworthy opposition to get back to a cleansed and chastened loyal opposition, then I say let the exorcism begin.  

And watch out for flying pigs. 

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Peter Laarman is a United Church of Christ minister and activist who recently retired as executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting in Los Angeles. He remains involved in numerous justice struggles, in particular a campaign known as Justice Not Jails that calls upon faith communities to critique and combat the system of racialized mass incarceration often referred to as The New Jim Crow.