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Giving the Devil His Due
Every generation needs to wake up to the spiritual battle we are in and learn how to find victory in Christ.

In 1973, the year I became a Christian, The Exorcist terrified movie audiences across North America. It was based on a true story.

At the same time, the charismatic renewal was sweeping the continent with supernatural manifestations. Prayer ministries developed to heal the sick and deliver people from demons. Books like Pigs in the Parlor by Frank and Ida Mae Hammond contributed to efforts to equip Christians in the spiritual warfare arena.

Unaware of these trends, I disdained organized religion, especially Christianity. Instead I held an eclectic blend of New Age and Eastern beliefs, dabbling in the occult for the fun of it. Evil to me was an illusion that separated us from our innate oneness with the universe. Or so I thought.

An encounter with the demonic convinced me otherwise. High on mescaline, alone in a drug dealer's apartment, I sensed evil presences trying to possess me and drive me insane. During a harrowing several hours, I seemed to be seeing wraithlike shapes in my peripheral vision. When I turned on the TV for comfort, instead of the usual silly-looking host dressed like a devil to introduce a horror movie, I saw a devil staring at me, his eyes burning with shocking, personal hatred. Then he leapt out at me. I shut the set off, terrified.

Thinking order might calm me, I began to clean the dealer's bedroom, starting with a box of marijuana stems and seeds and stack of newspapers by his bare mattress. Underneath, I found a book: Hey God! by Frank Foglio, about his family's experiences with the Holy Spirit.

A product of the charismatic renewal, Foglio's stories prompted me to ask Jesus into my heart. I promised to serve Him the rest of my life—if He would rescue me from my drug-induced hell. The evil still seemed to seethe around me, though. My fear continued to grow. Then I read: "Be still and know that I am God." God seemed to be commanding me to stop struggling to save myself, to honour Him instead of the evil. I obeyed, though it was one of the hardest things I ever did, because the devil sure seemed more real than God right then.

As soon as I chose to fear (or reverence) God instead of evil, it vanished. My life made a 180° turn. Though I now had a personal relationship with Christ, I remained outside organized religion. Only later would I discover how much that hindered my spiritual growth.

In the early 1980s, I came across a spiritual teacher who made a video of "exorcism" or deliverance sessions where he would pass a wooden cross over members of his audience. On the video, several ordinary-looking people hissed, growled or moaned as he passed the cross over them. Some would wince or grimace if it came too close. One woman angrily argued with the teacher in a demonic male voice. Another tried to grab the cross away from him. Hair-raising to watch, this video further convinced me of the reality of the demonic.

In my personal life, I had other evidence. When I tried to pray, I would often find myself distracted, or I'd hear knocking sounds, or I'd be plagued with unwanted thoughts or images. Sometimes the room would seem to get darker or the covers on my bed would seem to rustle. At other times, when I felt Christ present, lights would seem to grow brighter.

Though I sometimes found peace, I experienced far more defeat than victory. Little did I know that my past occult activities and continued flirtation with false teachings had opened my mind to demonic attack. However, my interest in the subject waned in the 1980s when my career in journalism began to take off. My spiritual growth resumed in 1990, when I joined Kanata Baptist Church (KBC) near Ottawa.

By then Frank Peretti's two spiritual warfare novels This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness prompted a new interest in spiritual warfare among Evangelicals. That year, Neil Anderson's The Bondage Breaker outlined how through Christ one could be freed of demonic oppression. By the mid- 90s, every Christian I met seemed to be reading these books.

Little had I realized that … falling under the influence of false teachings would give evil forces a foothold in my mind.

KBC encouraged members to take part in a conference run by Anderson's Freedom in Christ Ministries. Through a series of prayers called the Steps to Freedom, we confessed and renounced past occult activities, false teachings and other areas of sin. Afterwards, my mind experienced amazing quiet. No more chatter or unwanted thoughts. Only peace. Not only that—I had new insight on how poisonous some of my favourite false teachings were. Little had I realized that even something as innocent-seeming as reading my horoscope, or falling under the influence of false teachings would give evil forces a foothold in my mind. Around that time I also took an excellent Sunday school course on Kay Arthur's, Lord, is it Warfare?

Even more importantly, Anderson's and Arthur's teachings helped me realize the importance of having an Apostolic faith—of believing the eyewitness accounts of Christ's first followers as the Church has handed them down over the generations. They taught me to focus on God's revealed truth, especially the truth of who we are in Christ, not the demonic. My Christian walk became more victorious. I was better equipped to discern when I was under spiritual attack and rely on truth, exercising my authority in Christ.

When I began researching my novel The Defilers in the mid-90s, I transposed my own conversion story onto a fictional character with a different personality and background. Because I'd experienced such liberation, I wanted to include demonic oppression and deliverance in the plot. With my newfound respect for Christian orthodoxy, I wanted to make sure that everything I wrote was vetted by respected theologians. A pastor who had personal experience praying for demonically oppressed people confirmed the accuracy of the deliverance scenes.

At the same time, I was coming across stories about Satanic Ritual Abuse, or SRA. In the '80s and early '90s, hysteria had swept some communities and poorly trained counsellors were encouraging people to discover hidden memories of abuse, many of them proven later to be confabulations. Innocent people ended up in jail.

I also found some Christians had become overly fascinated by evil, attributing everything to demons, even a cough or a headache. I knew of some who, convinced they had demons, went through deliverance after deliverance, making me wonder if they were either suggestible or conjuring up the demons merely by believing in their presence. I also knew mental illness and depression often have purely organic causes.

The key seems to be balance, and that's what I was striving for in giving the devil his due in the novel. Our culture needs an awareness of spiritual evil today. Yes, there are demonic forces but it's not always easy to discern them as we are both material and spiritual beings in one. Our mind is a battleground, but God is far more powerful. Those who abide in Christ need not fear.

I wonder now, however, if interest in the demonic, at least in Christian circles, has waned a little. John Eldredge has helped to raise awareness of spiritual warfare in his books Wild at Heart and Waking the Dead.

The news media continues to cover stories of exorcism and the demonic, perhaps for its sensational value. In 2005, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, also based on a true story, provoked none of the terror of The Exorcist. Today's youth are more likely to laugh at these movies than find them keeping them awake at night.

The demonic has saturated so many video games, music videos, and other media that perhaps the wider culture has become desensitized. But the next generation is reaping a terrible legacy of even deeper bondage to evil, whether it is in the form of pornography, self-mutilation, or addictions. And many youth today don't have even the nominal Sunday school experiences my generation had.

Two lines of dialog distil the novel's message.

I hoped in writing The Defilers I might equip a new generation of readers with knowledge of God's power and authority, while concealing this message in a gripping story that might appeal to people who fool around with the occult, take drugs and risk encounters with enslaving demonic forces.

Two lines of dialog distil the novel's message. Constable Will Bright is speaking to Pastor David Jordan the day after he and the main character Mountie Linda Donner have barged in on the exorcism of a little girl. Will tells David that he had never believed him previously when he talked about demons. "After last night, I sure believe in them now," he says.

David answers: "I hope you believe in the far greater power of God in Jesus Christ."

The novel then goes on to show the triumph of God over evil both in Linda's life and in the life of a backwoods community. Every generation needs to wake up to the spiritual battle we are in and learn how to find victory in Christ. The Defilers is my contribution to that effort.

Deborah Waters Gyapong's journalism career spans more than 20 years in television, print and radio, including 12 years as a producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's television news and current affairs programming. Deborah now covers religion and politics primarily for Roman Catholic and Evangelical newspapers. In 2005, the manuscript for her suspense novel The Defilers won the Best New Canadian Christian Fiction Award. The prize included publication. The Defilers was released in May 2006.


Originally published in Christian Week, February 15, 2007.

 

 
 
 
 

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