I don’t have cable. I waste enough time on Netflix, and I get enough bad news on my Facebook feed everyday. Social media brings out the monster in just about everyone. Scroll for like, five minutes, and it’s easy to see that something has gone wrong in this world. Corruption, murder, terrorism, racism, Islamophobia, genocide, the list goes on. And those are just the broad terms – I can find at least one news story today under each of these categories.
History is plagued with violent death and the abuse of power, people, and the earth’s resources. It is not simply in the large catastrophic events that we sense brokenness, but also in our own relationships, thoughts, and habits. Our proclivity toward the things that make us dead inside seems so inherent that we’re left pondering the age-old question regarding the slippery slope of our human nature: “How did we fall so far?”
I once tried to write a seminary paper disproving the doctrine of Original Sin. I didn’t get very far before I changed my mind.
We’re entangled in it – born into systems that oppress people of color, women, people with disabilities, people who look, think, believe differently than the dominant culture. It was there in the beginning. On a communal level groups of people – clubs, clans, societies, even countries – choose to give in to evil as a whole. This kind of evil can start out as small actions, but when left unchecked, transforms into oppressive systems, injustice, war, and abuse. Systemic evil leads to the destruction of all of creation – the environment, animals, and other humans. And we’ve inherited these systems of oppression and greed. As a white woman who grew up in an upper-middle class family, I have benefited from these systems.
So what does it look like to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness and reject the evil powers of this world when the world looks like this?
I used to think this part of the baptismal covenant was talking strictly about spiritual warfare – that these forces of wickedness and evil powers of the world were Satan’s little demons on my shoulder tempting me to lie or cheat on a test or talk badly about people in my class. But the more I learn about the tangled web humanity has weaved, the more I believe that the lust for more, the lure of power, the intoxication of self-indulgence has resulted in some very serious physical manifestations of the spiritual realm, where access to real food and clean water is a luxury. Where parents of color have to teach their children how to interact with police officers in order to preserve their lives, while I picked up tactics to easily get out of a ticket. Where those in power follow the money rather than the well-being of their constituents. Where some unborn lives are ended because mothers can’t get access to the care and aid they need to raise a child. Where people are numbers, manipulated to fit statistics. Where we believe the death penalty works. Where people are sold into slavery. Where harmful language is disparaged as “political correctness,” without ever once taking a person’s sacred worth into account.
To renounce something means to disown it. To speak it, to name it, and to give it up by formal declaration. It is the call of Christians to renounce the evil in the world. How will we use our voice, Church?
To reject something means to refuse something. To discard it, eject it, and I love this definition – to vomit. It’s time for us to vomit out the things of this world that continue to steal our lives; it’s what we vowed to do when we joined the Church.
These things are hard to do, especially when everyone’s got an opinion, and it’s not always nice. But if we stand by silently in a world of hurt and suffering, we are complicit. We’ve always said we were a light on a hill. Let’s be that light. It starts with our words – identifying and ejecting evil and wickedness.
How will you live into your baptismal covenant today?