I remember a visiting preacher coming to church ten or so years ago. He strode to the platform, took the microphone from my Dad’s outstretched hand, greeted us and then began his sermon by hanging something on the pulpit. A large map of our country unfurled. I’ll never forget the silent reaction. Double chins appeared all over the congregation as people pulled their faces back in a collective “Ergh, what is that?” The map was covered in splattered blood.
Okay, it turns out it was nail polish. The sermon was on blood splattering – spiritual warfare by symbolically splattering the blood where God reveals. In retrospect, it was a manifestation of spiritual mapping, like that which C. Peter Wagner referred to.
But the thing is, washing by the blood of Jesus is a metaphorical thing that happens at the point of salvation. Its something you enter into by faith not nail polish. As to whether one needs to splatter ‘blood’ anywhere in order for the land to be returned to God, well I’d argue Psalm 24:1 – The earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof, and the people who dwell within.
But now that argument is done with, lets talk about the stewards of the Earth. Us – people of faith be it Christian, Islamic, Pagan or otherwise, people of no faith, people of colour, whities, traditional owners of the land, recipients of the spoils of colonialism – I gag a bit on that last one now that I understand the damage of colonialism a little better. The point is, I don’t believe God is so insecure over what happens with the Earth. He knows the Endgame. Its us mere mortals that need to keep a watch over our own actions and intentions.
It seems to me that the practice of spiritual warfare is dreadfully uninformed. Not only do we not understand the full impact of the finished work of Christ, but we in Christendom seem to have a very poor grasp on the nature and power of the rituals we enact “in the name of God.” So dear Christian friend, let’s talk about some of the rituals that Christian Spiritual Warfare may have actually borrowed from occultism.
Destruction by Fire and Controlling the Elements
I mentioned in my last article that if you’ve ever been involved in a burning party, you needed to read this. Well here’s the soft opening. “Destruction rituals by fire are very pagan,” says Carrie Maya. “I use fire to destroy things literally and figuratively all the time. Fire is one of the four elements acknowledged and invoked in the oldest shamanic, earth-based spiritual traditions that exist. Often seen as being a living entity in and of itself—with it’s own energy of destruction and creation. It can also just be seen as a symbol of these things without being supernatural in nature.”
Carrie’s statement shed interesting light on my experience as a teen. I remember being about 15 and at a youth group event in the back yard of a farmhouse belonging to a church family. The fire barrel was blasting with heat, and into that barrel went Korn t-shirts and CD’s, Weezer CD’s, band posters, romance novels, old letters, you name it. We gleefully destroyed our items and snapped pictures with our (film) cameras hoping to capture images of demons dancing in the flames. I laugh now. And I want the weezer CD back (Okay, the Weezer CD belonged to my future husband, but still.)
As for whether or not the ritual worked or was necessary, I don’t know. It was certainly spiritual, as evidenced by our intent and by Carrie’s example. But was it something the scripture instructed us to do? Not so much. In fact, I can’t find an example in scripture. Examples of sacrifice by fire always sacrificed something acceptable to God. Something living. God has no want or need for our band CD’s and trashy romance novels. Yet the ritual was spiritual, and oh so common in Christian and occult practice.
Its interesting to note, while we speak of one of the elements, that spiritual warfare has been used to target weather patterns. Carrie remarks, “Controlling the elements (earth, water, wind, fire, spirit) is occultic. I don’t think it’s bad. I’m just saying that this has existed since long before Christianity. So when we have Christians commanding tornadoes, tsunamis, storms, and fires to do things, it’s essentially spellcraft.“
This should make us stop and reflect: in the last entry in this series, we discussed how the difference between spell craft and Christian prayer lay largely in the dichotomy between “my will be done” and “Thy will be done.” Yet if we aren’t even cognisant of the line that delineates the difference between Christian spiritual warfare and witchcraft, how can we be sure where we stand?
Modern Extremes: I.e. Grave Soaking
I’ll admit to being rather aghast when I saw this video of a group of Bethel congregants “Grave soaking.” This was the act of going to the graves of great Christians and lying on them to “soak up the anointing.” I watched the video with a queasy feeling in my stomach. Not only is that person long gone (in this case, Smith Wigglesworth), their spirit in Eternity with God, but it was extremely disrespectful to the grave and there’s no instruction in the Bible towards this thoroughly odd practice. I shared the video with Carrie and this is what she said:
“I just can’t believe Bethel are doing this! I personally don’t have an issue with people engaging with the spirits of the departed; I’m a medium myself and also practice ancestor veneration. However, the Bible condemns mediumship so whether I agree with it or not isn’t the point. It’s whether the sacred text they’re claiming to live by allows it. And it doesn’t.
Also, grave soaking (as they’re calling it) goes beyond common mediumship but probably lands on the more extreme end of the necromancy spectrum. I mean, they’re straight up trying to absorb a dead guy’s power. So for the sake of this discussion, say they were actually “soaking up his anointing” but what else were they soaking up? Smith Wigglesworth may have been a good person in their eyes but he wasn’t perfect because he was a human being.
Imagine this: Maybe he was like Mike Gugliumucci and had a secret pornography addiction. Maybe he was like Ted Haggard who had a homosexual affair with a sex worker (but just didn’t get caught). These are things that, in their eyes, would be considered immoral. So do they want to soak that energy too?
Their flawed logic and cognitive dissonance (the occult is bad but it’s okay to practice necromancy for Jesus) leaves them open to soaking up EVERYTHING Smith Wigglesworth had operating inside of him and that, technically, wouldn’t be energetically safe.”
What does energetically safe mean? “Everything is energy,” says Carrie. “Not just in a woo-woo way but also from a scientific perspective. Conservation law within the science of physics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It’s ALWAYS converted from one thing to another. This is usually talked about within the context of applied force. E.g. My cheeky cat slides my mug across the bench then pushes it. The push is the applied force and through the power of gravity it falls to the floor and smashes to pieces. The applied force converts a whole cup that can contain liquid into fragments of glass all over the place. I could take that one step further and say, “Hmm. I liked that mug and don’t want to throw that out. I’m going to use the smaller pieces to create a pretty mosaic art piece.” Yes, I just compared Smith Wigglesworth to a mug. But hopefully that creates a clear illustration of what I’m trying to say.
I’d also like to point out, as a former Christian who is familiar with the Biblical perspectives and protocols around “the laying on of hands” that Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians generally have an understanding that they shouldn’t be touching just anyone. Because they don’t know what kind of “demons” or “spirits” a person might have. So even within Christian tradition there is an acknowledgement of the transfer of energy (or impartation). So it surprises me that these people at Bethel could do this when, within their own worldview, it is actually much more extreme than the laying on of hands.
As a side note, this whole grave soaking thing feels kind of idolatrous from a Christian perspective, right? Like isn’t God big enough to give them the same gifts that He gave the person lying in the grave? Not to mention that, separate from whatever religion or beliefs ANY of us have, isn’t it just bad taste to treat someone’s grave like a spiritual amusement park? Not as a witch, but as a person, that makes me feel icky.”
Why mention the different people’s and beliefs at the beginning of this article? Because threaded like a theme through-out the Bible is honour. Honour thy Father and thy Mother. Honour the Lord with your first-fruits. Honour. Honour. Honour. Yet grave soaking, to me, smacks of dishonour. Imagine the family of the deceased seeing a video of elated Christians filming youtube videos on the grave of their granddad. But Carrie raises a good point: God is big enough to give you the same gifts without requiring you to go to a deceased and potentially dodgy second source.
But she had another cringy source ready to rock my world: Adolf Hitler was a grave soaker too. Eeesh. In a documentary called “In Search of History: Hitler and the Occult” the documentary makers allege that Hitler and the leaders of the SS were consumed with Aryan Mythology. They found people for the SS based on their ethnic purity going back generations. In order to ensure that the next generation of soldier were racially pure, they recommended sexual rites on the graves of Nordic/German heroes in order to conceive babies that would carry the spirit of the deceased warrior.
Admittedly, and thankfully, grave soaking is not commonly practiced in Christian circles. (Thank God. Literally.) But as the influence of Bethel spreads, so too does the importance of knowing good doctrine from bad increase. In the last blog post, I put out a laundry list of other practices. So lets take a quick tour of the rest so this article doesn’t go forever.
First up: Extended periods of praying in tongues, warfare worship, prophetic declaration or strategic prayer. The Bible does clearly show the gift of tongues (on the day of Pentecost, and the Apostle Paul saying he prays in tongues more than all of us). It also advises that praying in tongues should be accompanied by the gift of interpretation. Thus, one needs to question what public and prolonged displays of praying in tongues actually achieves.
The same with extended “warfare” worship. My experience, and my reading of cult literature, raises one answer here (you might have others): It brings us to an altered state of consciousness. Is this good or bad? Carrie reminds us time and time again that it is the intent that matters here. But she also mentioned this:
“It reminds me of the Benandanti of Italy. They took it upon themselves to go on a crusade in the spirit realm to “deal” with God’s enemies. Whether through prayer and discernment (as within the modern Christian Charismatic and Pentecostal traditions) or drug use (as with the Benandanti), these people put themselves into an altered state of consciousness in order to “perceive” spiritual truth about other people. Just as with the visions that were considered “evidence” during the witch trials, it’s not fair that a Pentecostal Christian’s “discernment” or a Benandanti’s drug-induced visions of God’s enemies should be considered any kind of proof of someone’s guilt. Especially if that alleged guilt leads to persecution and even punishment.”
In Carrie’s mind, and in mine, spiritual mapping is a 20thcentury witch hunt. “It sounds just like what they did with the Malleus Maleficarum beginning in the 1400s. Wagner’s methods of using prayer and discernment also remind me of how, back during the witch trials (in America and Europe), random people could say they had visions of people being witches and it would be considered “evidence” in a court of law. Lots of people were persecuted that way which is quite horrific.”
I love the, forgive me, dumb logic of some of the trials. You get thrown into a river with weights around your ankles to drown. If you drown, you aren’t a witch. If you don’t, and you manage to swim, you are a witch. It’s all semantics at this point. Either way, you are dead. Often the accused only had ‘discernment’ as the evidence against them. Yet discernment is what is used as evidence in a good many spiritual warfare practices.
Secondly, repressed memories or generational curses. Yes, the scripture does mention the “sins of the fathers” which could be called generational curses. But to put too much stock in this is to undervalue the complete work of the cross. Lets go back to John 19, people. It is finished. Its all finished. If you are saved, you are in Christ. You are a new Creation. The old things have passed away. A new thing has begun.
As for repressed memories, this represents a hugely concerning area for counselors and psychologists alike, as repressed memories may be false or heavily influenced by suggestion. I cite, for example, the satanic panic of the 90’s when many people were diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder due to Satanic Ritual Abuse realised in repressed memories. Many, potentially the vast majority of them, were found to be false memories. Yet the damage these memories did was real. Real suffering came as a result.
As someone who knows what I believe to be a genuine survivor of Satanic Ritual Abuse, I’m horrified. Not just because fabricated memories devalue the suffering of genuine victims, but also because there is no reason for a person to carry a false memory and suffer the pain and disability it potentially brings. The mind is a powerful thing. Therefore, we should not mess with it. Pastors or Christian counsellors should, in my opinion, step very carefully and only with appropriate qualifications when it comes to counselling anyone. They can do great damage if they follow “discernment” as their guide. Repressed memories are just one area where good intentions and inadequate therapeutic qualifications and professional standards can damage a life incredibly.
Thirdly, and I’m hurrying: Vicarious repentance. Hey guys, the finished work of the cross is finished. There is therefore no need to repent for what others have done, regardless of whether or not you are related to them.
There might be need to make amends. But by and large, this is a civic thing (in my belief). I’m referring mainly to the generational effect of colonialism on first people. I.e. Kevin Rudd, when he was Prime Minister of Australia, issued an apology to our first nations for the stolen generation. It was symbolic, important, and it meant a lot to the recipients. It is not complete reparation, as there is still a lot of disadvantage in these people groups but that is a topic for another day and another expert as it’s a bit over my head to be honest. But on with the show…
Fourthly, Prayer journeys or locational rituals. Followers of the Spiritual Warfare Network and other practitioners have been known to go to specific locations to undertake their rituals. Not only is this not advised or commanded in scripture, its also expensive for no good reasons (plane tickets, yo) and is little more than super-spiritual tourism as its usually an extension of spiritual mapping which is highly subjective. Why? Because God is omnipresent and omnipotent. Praying to him here in the backblocks of Gippsland is as effective as praying to him at the wailing wall in Jerusalem. The important thing is the prayer, not the location.
Upon reflection, I’ve been involved in this sort of thing too. At the instruction of a prophet who visited my church many years ago, we gathered our church members and the members of another church, went to every entry of our local down and drove a stake into the ground to declare the town to be the Lords. Nearly two decades on, that church still has the roughly same amount of people in it. Despite “reclaiming” the city, it remains largely unchanged except for the hard work of local law enforcement, council and community groups to make it a better place to live and work. But hey, they’d have done that anyway.
It makes me wonder how many towns have been “taken for Christ” in spiritual warfare rituals, and yet they remain, strangely, unconverted. This alone should make us question whether this type of spiritual warfare is pretty much a fruitless fig tree. We know what Jesus did with that.
Lastly, discerning, naming or renouncing demons and territorial spirits. Tune in next week for that one, kids.
I guess in conclusion, there are a good many similarities between what has been included in Christian Spiritual Warfare and the occult. But a personal area of conviction I felt when speaking with Carrie was this: she considers intent and energy a lot more carefully than many Christians I have experienced. We can be far too gung-ho, and plunge ourselves into a world that we so poorly understand.
There is a place for prayer. There is a place for the armour of God. There is a place for resting in the finished work of the Cross and standing firm in what our God has done for us. In my opinion, this is the light by which we should see all our spiritual activity.
*There are two articles left to be written in this series: “Territorial Spirits: Are they out there?” and “The Role of Prayer and Intercession in the Christian Life.”
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