Feeble Knees

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Spiritual Warfare or Spiritual Abuse?

This post The Spookiness of Spiritual Warfare over at Totem to Temple has me thinking about something Mum always says: "What gets your attention, gets you." Those that get obsessed with finding the devil behind every chair will inevitably find him, and become enslaved by the pursuit. I believe we do have an adversary, but I also believe in a victorious risen Christ who is our strong high tower. As psalm 91 so beautifully reminds us, we are not to fear.

This also reminds me of the disciples trying everything they can think of, and yet being unsuccessful in their attempt to exorcise a demon possessed boy. Notice Jesus came on the scene after all their failed attempts. Reader take note: Jesus was not in the midst when all their fleshly efforts failed to deliver.

A scene that haunts me forever is that of several members of my former church pinning a girl down to the floor and screaming "we're not going to listen to you, come out of her, Satan!" in her face. As church members held down her arms and legs, a female member (not a pastor) straddled her body and screamed in her face while all the others prayed.

The girl, a minor, had been brought to the church by local "missionaries" who brought her there without the knowledge (or apparent consent) of her parents. We later learned she was mentally ill, and apparently this was why the missionaries believed she needed exorcism. So while our assistant pastor strolled up and down the altar praying, his flock took matters into their own hands and began to shout and scream at the "devil".

I watched and shook in horror, not believing my eyes. I approached the assistant pastor directly, to protest what was being done. He smiled a benign, saintly smile and reproached me, in an oh-so-condescending way that made me think he was going to reach out and pat me on the head like a child. He explained that this is how these things go, and that we must all pray and believe, etc. etc. etc.

Years later I read a shocking story of an autistic boy who was murdered during a similar sort of "exorcism" and I shook all over. I had tried to stop what they were doing to that girl, but when my efforts failed, I stood there helpless. To this day I wish that I had picked up the phone and called the cops. God forgive me that I didn't. My memory of how it all ended is fuzzy, but it seemed that the long and protracted session failed to produce any discernible "results" and everyone just went home. Nothing of the matter was ever said or addressed from the pulpit the following Sunday, and life went on. I never saw the girl or the missionaries again.

I still pray for that girl, and wonder what kind of toll this awful abuse has taken on her. Will she ever be able to see Jesus as something other than a brute and an interrogator? Not if these people are the only witness she'll ever see.

God have mercy on us all.
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