When I was Pentecostal, I saw demons everywhere.
They wandered around my bedroom looking for ways to oppress me. They tempted me on the days I did not spend time reading the bible. They dwelled in homes of families in bondage to “generational sin”, and they used sex and alcohol to torment my friends.
“There is a war waging in the spiritual realm, a realm that is more real than the one we can see,” my pastor used to say all the time.
This was thrilling to me. I loved the idea of an invisible world, of angels and demons fighting for souls. When I prayed, I pictured the demons withering and melting away, like the Wicked Witch of the West. The hours I spent in intercessory prayer as a teenager did not contribute to my high school studies, hone my artistic talent, or help me finish my chores – but none of that mattered, because I knew I was provoking major changes in the unseen spiritual realm, the realm that was more real than the one of flesh and blood.
As a young teen, I was enraptured by a magical kind of Christianity that promised power over the spirits if I “pressed into the things of God”. Looking back, I see that I was ensnared in fundamentalism stitched with Gnosticism and colorful threads of superstition and Jesus-sorcery.
Demons and evil spirits came in all forms. I sensed them when I prayed. I talked about them with my friends. Sometimes I even “saw” them. Here are a few demons I heard about from the pulpit or experienced in my own life:
The Spirit of Alcoholism
The Spirit of Gambling
The Spirit of Lust
The Spirit of Pride
The Spirit of Homosexuality
The Spirit of Greed
The Spirit of Disunity
The Spirit of Disobedience
The Spirit of Rebellion
The Spirit of Doubt
The Spirit of Intellectualism
The Spirit of Materialism
The Spirit of Legalism
The Spirit of the Lukewarm
It was all fun and cool when I thought I was binding the principalities of darkness and maiming the Spirit of Lust in my life after spending an hour on my knees, but the demon doctrine isn’t so fun when it’s turned on you. I started to question the validity of the spiritual realm when at age 18, I got heavily disciplined at church for some “spiritual sin” my youth pastor “sensed” I was dabbling in.
“It’s the Spirit of Apathy, and it’s an ugly spirit on you,” he said.
The same evening, my leaders told me I had succumbed to the Spirit of Gossip and the Spirit of Exclusivity.
“Do you really think that ‘gossip’ is the result of some kind of deep, demonic activity?” I asked. “Because that sounds pretty whack to me.”
This obviously made me a strong force for the Spirit of Rebellion.
Everything was some big, dramatic spiritual issue. Nothing was random. Nothing was just kids being kids. Nothing was coincidence. Nothing was a clinical mental disorder. Nothing was just imperfect people doing stupid stuff. Everything was a result of the spiritual war waging around us.
This is why I say I don’t believe in that demon stuff anymore. A couple weeks ago, when I wrote about hearing fundamentalist voices, a few of my friends said they were praying that I would overpower the demonic whispers with the Truth of God.
“Oh I hadn’t thought about it that way,” I said. “I’m pretty sure the voices are just coming from my own exposure to years of a certain unhealthy thought pattern.”
Who knows, I may be wrong. But for now, it feels so peaceful to not have to constantly fight a war that I can’t even see.
Photo by Benjamin Von Wong via Flickr Creative Commons.