Hi Frank and others,
The story about the swine has nagged me for years, but your views have opened up a few more perspectives for me.
I approach it from one of my pet themes that Isaiah's wolf and lamb prophesy doesn't really mean that the wolf will revert to a complete vegetarian in its present physiological and psychological format. It makes sense to believe that nothing in our world today is what it was at creation. The wolf and the other omnivorous and carnivorous creatures have been induced to become what they are today because of the chain-reacting changes ensuing human sin. I believe the primary event initiating this change in life forms is Abel's murder and the world being tainted with human death for the first time. (I realise that this suggestion sits well outside the scientific consensus surrounding evolution etc, but I believe it is arguable - though not in this letter.)
When humanity attains a working community with heaven and begins changing this world for the better instead of what it is doing now, carnivorous and omnivorous creatures such as the wolf, including humans and even plants will begin to revert (retrograde) towards what they were when created. Jesus' proclamation "And now I make all things new" possibly marks a special stage of this process.
The modern pig is also not what was created. What it was originally is still there, but like the shellfish and shrimp it has deviated greatly and become an omnivorous scavenger. The great deviation of their nature from their original created form would in some ways be imparted to those who ate them. So from a more esoteric view, such creatures can be regarded as being poisonous for humanity to consume - at least possibly more so than other herbivorous creatures such as cows and sheep. If this is true, those who farm such creatures for food are doing themselves and their naive customers a great disservice. Indeed, they are deeply misguided and their produce can only exacerbate the broken human condition.
So firstly, this herd of 2000 pigs being farmed for slaughter was morally illicit. (I doubt the owners needed such a large number for truffle searching or for some other compassionate purpose). Clearly also if some dietary item is actually detrimental to Jews, it is almost certainly as bad for Gentiles. In the act of removing the pigs from the (presumably non-Jewish) community's dinner tables Jesus was actually doing the owner community an unbeknown service at the same time he was helping the afflicted man. His action would have been quite different had he used a wild herd of swine. In the latter case the action would have to be considered as indifferent to animal abuse such as vivisection.
My understanding of exorcism and healing generally is that the healer draws at least some aspects of the spirit or the pre-disposing condition through him/herself and in doing so the offensive cause is neutralised. If the healer is vulnerable to all or some aspects of the condition he is healing, he will be proportionally afflicted. If the healer merely displaces the offensive aspect of the disease, he can (as Jesus said) leave a house cleaned of one spirit, but neat and tidy for a heap more to take its place. By asking Jesus what he was about to do with them, implies that there were options available. The demons' request to be transferred to the swine indicates a negotiation which at least to some extent appears to favour the demons. As much as the demons would have had a scary rollercoaster ride into the death of the pigs, their request to be transferred to the pigs suggests they expected bruising but not complete annihilation. Jesus' action against them in such a case seems to be merely a good shake up and a rap on the knuckles.
This still leaves a few questions. The pigs were not responsible for the condition of their nature. Humanity had turned them into what they were and this particular herd had been bred for eating. The argument that they were going to be slaughtered and eaten anyway, then better that they die like this, still leaves a hint of opportunism and even tinges of euthanasia. The idea that the pigs committed some form of honourable suicide is one thing, but that they were seemingly forced into it still leaves me uncomfortable.
Love in Christ,