I’ve watched the haunting dashcam video of Sandra Bland’s arrest. For days I couldn't get the scene off my mind.
I've watched the southern pleasantry “hello ma’am” escalate into threats and physical brutality ultimately resulting in the execution of yet another black life.
Among the myriad videos and headlines of police brutality I'm not sure what it is about this particular incident that seems to expose the deep reality that we exist within a culture of possession.
The familiar succession of the officer's responses quickly progresses from fear/shame to insecurity then violence and ultimately reveals the demonic perception of "I own you. You are my possession."
Digging below the surface of this particular case - the ongoing issues of systemic racism and perverse power structures - we see an ingrained cultural perspective which gives birth to the inevitable violence and oppression of vulnerable bodies.
It's the cultural perspective of possession and it permeates all corners of society.
Within many right winged Christian traditions it’s considered ok to practice chattel parenting - considering children as personal property and in many cases child abuse is permissible.
In the not so distant past it was socially acceptable for husbands to perceive their wives as their possession since they were considered naturally inferior. We don't have to look far to see how this perception lingers throughout modern chauvinistic society.
Of course, one of the most distinctive marks on American history was the legal capability to possess slaves.
A look at the very foundation of our country finds white European settlers claiming this very land we stand upon as private property not to be shared. And when the government does share with the poor just listen to the criticisms from people complaining about those entitled welfare people.
When it comes to the planet, climate change exposes the reality that powerful developed countries such as ours are convinced that we own this planet.
We even believe that we can possess God. How often do we (I) talk in terms of my theology.
In the Hebrew scriptures one of the central themes reveal the people of God attempting to fashion and manipulate God into a concrete tangible thing which they could grasp as their possession.
One of the central story lines of the New Testament gospels exposes the Pharisees attempting to relegate God into their text confining the divine into laws that could be perfectly known and followed - possessed.
God refuses to be possessed.
Like a wildflower I can be aware of God’s presence. I can deeply experience it, appreciate it’s beauty and be transformed by the gift that it is to me. But it’s not “mine” per se. It’s wild.
God along with all of creation cannot be possessed.
When I notice this pre-occupation and anxiety over possession I can be sure that I've lost sight of the Great Presence. I've become too busy or my ego has become too inflated to have awareness of the ever present all sufficient Presence.
With each new video of police brutality what is revealed is that we exist in a culture that has been effectively possessed and until we see the frantic production of wealth and status for the demons that they are we will remain unaware of our need for exorcism.
What is so difficult to recognize is that for a culture of possession like ours - poverty is a gift. All the great saints of history from St. Francis to Pope Francis recognized that it's only when we become nothing that we see everything. The Apostle Paul spoke so directly to this paradox in his letter to the Corinthians, "being poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything."
The gift of God's presence is right here right now if only we become small and poor enough to see it. The liberating touch of Jesus - the one who has rid the universe of possession - is located in the poverty of the present moment.
The Psalmist cries out, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? (Psalm 139). The demons of our possessive culture feed and expand on our fear of scarcity and insecurity.
Maybe this is why Mrs. Bland's courageous resistance to the officer was so poignant for me. In her refusal to be possessed she opened up a little more light on our collective reality. We are all invited to refuse entrance to the diabolical cycle of possession.
God cannot be possessed.