11 MILES / 11 PHOTOS – people and things that caught my eye while trekking through Chicago one sunny morning.
When I saw this sculpture (regretfully, I couldn’t locate the artist’s name, so I can’t give proper credit) I was reminded of a story of Jesus being greeted by a man, stark naked, who was infested with demons. OK, you probably don’t believe in demons, most people don’t, but at least read on. The demon-possessed man created such a stir that town officials bound him in chains. He ended up breaking the chains, only to run around like a drunken fan in centerfield eluding security guards at Yankee Stadium.
The man tells Jesus that his name is Legion, not the name on his birth certificate, I’m sure. A legion was a division of five to six thousand Roman soldiers. This guy is a bee hive of swarming demons, an ant hill of inner infestation.
He’s a slave to five thousand impulses, none of which he can control. He’s a prisoner to five thousand urges, none of which he can tame. He’s beholden to five thousand masters, none of whom he can please. He’s captive to five thousand expectations, none of which he can meet. He sleeps in five thousand different beds, none of which give him rest. Though he breaks the visible chains, he’s no match for the legion of invisible chains — the demons that suck from him a little more life every day.
Maybe only primitive people and a few tele-evangelists believe in demons. Yet, you have to admit our world’s got plenty of afflictions that are every bit as dehumanizing: shame-based despair, ruthless competition, a bottom line of profits over people, life-sapping poverty, an insatiable appetite for war, rules tilted in favor of the rich, racism in all its ugliness, an unwillingness to seek peaceful solutions, greed that convinces us that enough is never enough. More 21st-century demons than you can shake a stick at. A legion, really.
Jesus gives back to the demon-chained man his humanity and with it his dignity and value and worth. Eventually, he’s restored to the community which is always the goal of Jesus’ healings. Finally he’s at peace. He belongs. He’s whole.
Maybe you look at this chain-linked sculpture and have some of the same questions I do. What demonic chains keep me from moving forward? What unresolved issues am I dragging behind me? In what ways am I a legion of oppression to others? How do the material goods I enjoy, in an economic system that depends on cheap, foreign labor, diminish people I’ll never meet (in the words of that beloved hymn: “Blessed Assurance These Nikes Are Mine”). A legion of questions get raised.