Banishing those evil witches

Dwight Longenecker is currently a Catholic Priest. Before that he was an Evangelical preacher and Anglican priest, so there’s no way of knowing where he might end up next. One thing we do know for sure is that his superstition has no bounds. He believes it all. This post of his is from last January, but he linked to it for Hallowe’en.

I couldn’t sleep the other night and was feeling despondent because of some choices I had made, and maybe I was a little down about some other things. Tossing and turning, my mood went from bad to worse. I guess I dozed off a bit, then woke again and experienced a very dark temptation. Not just a titillating thought or a vague desire, but something really and truly nasty.

I couldn’t shift it. Then along with the temptation came a sense that I was losing my sanity. I was going to go crazy. I held my head in my hands and curled up. Then I realized I was under attack. I immediately sat up and said out loud, “In the name of Jesus the Lord, I rebuke you. Be gone.”

At once the darkness lifted, I rolled over and went to sleep and woke up refreshed and lightened.

All of this was in the dark time of the night, and it is easy to write it off as a bad dream or some sort of half awake, half asleep trick the mind plays on you. I don’t think so. I think it was real, and what I found so encouraging is that the name of Jesus really is powerful. The dark shadows that surrounded me really did lift. The diabolical temptation and disturbance was banished.

This is a perfect of rozaR s’maccO (Occam’s Razor in reverse). Never attribute to science that which can be explained by the supernatural. Sleep paralysis is a well known phenomenon, and  is due to misfiring neurotransmitters, not demons. Back in the 1960s Wilder Penfield, the famous Canadian neuroscientist, was able to induce the same feelings by stimulating the frontal lobe.

None of this sways Longenecker. He goes on to differentiate this experience from exorcism.

Of course to call it ‘exorcism’ is exaggerated. True exorcism involves those sad individuals who are infested with demons and who need to be delivered by the authority of an proper exorcist. Nevertheless, diabolical temptations and attacks happen at lower levels of spiritual involvement and through the grace of our baptism all of us have taken authority over evil. We can be delivered from evil by saying an instant prayer like I did, or at even less dramatic level we can put up the barriers against evil through a conscious recitation of the Lord’s Prayer itself with an emphasis on the phrase ‘Deliver us from evil.”

This simple phrase is enough to remove those pesky witches from your neighbourhood.

I once went to a day conference with the famous Protestant minister Dr. Kenneth McCall. He wrote the ground breaking book Healing the Family Tree. Some rather excitable women in the front row told him during a question time that they had a coven of witches living in their town and what should they do to get rid of them?

Dr. McCall just said calmly, “In most cases all that is required for evil to be banished is for two or three baptized Christians to gather together and recite the Lord’s Prayer with a focus on the phrase ‘deliver us from evil.’” It wasn’t quite the dramatic answer the ladies were looking for, but it has stuck with me all these years.

Such is the power of religious belief. Ignore science and create an imaginary problem and pray for strength and deliverance and presto, it works.

In his post from last Hallowe’en, he tells us how to protect ourselves from the ghouls, and ghosties, and things that go bump in the night. Of course, the answer is prayer.

Dressing up as monsters has the same purpose as putting gargoyles on cathedrals–you’re supposed to be scarier than the devil in order to give him the creeps and send him running. So when you carve a jack o’lantern make him scary as you can, but say a prayer as you put him out that he might keep away the real monsters of the night, and if you dress as a ghoul or a ghost or a witch or a warlock remember that you are doing so to creep them out and say a prayer of deliverance from all the dark forces of the world.

And if you come across anyone who takes witchcraft seriously tell them politely that if they summon the devil he will probably come, and that messing with the occult is the spiritual equivalent of an eight year old kid taking a five gallon can of gas into a fireworks warehouse then playing with matches.

So let’s thank Longenecker for telling us how to be safe from the demons that exist in his head. However, beliefs in witches and demons and the power of prayer isn’t harmless. In some parts of Africa, people are being killed for the sin and crime of practising witchcraft.  Some of these deaths are supported by Christian pastors.

The nine-year-old boy lay on a bloodstained hospital sheet crawling with ants, staring blindly at the wall.

His family pastor had accused him of being a witch, and his father then tried to force acid down his throat as an exorcism. It spilled as he struggled, burning away his face and eyes. The emaciated boy barely had strength left to whisper the name of the church that had denounced him – Mount Zion Lighthouse.

A month later, he died.

Nwanaokwo Edet was one of an increasing number of children in Africa accused of witchcraft by pastors and then tortured or killed, often by family members. Pastors were involved in half of 200 cases of “witch children” reviewed by the AP, and 13 churches were named in the case files.

I can say confidently that Longenecker would decry these horrible acts. In fact, I am sure he would claim the perpetrators are not truly christian. That is beside the point. Beliefs such as expressed by Longenecker are behind the killings. We need to condemn, not only the practices, but the nonsense.

In our western society, there are only a relatively few people who would turn to an exorcist instead of a mental health professional, and all of them are empowered by medieval beliefs in witchcraft, demons, and possessions.

So, enjoy your Hallowe’en and ignore the foolishness of those who believe that evil spirits are about.

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