The Election To Save America

Many in the United States are declaring this upcoming 2016 election to be most important in the history of the United States (and possibly the world). Christian evangelist Franklin Graham has stated that “we’ve got maybe one election left;” while right-wing pundit Glenn Beck warns that “this is your last call, America.” But this sentiment is not just limited to the Right. Journalist Joshua Holland of The Nation writes: “this one [the election] has the potential to be truly pivotal.” But this kind of talk is nothing new, as I can vividly remember how the 2012 election between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama was the very same thing. That being said, I have to admit that there may be some truth to what these gentlemen are saying, although I will contest some of the reasons why.

Now, I do not suggest that this may be the most important election in our history in order to incite fear, for I do believe that regardless of what happens, in the end, all will be well. And not only do I believe that, but I also have hope for the immediate future as there is an awakening of sorts, both here and abroad, both inside and outside of Christianity. What I mean is that, for some, there seems to be a deep yearning for a truly unified and peaceful humanity. However—and unfortunately this is a big “however”—there also seems to be a mass of people, fueled by the trumpeting of a growing number of “leaders,” becoming more and more divided with one another. And as such, tensions are growing . . . and growing rapidly. Based on the current strained relations between blacks and whites, Christians and Muslims, liberals and conservatives, and so many other “groups,” the potential for an all-against-all type of violence is very present in the US.

Because of this, many are on the hunt for scapegoats. And while we all scapegoat one another, those who seem to be doing it the loudest and in front of the largest groups of others are those who aspire to leadership. The Christian Right, primarily those who support the two men who lead the race for the GOP Presidential nomination, namely Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, seem to have focused their scapegoating attention on Muslims and the LGBT-community. The Left is not without their own scapegoats, as our drone program—the very same one that liberals denounced President Bush for—has actually expanded under the current President. In addition, it was only a few short months ago that Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton ambiguously labeled “the Iranians” among her “proudest enemies.”

I don’t say this to then turn around and scapegoat others. Criticizing and accusing are two separate things anyway, as my friend Michael Hardin just aptly pointed out in a Facebook post:

There is a big difference between criticism/critique and accusation. We all use criticism all the time: when we read the ingredients on a product we buy in the store, when we purchase clothing and make sure it doesn’t have flaws, when we disagree (politely) with one another. Criticism is not scapegoating. This distinction is where people get confused. They say ‘you are criticizing so and so and scapegoating them.’ This is incorrect.

When we accuse and scapegoat others, we are doing it in order to place ourselves over and above them. However, when we critique others, we are doing it in order to benefit them and then subsequently, those over whom they have a sphere of influence. At least, that is the goal, but we must always remain diligent in not turning that criticism into accusations that only then serve ourselves.

My goal then, in pointing out the scapegoating being done by others, is not to serve myself, but rather to highlight something that will be crucial in understanding why the US is in such a state of division. You see, for the scapegoating mechanism to really work—for it to focus the civilization’s frenzied all-against-all violence onto a surrogate—the people have to be united. The scapegoating of Muslims, the LGBT-community, and “the Iranians,” though, is not a united effort. The people are at odds. There is no collective accusatory finger pointing anyone’s way. Rather, there is a split, division, and thus, what is quickly becoming chaos.

Now, what I am not saying is that we need to start unifying against an enemy “other.” Au contraire! What I am saying is that we need to get our act together and start looking for supra-status-quo solutions for achieving real, lasting peace. The status-quo way to peace states that we need another victim/s. But true peace will require a higher level of consciousness, where our interdividualism is recognized, acknowledged, and then where radical forgiveness becomes our new reality.

That being said, on our way toward becoming collectively more enlightened to humanity’s oneness, whose true self is derived from the one true God, we may have to engage in the political process. But no matter how we then engage in that process—whether by voting or by other methods—we must do so with empathy in our hearts, and peace on our tongues. Unlike those who act like wolves, seeking to devour others with their words of judgment and condemnation (Matthew 7:1–5), we must engage others as servants who do not lord anything over them (Matthew 20:24–28).

As Americans, we must have empathy for the Mexican people driven from their lands due in large part because of the United States’ war on drugs, and not advocate for a giant wall to keep them trapped in a situation we helped create. We must have empathy for Syrian refugees fleeing their war-torn cities and homes because of a situation, again, we helped create. We must not demonize the LGBT-community and blame them for simply wanting the same rights our culture affords straight people. We must not blame them for when a natural disaster strikes, like Europeans did to the Jews when the Black Death hit Europe. And we must certainly not turn to those in “leadership” roles who continue to openly create scapegoats. Those who perpetuate the “us vs. them” mentality only worsen the problem and drive us all further apart. Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits,” which can certainly be interpreted as “you will know them by their scapegoated victims,” or even, “you will know them by their accusatory fingers.”

It is becoming more and more obvious as to the kind of fruit this 2016 election crop is bearing. With accusations being flung around left and right, and judgment being placed by those in no place to judge, the fruit seems to be spoiling on the vine. Let us hope that this changes before it is too late.

Image: “Republican Elephant and Democratic Donkey” by DonkeyHotey via Flickr. Available via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.


“You Have No Power Over Me”: When David Bowie Was Satan (A Tribute Of Sorts)


Oh you’ve turned my world, you precious thing…

These haunting words reverberated through my mind upon learning, two weeks ago, of David Bowie’s death. A great number of people feel his loss in the world of music, but I didn’t know him best as a musician. I knew him as Jareth, the compelling, charismatic Goblin King from the 80s cult classic, Labyrinth.

I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me as the loss of my favorite childhood villain began to sink in. And then I wondered if it might be possible to write a mimetic analysis of Labyrinth in honor of David Bowie. Admittedly, when the thought occurred, I had not yet pondered any sort of in-depth analysis. I was simply looking forward to my “research” (that is, watching the movie and singing and dancing along to all of the songs.)

Yet even before my research began, as I started to contemplate the story and the characters, I had to wonder if filmmaker Jim Henson was a closet Girardian himself! Labyrinth is ripe for mimetic analysis, beginning with a scapegoating sacrifice and culminating in a reorientation of desire. Between these extremes is the labyrinth itself – an arduous, winding physical and spiritual journey during which circumstances, priorities, and values are subconsciously reevaluated and new meaning is discovered.

And it has only been through the lens of mimetic theory that I have come to fully understand and appreciate the magnitude of David Bowie’s character. He is not merely a magnetic, enigmatic and striking villain; he is Satan himself! True, mimetic theory does not accede to a personal view of “the satan.” But if the principal of accusation, deceit, and twisted desire had a face, it would be Jareth’s. It feels a little odd to “honor” someone by naming him as the embodiment of all evil. David Bowie, after all, was not the devil… but he played one wickedly well.

Sacrifice and the World of the Satan

Labyrinth begins with a sacrifice. Our heroine, Sarah, is in the midst of a personal crisis, augmented, no doubt, by teenage hormones, but genuine. After the opening scene foreshadowing her epic showdown with the Goblin King, we can imply from visual clues that her mother has died. Perhaps this has kept her in a semi-fantasy state of mind. Her room is filled with stuffed animals, the books on her desk are classic children’s fantasies, and she seems to prefer to escape to a world of make-believe.

Were she merely role-playing, there may not be much cause for concern, but Sarah soon proves herself not merely childlike, but, to a degree, childish. Upon discovering that one of her stuffed animals has been used to comfort her little brother, Toby, she storms into the infant’s room screaming, “I hate you! I hate you!” Clearly, the child is innocent. But Sarah scapegoats the poor baby for far more than being caught with her toy. This child is a sign that her father, grieved though he may be from the loss of Sarah’s mother, is moving forward in his life. He has remarried, and the new baby has cemented a familial bond that Sarah resists. She resents her stepmother, resents her half-brother, and seems to wish to revert to an earlier time when she was an only child, before her mother’s death. She longs for love, perhaps unable to see the love she already possesses. Little of this is consciously acknowledged, however, and on first viewing, Sarah seems only concerned about her loss of freedom as she must babysit a child while her parents go out. Hyperbolically, Sarah fancies herself a modern Cinderella and cries out for rescue. Though she exaggerates, there is real pain behind her melodramatic façade. All the same, she clearly scapegoats her brother Toby, and in the end, sacrifices him, if accidentally, to the Goblin King by wishing him away. “I wish the goblins would come and take you away,” she says to her screaming brother. “Right now.”

An instant later, Toby is gone, and the Goblin King arrives in a flash of evil glory. When Sarah begs for her brother back, he patronizes her, then bribes her with her “dreams,” before whisking her away to his underground world where his castle beyond the Goblin City lies at the end of a vast, foreboding labyrinth. Sarah has 13 hours in which to solve the labyrinth before her baby brother becomes a goblin forever.

Simultaneously condescending and tempting, manipulative, deceitful, and magnetically attractive, Jareth indeed embodies a very particular form of evil: the satanic principal. He feeds off of scapegoating sacrifice, as seen by his desire for Toby. Yet his wickedness is disguised by a false benevolence. He is Sarah’s dream and her nightmare, offering to liberate her a life she cannot tolerate by relieving her of her responsibility for her brother, yet capturing her in a lie. Because the lines between fantasy and reality are so blurred in Labyrinth, it is hard to say definitively when he began to manipulate Sarah, whether or not their worlds collided before he stole Toby. But I imagine him whispering through the pages of her storybook (the story she acts out in the beginning and must live out in the end), compelling her to believe that he loves her and wants to rescue her from the bane of her existence, whom he helps her identify as Toby. If only Toby were taken away, he urges, all her problems would be solved.

That is, of course, exactly the way scapegoating works. People come to believe that their problems will be solved if they could only get rid of someone. The satanic principal is the principal of accusation and blame, the lie that a person or a community can only experience peace, success, fortune or joy at the expense of someone else. It has manifested in all kinds of violence, from expulsion to murder to oppression to war. The human propensity to project blame onto another and deflect one’s own responsibility is so deeply embedded within our psyche that there is no need for a “personal” satan. In fact, to accuse someone of being the embodiment of Satan is to employ the satanic principal one’s self.

Yet in this fantasy, Jareth, the Goblin King, is the demand for sacrifice come to life, the embodiment of Satan. He clearly feeds off of receiving those who have been thrown away, cast out by society, as Sarah has cast out Toby. He stops at nothing to ensure that Sarah does not reach her brother. This includes attempts at physical harm as well as psychological manipulation. He strives to reorient her desires toward himself and away from her sisterly love (which, hidden under a mess of trauma, angst, and deception, surfaces like a nearly-drowned victim gasping for air as soon as the fantasy to rid herself of Toby becomes a reality). The twisting of desire away from harmonious connection with others toward self-fulfillment at another’s expense is yet another manifestation of the satanic principal, which builds identity over and against another. Jareth seeks to deceive Sarah into loving him at the expense of her brother. But real love calls instead for mercy, not sacrifice.

Love Robs the Devil of Its Power

In spite of all of his manipulation, in spite of attempts to impede Sarah with obstacles, disorient her and undo all of her progress, or trap her in a false paradise of her dreams, Jareth cannot hinder Sarah, who is propelled forward by love. It is not only the love of her brother that motivates her. Along her journey, Sarah encounters three creatures who are clearly outcasts. Hoggle is a dwarf with no friends who ostensibly works for Jareth, though only out of fear, not loyalty. Ludo is a beast – intimidating on the surface but with a heart of gold – being tortured in captivity when Sarah takes the risk of rescuing him. And Sir Didymus is a talking raccoon who lives on the shores of the Bog of Eternal Stench, clearly beyond the margins of any “decent” society. Sarah befriends them all. In a world of outcasts under the power of the devil, Sarah manages to find and give love. No wonder she “turned [Jareth’s] world.”

One must wonder if Jareth finds the befriending of outcasts as intolerable as the thought of rescuing, or unsacrificing, Toby. If Jareth’s power lies in deceiving others into believing in the need for sacrifice, dividing creatures against each other, or building a kingdom out of controlling the rejected, then it seems that this is the case. In particular, Sarah’s friendship with Hoggle infuriates Jareth. In his threatening, manipulative fashion, Jareth seeks to breed self-contempt in Hoggle to keep him from believing he could ever be valued by anyone. “You don’t think a young girl could ever like a repulsive little scab like you, do you?” he asks. One of the devil’s tricks is convincing the victim of his or her own guilt or insignificance. For a long time, such manipulation has worked to intimidate Hoggle, but Sarah’s friendship empowers him. Hoggle’s character arc is in many ways the most compelling of the entire movie, but that is beyond the scope of this essay. For now it is simply worth reflecting on how his relationship with Jareth brings to light the ways in which blame and accusation can deceive people into the lie of self-worthlessness, making it that much easier to harm others or acquiesce to harm of one’s self. Jareth makes Hoggle feel worthless and compels selfishness. Yet Sarah helps Hoggle find his sense of worth, and thus enables his selflessness.

In the end, Sarah’s friendships become a part of her. Though she must face Jareth “alone,” as interdividuals we are never alone. Sarah takes the love of her friends to her final confrontation with Jareth. In this stunning scene of magnificent mimetic proportions, we not only see Sarah stronger for having embraced the love of others, but we also see Jareth admit to being formed by Sarah’s desires as well. In a succinct monologue, Jareth details how he has lived up to the compelling and formidable villain of Sarah’s fantasies. “I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me,” he concludes. “Isn’t that generous?” His speech is a manipulative blend of truth and deception; truth, for indeed, mimetic theory illumines to us how our formation of identity over and against others creates enemies. Sarah had fantasized herself as a hero in contrast to the villain that Jareth lived into. Yet Jareth is also deceitful, for he evades responsibility for his actions by, again, accusing Sarah of being the reason for his anguish and ignoring the hell he has put her through. Yet Sarah has come through hell stronger, and rather than let herself be intimidated or angered, rather than speak in her own defense, she remains focused on her mission to rescue her brother.

If there is any doubt that Jareth is Satan, it should be laid to rest in his final scene, which is reminiscent to Christ’s temptation in the desert. In his last attempt to win Sarah over, Jareth once again offers her everything she once desired:

I ask for so little. Just let me rule you. And you can have anything that you want. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.

His request is so reasonable. Just live within the confines of the world he has created, a world of sacrifice and outcasts, and he can be generous. Keep the focus on your own desires, Jareth implies, and he can fulfill them… at the expense of everyone else.  “Do as I say and I will be your slave” is a perfect encapsulation of the satanic temptation. When we wield the power of accusation and deceit, when we run the world on sacrifice, expulsion and murder, we may acquire our desires, but we do not rule our desires. In such a world, desire rules over us. Even when the satan works for us, we are slaves to it.

Sarah can no longer be held in the thrall of the satan. The world he controls, the “love” he offers and demands, is false. She knows that now, because she has come to know and be capable of true love, self-giving love, through embracing and being embraced by outcasts (as she herself had been, not only in the Labyrinth, but in her (mis)understanding of her “real” life) and through her recognition of her brother’s innocence and vulnerability. Jareth may offer everything she once desired, but her desires have been reoriented by love. Thus she can truthfully proclaim to him: “You have no power over me!”


Sarah “turned Jareth’s world,” as surely as Christ turned the world under the control of the satanic principal. She brought out the love that was there all along, and discovered it within herself. Whether the labyrinth and the underground world were “real” or inside her mind (but why on earth should that mean it is not real?), Sarah found love within it that she could carry with her for the rest of her life. Even in the depths of hell, the outer margins where we cast the victims we see as monsters, there is love. Sarah demonized her little brother and cast him out, to a hellish world where he was destined to become a monster, but recognizing his innocence and discovering a courageous love within herself, she not only pulled him from the brink, but brought others out of their misery and loneliness along the way, redeeming herself in the service of others.

And what of Jareth, the Goblin King, the satan? I hope if David Bowie looks down upon this tribute from Heaven, he takes no offense at being called out as Satan. I hope he is amused and honored. After all, if you’re going to play the Big Bad, you might as well play the Biggest Bad!

Yet I also believe that even Jareth can be redeemed, by the same love that Sarah discovered and magnified. It may take an eternity, but Love redeems all. Labyrinth, the Gospel in Muppet Form, tells that quintessential truth, in a way we can all dance to.

Rest in Peace, David Bowie, you devil you.


Image: Screenshot from Youtube: Labyrinth Jennifer Connelly David Bowie End Scene by Anni53


Unbridled Mercy

My heart breaks for a world scourged by violence.

Duped and deceived by the satan inside us.[1]

Accuse![2] Convict! Point fingers at “them.”

It’s us who are just! and they are condemned.


Our violence is good—it’s righteous and true.

God’s on our side and “they’ll” know that soon too.[3]

With power and might we lord over others,[4]

Accusing the prophets of being false brothers.[5]


Woe to those who confuse Christ for religion,

Who speak devilish things about those already forgiven.

Woe to those who demand blood in Christ’s name,

Who spit venom and poison[6], curse others, and blame.


The grace you demand is abundant and infinite

Yet the grace you give seems rather impotent.[7]

The grace of God is unfathomable[8] and yet,

You contend Love offers an eternal threat.[9]


A gospel with violence is unfounded and false.

It’s the opposite of Christ—a religious farce.

The way of the Christ is the way of the cross,

But in knowing the Christ, all else is loss.[10]


The way of Christ is preemptive grace.

Grace in the midst of a spit to the face.[11]

This model of forgiveness is what sets us free,

Free to love all with unbridled mercy.


[1] For a detailed expose on what/who is “the satan,” see Michael Hardin’s eBook aptly entitled, “The Satan.” It can be found at
[2] The satan, or “ha satan” in Hebrew, translates to “the accuser.”
[3] I am referring to the three major Abrahamic religions, which have many within the respective faiths who claim they are the chosen people and thus, that they have God on their side.
[4] See Matthew 20:25 – 27, where Jesus tells his followers they are not to lord over others, as the Gentiles do, but they are to become great by becoming as a servant.
[5] See Luke 11:50 – 51.
[6] See Matthew 23.
[7] Matthew 7:1 – 2.
[8] See Romans 11:32 – 33.
[9] I contend that since God is love (1 John 4:8), eternal conscious torment as a final fate for some humans is incompatible.
[10] See Philippians 3:8.
[11] See Matthew 26:67

Image: Created by Venrun. Available via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License


Donald Trump, Immigration, And The Politics Of Satan

Donald Trump created a stir recently with his comments about immigration.

“When Mexico sends its people, they aren’t sending their best. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people.”

We could easily dismiss Trump and his comments by claiming that he’s our nation’s crazy uncle. But our crazy uncle is gaining in the GOP polls. After announcing his candidacy and making his comment about immigrants, he surged to second place among Republican voters.

It’s early, of course. I don’t expect Trump to maintain his surge. But I do think his comments reveal something important about politics.

Immigration and the Politics of Satan

In the biblical book of Job, Satan is the Accuser. Satan roams throughout the world as a prosecutor looking to make accusations against people. But Satan doesn’t care if people are good or bad. As we see with Job, all Satan cares about is making accusations.

In other words, truth doesn’t matter. All that matters is making an accusation that sticks.

Donald Trump made an accusation against Mexican immigrants that has struck a chord with many Republican voters. And that’s the point behind the satanic principle of accusation. As René Girard claims in his book, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, “Satan seeks to have others imitate him.” Our imitation of Satan primarily comes in the form of accusations against our fellow human beings. That accusation is usually based on fear, a contagious emotion that is easily manipulated by the satanic principle of accusation.

But the fear is baseless because it isn’t grounded in truth. That’s especially true in the case of immigration. Study after study shows that immigrants, whether legal or illegal, are less likely to be involved in violent crimes than the rest of the population.

In her study, Bianca Bersani, professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, states, “Foreign born individuals exhibit remarkably low levels of involvement in crime across their life course.”

Jorg Spenkuch of Northwestern University finds that, “There is essentially no correlation between immigrants and violence crime.”

The Public Policy Institute of California reveals that, “Immigrants are underrepresented in California prisons compared to their representation in the overall population. In fact, U.S.-born adult men are incarcerated at a rate over two-and-a-half times greater than that of foreign-born men.”

Donald Trump’s accusations against Mexican immigrants is a clear example of the politics of Satan. Satanic politics orders the world through accusation, exclusion, andscapegoating. While native born Americans actually have a higher rate of violent criminal activity, that fact doesn’t matter to the politics of Satan. What matters is making an accusation that sticks.

Immigration and the Politics of God

Fortunately, we do have an alternative to the politics of Satan. We don’t have to order our lives around the principle of accusation and exclusion.

The way God wants us to order our lives, including our politics, isn’t based on accusation and exclusion, but love and acceptance. For example, take Exodus 22:21, “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Leviticus 19:34 continues the theme, “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

The politics of God makes no distinction between “illegal” and “legal” immigrants. Rather, all immigrants are human beings worthy of being included and treated with love. The Bible calls us to empathize with all immigrants, “for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” While in Egypt, the Israelites were marginalized and treated as less than human. In modern America, we’d call them “illegal immigrants.”

But the Bible calls us to something higher. The Bible calls us away from the divisive politics of Satan and toward God’s politics of love.

Instead of making accusations against immigrants, the Bible calls us to love them. Instead of excluding immigrants, the Bible calls us to include them.

The differences between the politics of Satan and the politics of God couldn’t be clearer. It’s the difference between exclusion and embrace. This election cycle, let’s follow God who calls us to “love the alien as yourself.”


Photo Credit: Flickr, Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons License


Tony Campolo: The Christian Morality Of Gay And Lesbian Inclusion

There is a new movement happening among Evangelicals.

“Behold,” God says through the prophet Isaiah, “I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

The old movement was based on excluding gays and lesbians from the church, using the Bible in an idolatrous way that demeaned and rejected them. But now Evangelicals are waking up to the new thing that God is doing in the world. Fortunately, more Evangelicals are perceiving that God is making a way in the wilderness and rivers in the dry desert heat for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

Tony Campolo is the latest Evangelical to come out of the closet to support full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church. He posted a statement on his website yesterday that created quite a stir among Evangelicals.

He ends his statement by saying, “I hope what I have written here will help my fellow Christians to lovingly welcome all of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters into the Church.”

Tony Campolo is a major voice in American Evangelicalism and he is pointing to the new thing that God is doing within the Evangelical movement. But there are those who want to hold onto the old way of exclusion.

One critic claims that Campolo’s acceptance of gays and lesbians “is significant as another prominent leader moves away from the faith once for all delivered by the saints.” And that American Christianity is going through a winnowing process that “is going to reveal whose consciences are bound by the authority of scripture and whose aren’t.”

This critic hits the nail on the head. Unwittingly, he reveals the very thing that’s wrong with the old version of Evangelicalism. To claim that accepting gays and lesbians into the church is to move “away from the faith once for all delivered by the saints” is ludicrous.

Do you know how many of the saints talked explicitly about gays and lesbians? Zero. In all of Scripture, in all the writing of the ancient church fathers, the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, heck, not even the word homosexuality appears in the Hebrew or Greek. Any modern translation of the Bible or an ancient church writing that uses those words is not a literal translation. It’s an interpretation.

And I’m all for interpretations. We have to interpret the Bible. In fact, there is no literal interpretation of the text, which is why people of faith have always debating the meaning behind scripture.

The point is that we need to take responsibility for our interpretation of scripture, which is what Campolo is doing. After all, we know that the devil can quote scripture just as much as anyone else. And what’s the devil’s role in scripture? As Rene Girard has taught us, the name Satan means Accuser. Satan’s role is to divide humanity through the principle of accusation. Any time someone points the finger at another person, or group of people, to exclude them, you can be sure that they are being influenced by the satanic principle of accusation. For many of us, it’s getting old.

Which is why I’m grateful for the new thing God is doing. The new thing is summed up by Jesus when he talked about the Paraclete. The Paraclete is the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, the word Paraclete means “called to one’s side” and has connotations of “advocate or helper.”

The distinction between Satan and the Holy Spirit couldn’t be more evident. Satan’s role is to accuse people of being evil. Satan will use any resource available to make that accusation, including the Bible. When we use the Bible as a means to accuse others of immorality, we have turned the Bible into a satanic idol. The Holy Spirit on the other hand, stands with those who are accused by the satanic principle of accusation. The Holy Spirit doesn’t use the Bible to accuse or exclude people; that’s Satan’s job. The Holy Spirit uses the Bible to lead us away from accusing our neighbors and toward loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.

But I don’t want to do away with morals. Evangelicals are right to be concerned about them. But we should be concerned about morals in the way Jesus was concerned about morals. Jesus didn’t use morality or religious principles to accuse those whom the religious elite deemed immoral. Rather, Jesus flipped morality on its head. For Jesus, morals was about standing alongside those who were accused of being sinners. He fellowshipped with them, not in order to change them, but in order to love them just as they were. Loving others just as they are. That is the essence Christian morality.

Tony Campolo is being moved by the Holy Spirit. He is showing us how to be a moral Christian. He will continue to take heat for doing it. And that’s okay. He will, I hope, continue to love even his enemies.

I’m grateful that other Evangelicals have already discovered the new thing God is doing. I pray that many more will do the same.

Defeating Satan at Harvard

Photot: Fábio Santoro via JMJ Rio 2013-Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Photot: Fábio Santoro via JMJ Rio 2013-Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

How do you defeat Satan?

That was the question the University of Harvard had to answer on Monday night when the Harvard Extension School’s Cultural Studies Club planned a Satanic “Black Mass” at the university.

The Harvard community, led by Harvard president Drew Faust, was outraged by the Black Mass. Faust addressed the situation by stating, “The ‘black mass’ had its historical origins as a means of denigrating the Catholic Church; it mocks a deeply sacred event in Catholicism, and is highly offensive to many in the church and beyond.” Although Faust was offended by the planned event, she defended the right of the Cultural Studies Club to proceed with the black mass. “Nevertheless, consistent with the University’s commitment to free expression, including expression that may deeply offend us, the decision to proceed is and will remain theirs.”

The Archdiocese of Boston also responded with outraged offense. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley claimed, “Why people would want to do something that is so offensive to so many people in the community, whether they’re Catholic or not, it’s very repugnant.”

As a Christian, I understand the outrage. After all, the satanic black mass mocks the Eucharist, one of the most holy events in Christianity. But, before we fester in our animosity toward the Satanists, I want to encourage us to take a step back and analyze this event from the angle of mimetic theory.

Mimetic Theory and the Satan

René Girard has been invaluable in helping us understand Satan by exploring the many titles attributed to Satan. In his book I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, Girard states, “These titles and functions include the ‘tempter,’ the ‘accuser,’ the ‘prince of this world,’ the ‘prince of darkness,’ the ‘murderer from the beginning,’ and all of them together explain why Satan is the concealed producer, director of the Passion.”

The reason Satan is so dangerous is not because Satan is a mythical figure with horns and a pitch-fork. Satan is so dangerous because Satan represents an anthropological reality. Satan has no independent existence outside of humanity. Humans provide oxygen for Satan’s survival whenever we accuse others and exclude them from our community. Following Girard’s use of Satan’s titles, Satan is the anthropological principle that “tempts” us to unite in “accusation” against a scapegoat, or a common enemy. Satan is the “prince of this world” and the “prince of darkness” because the world runs on accusations. Whenever we experience accusations against us, we respond with accusations of our own. This leads us down a dark path of mimicking verbal and physical violence against one another

Girard’s exploration of the satanic principle leads to a difficult conclusion that no one wants to hear, but we need to hear it: whenever we point fingers against another, even when we point our fingers against Satan, we are caught up in the satanic mechanism.

Again, as a Christian, I completely understand the outrage against the satanic black mass at Harvard, but ultimately our outrage traps us into an imitation of Satan, and so we give oxygen and bring to life to the satanic mechanism. We provide Satan with oxygen as we participate in “Satan casting out Satan.” The Harvard community, the Catholic diocese of Boston, and many others were caught up in mimetic outrage at the Cultural Studies Club and succeeded in having the event relocated to another venue. If Satan is the principle that unites us against a common enemy and excludes them from our midst, then we need to consider the possibility that any act of excluding the satanic black mass is itself satanic.

Mimetic Theory and the Eucharist

Is there an alternative response, one that resists the temptation to accusation and exclusion? Yes. And ironically the answer is found in the very thing the black mass ridicules.

The black mass mocks the Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving of Christianity. What is so “great” about the Eucharist?

The Gospel of Luke tells us that during Jesus’ last supper with his disciples he “took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’”

Now, what’s really interesting about the last supper is that Jesus knew he would be betrayed. And it wasn’t just Judas who betrayed him. Satan didn’t just enter Judas’s heart; he entered the hearts of all the disciples who abandoned and denied Jesus during his time of need. They were all caught up in the satanic mechanism.

But thankfully the satanic mechanism of accusation, expulsion, and murder doesn’t have the last word. Jesus has the last word. The Eucharist is the Great Thanksgiving because the last words of Jesus are words of forgiveness. As James Alison states, Jesus is the Forgiving Victim who doesn’t respond to satanic accusation and violence with more satanic accusations and violence. Rather, Jesus responds with love that embraces even his enemies and universal forgiveness. Jesus prayed for his persecutors from the cross,

Father, forgive them, for they know know not what they do.

The Only Way to Defeat Satan

Satanists make an easy scapegoat for Christians. Who could be an easier target for Christian outrage than those who glorify Satan? But when we unite in mimetic outrage and accusations against Satanists we reveal that we are prone to getting caught up in the satanic mechanism of exclusion.

The only alternative to the satanic principle of accusation is Christ’s principle of love and forgiveness. Christian tradition claims that Satan was defeated by the forgiveness of Christ on the cross. Christ gave his body and his blood for the very people who betrayed him; the very people who were caught up in satanic accusations against him.

In other words, Christ gave his body and his blood for all humanity, including Satanists. Whenever we unite in accusation against another, but especially when we do so in the name of Christ, we mock the cross and the Eucharist. We become Satan casting out Satan, only to reinforce the satanic principle of exclusion.

Harvard stopped the black mass from happening on campus, but it was a short term win. In the long term, excluding Satanists only reinforces the Satanic principle of exclusion. If we want to win in the long term, the only way to defeat Satan is to deprive him of the oxygen that gives him life. And the only way to deprive him of oxygen is to love and forgive him.

C. David Owens resized

Finding God in the Mess

Despite years – and I mean YEARS – of therapy, I still run like a madwomen from my own feelings of sadness, especially during the holidays. Denial has always been my favorite coping mechanism. So this weekend, when my holiday spirits started to dip, instead of looking inside for the cause I made a mess of things by finding fault with everyone around me. My husband said the stupidest things; my kids seemed ungrateful; and friends were ignoring me. I became irritable and grouchy because no one was being nice to me anymore. And I hadn’t done anything to deserve such treatment! But guess what? No one was being mean to me at all. What I realized after a few days was that I was scapegoating them in order to avoid feeling sad. Once I let myself feel sad, suddenly they all got a whole lot nicer.

When we talk about scapegoating, we usually don’t think of it going on at the psychological level like this. But our own interior sense of goodness can generate torrential streams of false accusations against unsuspecting others. Why? Because we usually run a script like this in our pretty little heads: “The only thing that could cause perfect moi to be less than a perfectly happy, generous, and grateful person would be someone else. It certainly couldn’t be some failure on my part, like an inability to tolerate sadness – heaven forbid!” What I didn’t want to face was that I was missing my friend and pastor David Owens who died ten years ago during Advent. I don’t like feeling sad during the holidays and I don’t like that deep down I’m angry at David for dying when and how he did; I don’t like – okay, I hate that he was taken from me by a stupid curable disease like prostate cancer just weeks before his 57th birthday. I hate missing his humor, his sermons, his talents and his foibles. And I really hate that David spent the last few years of his life defending himself against scapegoating accusations, a time when I witnessed firsthand the pain and shame of the place occupied by a victim.

4734317_mSo you’d think I’d know better than to scapegoat others over my feelings for David. But sadly, I keep doing the dreadful blame-someone-else-first routine. Hey, I’m human. We all are. The trick is to recognize our scapegoating before we do damage to healthy relationships; early enough that forgiveness is still possible; maybe so early that we are the only ones who noticed what we were doing. That’s what Advent hope is all about, really. That when we are behaving badly we are capable of turning it around. That God entered into the midst of our world BEFORE we got our act together, because for some unfathomable reason God believes in our turning it around. That’s the thrust of a sermon David delivered on Christmas Eve in 1994, The Star Thrower. He said that “God shows up in the least likely places” and so we shouldn’t be afraid to “seek out the weakness and folly in this world, and in your soul.” So if your soul, like mine, is well-endowed with weakness and folly and prone to making a mess of things, my prayer is that you will find solace in David’s Christmas message and hope in the birth of a baby so very long ago. (This sermon is part of a collection published by our congregation in the year after David’s death. The collection has two volumes and is available for purchase here.)


The Star Thrower

David Owens

Christmas Eve, 1994

How are you? How is your spirit? Is it well with your soul? Are you prepared to receive the blessing of God’s love in the birth of Christ this evening? Just take a deep breath. There is nothing more that needs to be done but to receive the gift that is offered.

We gather this evening in the hush and quiet of this sanctuary to receive the gift of God’s birth. And to dream… to dream of that world of peace and good will that comes with God’s birth. Did your imagination catch fire with the words of Isaiah, the prophet-poet in our Scripture lessons? His prophetic dream prepares for God’s coming world of peace and good will.

Remember the images he uses, images of peace and harmony? The wolf will be the guest of the lamb. The calf and young lion will browse together. The cow and the bear will be companions. The lion will eat hay with the ox. The baby will play by the cobra’s nest. And a little child shall lead them.

I know that some of you, even some of you who are very close to me, are saying, “Dave, don’t get carried away! Christmas is wonderful, it’s a wonderful time of year. It’s good to be in a generous and warm spirit, but life is going to be dog-eat-dog tomorrow and in the days that follow. Forget about all these Pollyanna-ish dreams where wolves and lambs pal around together.”

Honestly, I understand your hesitancy about dreaming of a new world dawning. I, too, have pragmatic moments when I would rather be safe than sorry. I, too, have moments of doubt when I apply the acid test of reason and the empirical methods of science to the magic of poetry and song. And I ask myself… is it true? Is God with us? Has God entered our world and taken up our struggle for wholeness?

Friends, the message of Christmas is too incredible to believe. In fact, it is impossible to comprehend. But here we are this evening, some of us in different states of array, but here we are, proclaiming the message of Christmas. In spite of all appearances to the contrary, we hope, and we hope, and we hope that somehow the creator of this universe, who made lambs and wolves, came to dwell with us one night in Bethlehem of Judea, and decided to stick around with us to see it through until the end.

Some time ago, I was introduced to an essay by Loren Eiseley entitled The Star Thrower. It can be found in his book, The Unexpected Universe. I would like to share a story from that essay with you this evening. I believe the story will help us dream of God’s coming world of peace and will which began that evening long ago in Bethlehem of Judea.

Loren Eiseley was Professor of Anthropology and the History of Science at the University of

Pennsylvania. He was a poet-scientist, a unique bird, who struggled with the stupid cruelty that humans inflicted on one another in the natural world. After reading one of Eiseley’s books, the poet W.H. Auden paid him the highest compliment one genius could confer on another. He wrote, “I wanted to read anything and everything of his could lay my hands on.” Auden described Eiseley in these words, “He is a wanderer who is often in danger of being shipwrecked on the shore of dejection.”

Is not this an apt metaphor for many of us? Do we not long to hear the angel message, “Fear not. You are not alone. You do not carry your burden in solitude. Your fears and worries are assumed by another.” Like Eiseley, we too are wanderers in danger of being shipwrecked on the shores of dejection. We, like the Magi, are in search of a star.

Eiseley’s story begins during a bout of melancholy when he found himself lying on motel bed near the beaches of Costabel. Outside, a heavy storm raged. In that pause between and morning when dark hesitates, Eiseley went outside. Fires sputtered up and down the beach. Eiseley knew that professional shell collectors were at work. He was passed by a frantic shell collector who rushed, heavy-laden, toward a boiling kettle. As he watched, the man dumped his bag of shellfish into the boiling water and stoked the fire under his pot.

That was the “why” of the fires on the beach. Shells, once boiled free of all living tissue, could be sold or kept by the most aggressive shell collectors. A very apt metaphor again… shell collectors without shame or guilt, boiling away the flesh of living beings to possess the shells as ornaments of greed. Eiseley journeyed like the Magi of old and past the scrambling, bumbling shell collectors.

As he rounded a point on the beach, he noticed the emerging sun pressing red behind him and above the shell collectors. Ahead, over a distant point, he saw a gigantic rainbow of incredible perfection. It sprang, shimmering, into existence. Eiseley saw a human figure standing within the rainbow, though unconscious of his position. Eiseley labored toward that figure over a half a mile of uncertain footing. Drawing near, he saw the man stooping, stooping and retrieving a starfish from the silt and sand where it was trapped. Eiseley ventured a comment, “It’s still alive.”

“Yes,” the man said. And with a quick and gentle movement, he spun the star out into the sea. It sank in a burst of spume and the waters roared once more. “It may live,” he said, “if the offshore pull is strong enough.” He spoke gently, and the rainbow light danced on his bronzed, worn face.

“There are not many who come this far,” Eiseley said. And then, looking at the man, he asked, “Do you collect?”

“Only like this,” the man said softly, skipping another star into the water. “And of course, I collect only for the living. The stars throw well,” he said. “One can help them.”

Eiseley nodded and walked away, leaving him there along the dune with that great rainbow hanging up the sky behind him. As Eiseley left the star thrower, he thought, “Perhaps, far outward on the rim of space, a genuine star was similarly seized and thrown. Somewhere, there is a hurler of stars:’

Friends, I believe there is a star thrower, a cosmic power moving us in a direction away from the drive for mere survival of the fittest, a presence who moves among the debris and tragedy of life and flings gently a star, our star, back into the mystery and wonder of existence.

Friends, I believe God chose to appear on planet Earth in the least likely of places in order to reveal divine power through human weakness and human folly. God showed up at the birth of a baby in the animal quarters of a Jewish Palestinian peasant’s home. God chose to become known through human weakness and folly… our weakness, our folly… in these places where we’re least likely to look for the God of power, justice and mercy.

God shows up in the least likely places. God shows up to be with the child afraid of the dark where things go bump in the night. God shows up to be with the rich man who has everything, but feels empty. God shows up to be with the single mother who has nothing, but feels fulfilled. God shows up to be with the one who longs to go home and dreads to go home all at the same time. May we look for God, the star thrower, in the least likely of places.

Seek out the weakness and folly in this world, and in your soul. There stands the star thrower… at the foot of the rainbow, hanging up the sky, tossing you into the joyful mystery of your life. Tonight, a child is born. Angels sing… and stars are thrown.


God, a Tornado and John Piper’s Satanic Theology

Many of my liberal friends never call themselves “Christians.” Their hesitancy is usually a reaction against conservative Christians who, let’s face it, are an embarrassment to the name. You know what I’m talking about – those who make crazy claims like natural disasters occur because God is angry at homosexuals. And then there are those who use phrases like, “legitimate rape.

Influential pastor John Piper provides the latest example. While most of my friends on Facebook and Twitter lamented the devastation wrought by the Oklahoma tornado, Piper decided to show off his biblical acumen with this tweet:


Piper’s tweet is a bit ambiguous. His reference to Job doesn’t say that God caused the tornado, but Piper has historically claimed that God causes these types of disasters. In fact, this wouldn’t be the first time he has tweeted something so theologically insensitive. A few years ago Piper claimed God caused a tornado in Minnesota because God was angry at homosexuals. Piper’s god is a fickle Cosmic Jerk.

Job and the Satanic Principle of Accusation

Rachel Held Evans brilliantly points out the irony of Piper’s reference to Job in her article “The abusive theology of ‘deserved’ tragedy.” She states, “The great irony of Piper using the book of Job to support his theology is that the story of Job stands as an ancient indictment on those who would respond to tragedy by blaming the victim. That’s exactly what Job’s friends did, and the text is not kind to them for it, because Job is described as ‘blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’” Adding to the irony of Piper’s reference to Job is that Satan is the Accuser. (See footnote “b” in this online Bible.) While it’s true that Satan only appears in the first two chapters of the book, Job’s “friends” take on the satanic principle of accusation, and of blaming of the victim. Ironically, by blaming the victims of the Oklahoma tornado, Piper is acting satanically, imitating Satan’s accusations in the same way that Job’s friends did.

Bad Things Just Happen

John Piper calls himself a Christian, but I don’t think he knows Jesus. Whenever Jesus talks about natural disasters, they are just that, natural disasters. He never blames anyone for them; instead he points to them as an opportunity to show God’s love. Jesus was once asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” He responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” Then the power of God worked through Jesus to stop the accusations and heal the man.

When people told Jesus that towers fell in Siloam and killed 18 people, Jesus asked, “Do you think they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?” He answered his rhetorical question by saying, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Repent of Satanic Theology

What does Jesus want us to repent of? Jesus challenged the age-old assumption that God causes bad things to happen to bad people. That’s theologically satanic. Yet we love this assumption as long as tornadoes don’t bother us, because it makes us think we are better than those people over there! Jesus tells us to repent of such satanic theology. Bad things happen to everyone.

But the unfortunate truth is that there is a little bit of John Piper in all of us. Whenever something bad happens to someone, we want to know why. Why did he lose his job? Well, he must not have worked hard enough…the way I do! Why did she get lung cancer? Well, she smoked too much…I smoke just the right amount! All of these “answers” become addictive because they make us feel morally superior to the other person and they give us excuses not to respond with loving compassion to our suffering neighbors.

We need to repent of blaming the victim so that we can respond to our neighbors’ suffering with compassion. And we need to repent of the idea that God is out to get people. God’s not against you or me or even John Piper. God doesn’t cause natural disasters. Bad things just happen, so stop blaming God. God wants us to stop finding someone else to blame and to start working toward healing one another.

God of Carnage: From the Schoolyard to the Killing Fields

What’s the connection between a suburban schoolyard brawl in which an eleven year old boy gets two teeth knocked out and the Darfur genocide? That’s the question raised by the play, God of Carnage, by Yasmina Reza. In its current excellent staging at AstonRep in Chicago, the intimate theater with a thirty seat capacity brings the audience right into the living room of the play where two polite, middle-class couples descend into violence, a physical proximity that forces us to see that the question is about us, too.

I had the pleasure of moderating a post-show discussion at the theater after the Saturday evening performance. During the conversation, the actress Kelly Lynn Hogan (Veronica) explained the difficulty she had in describing to her family and friends which female role was hers. The play has a simple plot: two eleven year old boys are involved in a school yard altercation in which one boy strikes another with a stick, knocking out two of his teeth. The play opens in the living room of the parents of the injured boy as the two couples meet to discuss what to do. So which of the two moms was Kelly Lynn playing? “All of the characters mirror each other so much,” she said, that she could not resort to easy brush strokes – she couldn’t say she was the female lead as this is an ensemble piece in the extreme. She’s not the good mother or the bad mother, since the question is moot. (The director, Doug Long, explained that for him it was important to recognize that these are four good people just like us.) Nor could she simply say that she plays the mom of the victim because which boy was to blame for the violence is a fraught question that ultimately is not answered. She tried, “I’m the artist,” but that was met with blank stares so finally she just said, “I’m the one who doesn’t vomit!”

Indeed, anyone who is familiar with the show knows that the other mom, played by Amy Kasper (Annette), is so distraught that she vomits onstage, a moment of hilarity, embarrassment, and disgust that elicits groans, moans and nervous laughter from the audience. This play has been called a comedy of manners without the manners, an apt description as the four refined, well-educated parents descend into tantrums, name-calling, finger-pointing, the destruction of physical property and at one point, a wife pummeling her husband in uncontrolled rage. The question of violence permeates the play and the play itself can feel like a kind of assault to the audience – just witnessing the outbursts is traumatizing, a reality made undeniable by AstonRep’s intimate theater. The audience is so close to the actors as to feel as if they are silent, horrified witnesses in the living room, too, helpless to stop the carnage.  The point that the hurling of insults needs to be counted as acts of violence, is made by Annette explicitly when she says, “An insult is also a kind of assault.”

At various points, the playwright continues to expand the definition of violence and to challenge our sense of ourselves as remote and peaceful noncombatants, by inviting us to make a connection between what happened in the schoolyard, what unfolds in that living room and the killing fields of Darfur. We are told that both Veronica and Alan (played by Robert Tobin) are well informed, albeit for different reasons, about the Darfur genocide and Alan tells us he is heading off to The Hague the next day because he has a case at the International Criminal Court. The ICC, as we all know, hears only the most serious crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. I believe the connection that Yasmina Reza is pointing to is that all violence, whether trivial or horrific, is made possible by the same mechanism: Whether in the schoolyard, in comfortable living rooms or in killing fields violence is committed by people who think of themselves as good people. When violence happens, many of us go in search of the bad guys but the problem is that it’s almost impossible to find someone who self-identifies as a bad guy. The people we think are bad guys, think of themselves as good in spite of the violence they commit. And when good people commit violence, our faith in our own goodness is rarely shaken.

Let me offer only two examples from the real world: one is taken from testimony at the ICC of a wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Momcilo Krajisnik, whose job was to oversee the “ethnic separation campaign” in 37 Bosnian townships. He was found guilty of “deportations, forced transfers and persecutions as well as murder and extermination of Croats and Bosnian Muslims.” Yet in his defense Mr. Krajisnik claimed that he was unaware of any crimes he might have committed and that he considered himself to be a peacemaker. Even more chilling, if that’s possible, is the statement made in Norwegian court by Anders Breivik, the murderer of 77 young people in Norway’s worst peacetime atrocity. He said, “I did this out of goodness. I acted in self-defense on behalf of my people, my city, my country.”

We can see clearly that Krajisnik and Breivik were not peaceful or good and are victims of profound self-deception. But their claim of goodness, of being peacemakers and acting out of patriotism sounds remarkably like our own claims, made when we talk about our own violence. For example, as a nation our invasions and wars, secret prisons and use of torture, drone attacks and bombing raids are all committed in the name of American values, a claim of ultimate goodness that transforms acts that we would condemn when others commit them into noble undertakings. So here’s the question raised by God of Carnage: are these self-justifying statements about violence lies only when other people make them and the truth when we make them? Or are they always lies? That’s a question that we must allow to haunt us if we want to live up to our claim of being truly good as individuals and as a nation. We must face the truth that perhaps our goodness is more of a self-deception than a reality. Perhaps it is a convenient way for us to justify our own violence while condemning the violence of others and to never face the truth that all violence is committed by good people doing very bad things. When violence is involved, we lose our individual identities and the line between good and bad becomes so blurred that we become mirror images of each other, the very dynamic that the play dramatizes so well and Kelly Lynn described to us.

The play confronts us with this choice between the lies and truth in the final few minutes when Veronica receives a call from her daughter about the most trivial act of violence in the entire play – the abandonment of their daughter’s pet hamster, Nibbles, onto the street by the father, Michael, played by Ray Kasper. The hamster was terrified and is most likely dead, but Michael is unrepentant and so Veronica comforts her daughter with lies – that Nibbles is resourceful and happy now, that her father is sad and sorry about upsetting her. When she hangs up, Michael hides from the pain that facing the truth would surely cause by saying that the hamster is probably stuffing its face, but Veronica won’t have it now. She utters a quiet but plaintive, “No” and we are left to wonder how far that “no” will take her. Perhaps she’s done lying about violence and the suffering if its victims – we can only hope, but the last line of the play is Michael’s. “What do we know?” he asks. It’s a question for us to take home with us. What do we know about what being good truly means? What do we know about how violence happens and our complicity in it? I’d say we know all we need to know, but it’s kind of like that old joke about how many psychiatrists does it take the change a light bulb. The answer: only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change. What do we know? After seeing this play, we know everything. The choice is ours.


P.S. My heartfelt thanks to AstonRep for bringing the profound, provocative and darkly funny God of Carnage to life for us. Their production is a great example of the transformative power of theater. I am looking forward to their next offering, the Chicago premiere of Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts coming in spring 2013.