My posts on Tim Tebow and Pat Robertson were so well received I thought I would comment on one more incident this week.
You may have heard that another football player made non-sports headlines this week when he admitted that he now believes in curses. You can read the story of Payton Hillis here. You see, it is believed whichever player makes the cover of the Madden Football Video game each year can expect trouble in the season that follows and may see his career take a turn for the worse.
There is a similar curse for the magazine Sports Illustrated cover. I have seen that pattern happen over and over in past years.
I want to suggest here that we leave behind the idea of curses and all that associated hokus-pokus.
Before I do that – let me clarify two things:
- You can curse somebody by saying hurtful things about them. Words effect both the speaker and the the hearer. Not guarding one’s tongue can be a curse.
- You can curse someone by gossiping about them and crippling their chances with other people.
If we want to use ‘curse’ in a symbolic-poetic way … that would be one thing. But if we think that it has a literal correspondence to actual (ontological) reality then:
What I am saying is that this idea of somebody being cursed or being under a curse is so medieval, antiquated, and superstitious that it is somewhere between folk-religion and hogwash.
Now you may be asking yourself “Why does he get so upset about this stuff? Why does he even care? Why does he bother taking this on? Why not just let it go?”
It turns out that there is a really good explanation!
- I have been told that I had a curse.
- I regularly have to council people pastorally who have been told that they are under a curse.
It is hurtful and superstitious and I want to shout “How do you think that universe works? Really!” Do you think that I could be plagued today because somebody who I may or may not know said something into the air that I may or may not be present for and it limits my life?” I have spent hours & hours late into the night praying to break curses – trying to discern in prayer who & where the curse came through in order to overturn its power at the origin.
Over the past 20 years I have been told so many times by people who are into Spiritual Warfare and Intercessory Prayer that “witches go through the phonebook and pray against pastors by name and put curses on churches” as an explanation for everything from pastoral adultery to drops in attendance. (I’m not kidding)
We have to move on. We have to update. And we can! That is the amazing thing. There are better reasons out there! And – as an add bonus – you still get to believe in Jesus, participate in ministry and live in a way that honors God in all you do. It’s the better way.
and if somebody says “But in the Bible…” or “But the early Church…” – I will say “of course they did! I would be shocked if they didn’t! All writings happen and reflect the culture around them. No writing comes out of a vacuum… it is the inherent nature of texts.”
This is why on everything from miracles, to natural disasters, from End Times (eschatology) to the role of women … quoting a Bible verse in English just aint gunna cut it! Our faith needs some updating, renovating, adaptation and modification. This will take our head – our heart and our hands … all of together. It’s a big job.
January 5, 2012 at 11:52 pm
This is great stuff, Bo. I totally live in the world where too much energy is spent chasing demons, breaking off curses, etc., but my disagreement or frustration is not because I don’t think those things really do exist, even in our post-modern world. I think there is a lot of superstition and primitive thinking around this as you have stated. On the other hand, I really believe that Jesus exorcised real demons out of the Gadarene demoniac in Luke 8. I’m not convinced that in the 21st century we would just have him see a psychotherapist for mental health issues (although the scientific community would disagree with me of course). On the other hand, I have been in a room where christians have attempted to exorcise demons out of a person who had genuine mental health issues (Dissociative Identity Disorder). Again, I don’t think its necessarily a premodern vs. a postmodern “framework” issue. I think its an issue of recognizing that there is a visible/invisible realm. That Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God, and the wrestling with principalities and powers included both a very real demonic realm and the reformulation of ancient concepts-devil, demons, etc. (walter wink). I am still inclined to believe in the both/and vs. either/or views on these issues. I am pastoring a very progressive, emerging, “Spirit-filled” group of people, some of which are highly educated. Anyway, I hope some of this made sense. I’m still on a journey of discovery. When will you finish your doctorate?
January 18, 2012 at 8:43 pm
I agree with this very much Bo and wished I had spent my Nyack days in this mind set instead of the one I did.