Friday, September 21, 2018

One of the more bizarre aspects of the charismatic Christian subculture I used to belong to was the practice of claiming that demonic spirits were actively behind things--pulling the strings as it were. This idea originated, primarily, from a very poor understanding of the meaning of ancient apocalyptic biblical texts such as the Book of Daniel--which depicted angels and demons battling as a means of allegorically describing geopolitical events on earth. In the charismatic Christian subculture of the 20th century this was taken to extremes and applied on a national, regional, local and personal level. Things occurred, or didn't occur, because of "spiritual warfare." Humans could engage in spiritual warfare by identifying the appropriate spirit and shouting into empty space "I bind you in the name of Jesus!" (based upon a gross misinterpretation of Jesus' reference to the ancient Jewish rabbinic concept of "binding and loosing" which referred to applying or not applying statutes of the Torah).

In the charismatic church, if something politically or sociologically disagreeable happened, it was likely due to a spirit. On a smaller scale, if an individual began questioning authority or leadership decisions or doctrines within the church, they were accused of having a "spirit of rebellion." If it was a woman doing the questioning, she had a "Jezebel spirit." I was once told by a pastor that I had a "spirit of independence" and I thought, "Hmmm, he's saying that like it's a bad thing." :-) Accusing someone of having or being influenced by a demonic spirit was a convenient way to disparage and dismiss them and claim to have a higher and holier perspective. And, of course, there were a plethora of spirits to blame--one for every situation and malady.  And don't get me started on the countless heartbreaking stories of LGBTQ Christians who were told that their "struggle" was demonic in nature and required deliverance.

I knew a guy back in those days who had anger issues--a real short fuse. He told me one day that at a revival meeting he had been delivered from a "spirit of anger." Of course, it didn't last. Rather than have his character/behavioral issue extracted (exorcised) like a bad tooth or "bound" like innoculating against a virus, what he really needed was therapy, by a professional therapist. I hope he eventually did that and found peace.

I never really bought into the whole blaming imaginary spirits thing, even when I was in the charismatic Christian subculture. I tried it, I played along, but it seemed silly and futile. It increasingly struck me as incredibly superstitious and dualistic and a lazy way to avoid taking responsibility to do something about what was going on in the world or about one's own attitudes and behaviors and words. One of the things that really intrigued me many years later when I began learning about Buddhism was the emphasis on taking personal responsibility and engaging in very practical methods to transform one's own behaviors and thoughts and reactions and perceptions.


Blogger Don said...

Wow. I just found your book on Patheos. What a wonderful integration of various faith traditions.

And now I’ve found your blog and you don’t pull back in the least in presenting Truth about today’s American politics.

More power to you.

One more thought - I’ve only read one of your blog posts, but i’m hoping somewhere you do what is so rarely done - provide a spritual insight into the deeper, more profound depths of consciousness which manifest superficially as the events to which our attention is drawn.

The world, it seems to me, is crying out for a deeper vision, one which has been rarely articulated. In the past, Gebser, Aurobindo and a few others put forth words to help us “see” the world from within, but that is rarely done today.

I hope you wil find the inspiration to contribute in this way.

7:54 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home