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Red Hat

 And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3 He lived among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain, for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces, and no one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him, and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” Then Jesus[b] asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the region. Mark 5. 1 - 20

She walked into church early Sunday morning clutching a used Popeye's box and a CVS bag full of what she "carried." She had on a red beanie and leggings and a jacket. Carefully she placed her stuff in the corner by the entrance, all the while muttering "I just want to go to church." The next thing we know a parishioner says someone is clogging up the sink in the bathroom with paper towels and leaving the water running. So we move into emergency mode, fearful of many things including more plumbing bills because this kind of thing happens frequently. Red Hat, we will call her, is escorted out of the bathroom and makes her way into church, but then changes her mind again and goes back to clogging the sink. The police officer is called in, and she finds Red Hat sitting quietly in a pew and escorts her out of the church.

Right on time for the next service, Red Hat returns, still just "wanting to go to church." She has "dressed" for church, having taken off her hat and put on a half slip over her leggings. Somewhere between the entrance to the church and the aisle, an unclean spirit took hold of her, and she lost control. She ran down the aisle, threw a book and a bulletin and screamed profanities. The police officer was called in again, and unable to subdue her dragged her by her flailing legs up the aisle and out of the church all the while the unclean spirit howling and swearing. Out in the vestibule, it took four men to hold her down (no one had the strength to subdue her), she was handcuffed and taken off to jail...out of the region.

The Watch and Pray app for today used the Mark reading above to tell the story of the unclean spirit Jesus healed, suggesting that the man from the tombs and the society in which he resided needed healing. "The demon here is systemic, hidden and deeply rooted," the meditation says. The great difference between Red Hat's story and Mark's story is that the unclean spirit was not called out on Sunday, and Red Hat now sits in a jail somewhere and is never allowed back on the church property.

This story is not meant to condemn or judge. What happened to Red Hat was necessary to protect a church full of adults and children. This story is rather a statement of fact, full of questions about where we as a society have gone so wrong. It is most importantly a prayer for the soul of Red Hat, wherever she sits this day, that someone will ask her her name and call the unclean spirit out of her and give her back her life.


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