Friday, September 30, 2011

In all honesty, I have trouble not lumping exorcists and those who talk freely about demon possession with the crazies and conspiracy theorists. After reading Anderson, I am still not convinced of the claims but it has piqued my interest. In doing some research, I stumbled across a blog on CNN that interviewed the inspiration for the exorcism themed movie, "The Rite." In the interview, the Priest, Father Gary Thomas, answers the writer's questions with such confidence that the writer actually backs off of the doubtful questioning. Father Thomas has been doing exorcisms for quite some time and states that the movie accurately portrays the encounters. While I have not seen the movie, I have assumed that, based on the pictures, the exorcisms are quite dramatic and intense. Pastor Thomas does not take his job lightly as he qualifies his clients beforehand to ensure it is not simply a psychological disorder. He was aware of the connotation his job had and the impact the idea and on the church. My favorite quote from the article is when Father Thomas explains what exorcism really is. He explains "It's a healing ministry. It's not hocus pocus. It's not smoke and mirrors. It's not magic. But I think if we don't respond to people who come in their very troubling moments, I think it diminishes us as a church."

In the book "Bondage Breaker" by Neil Anderson, we are introduced to and instructed on the problem of demonic activity in our lives. Dr. Anderson details how many of our problems in life are the result of demonic activity and it is up to us to take authority in Christ and seek freedom. Dr. Anderson relates many stories about casting demons out and describes the method most likely shown in the movie as a power struggle. However, this is where the similarities diverge. While both Anderson and Thomas agree that the demon cannot be left there, Dr. Anderson would prefer to avoid the typical power struggle to allow the client to be consciously aware of the process to freedom and accomplish it on their own. Both authors agree that a power struggle may leave the client unconscious and when they come to, they are unaware the event occurred. When the client does not take part in the process, both men agree that it could take multiple events to cast out the demon if the power struggle does take place. However, Anderson finds that if the counselee is a part of the process, they are far more likely to experience long-term freedom. It is interesting to note that both men agree on the source, results, and necessity of calling out demons even though they come from distant representations of the same religion. It also gives weight to their claims that while they do not agree on the basics of Christianity, they do agree on the existence of the spiritual battle and our need of the Authority of Christ to make headway in this fight.

This article and book have helped me to demystify the "hocus pocus" surrounding the spiritual battle we all face. It is encouraging to me that two distinct camps would meet on so many different and crucial ideas. I feel slightly crazy trying to justify the "pea soup shooting and neck spinning" image of the battle but the truth discussed by these two authors was a great place to stake the foundation of my understanding. It was a relief to find out that the image is untrue and we do not need to put stock in such claims. The downside is, if I had that image of an aspect of Christianity, what do others see and think? It is a black stain on the face of Christianity and it needs to be corrected. When the world misunderstands the truth and sees the Hollywood version as an accurate representation of what we believe, we lose ground in their minds. They already write us off as loons and we have to fight that much harder to get through. We must seek to explain what we really believe and show the world the truth that we are in a life and death battle for their eternal souls, and without Christ the house, or demons, will always win. Two warnings that I would leave you all with is to find the balance in your interest of the spiritual battle, and to recognize that we are victorious in Christ. C.S. Lewis once said “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight." If we begin to blame the demons for everything, they win, but if we ignore their presence, they win. We must remember that our victory is in Christ and no matter what they do, they have already been conquered. We can call on our authority in Christ and put them in their place. One thing I’ve noticed is that I immediately think of demonic influence when someone describes a debilitating disease and this is not necessarily true. It is irresponsible and untrue to jump to this conclusion but just as irresponsible to write it off completely. So I urge you to “ Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (I Peter 5:8)

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