The Exorcist Hotline and the Increase in Possession Cases

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Inside of the Roman Catholic Church in Újkér

Inside of the Roman Catholic Church in Újkér (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/hi-deliver-me-from-evil-church-sets-up-an-exorcist-hotline-to-deal-with-demand-8368988.html is an article on the Roman Catholic Church setting up an exorcist hotline because of high demand. I am old enough to remember the uproar about the movie, The Exorcist, when it was released in 1973. It was only a few years ago when it was re-released that I watched the entire movie, which was quite good, but I enjoyed William Peter Blatty’s book even more. The Exorcism of Emily Rose was also a fine movie that explored the tension between belief and unbelief. More recently, M. Night Shayamalin’s movie, Devil, offered a twist similar to that found in Blatty’s writings—that if demons exist, this means a spiritual world exists, and thus God is more likely to exist than not. The argument as such is weak, but if demons exist and their existence could be verified, it would remove a major obstacle in this materialistic world to belief in God.

The Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Anglican Church, and several Protestant (especially Pentecostal) bodies practice exorcism. Sometimes safeguards are ignored, especially with the small Protestant groups who do not have centuries of tradition that set up careful guidelines on when and to whom an exorcism is given. Organic causes of a person’s symptoms must be ruled out as well as mental illness. Such judgments must not be made quickly and without adequate empirical evidence from competent sources such as neurologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists.

Now I believe that while humans are quite capable of the worst evils without demons existing, I do take the unified tradition of both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy (as well as most traditional Anglicanism) and accept their existence. Given the assumption that demons exist, why has the incidence of demon possession that passes the rigorous tests of the Catholic Church increased rapidly in the last twenty years?

Rebellion against authority due to pride is the primal sin, as St. Augustine (354-430) recognized. Beginning with Descartes “I think, therefore I am,” modern man has turned increasingly to the self and away from tradition and external authority. Despite its anti-authoritarian and radically individualistic nature, American society was an anomaly in the Western world due to the influence of the Second Great Awakening. Religion grew in the United States until 1965, and after that there has been a continual decline of religious participation and in weekly church attendance. After the 1962 Port Huron meeting with Tom Hayden and the leaders of the “New Left,” American society began to rapidly change in 1964 (reflecting a change that had occurred by the 1920s in Europe). Sexual freedom, the acceptance of abortion, and later, equal rights for homosexuals, became mantras of the New Left. Mr. Hayden wanted to take over college and university campuses—and he succeeded. Today, much of the academy is staffed by “tenured radicals.” Crime rose rapidly, families began to fall apart, and the divorce rate increased. Abortion was legalized in 1973, another byproduct of the 1960s generation, and by 1969, American society had fundamentally changed from the way it was in 1963. There were enough traditionalist around to pull society from the brink of disintegration in the 1980s, but they only slowed the inevitable moral decline. Now the world is upside down, with good being called evil and evil labeled as good. I often wonder if the radicals of the 1960s generation, the New Left, the New Marxists—were influenced by demonic activity, not in the sense of demonic possession, but in the sense of falling into the demonic view that all tradition is evil, that Christianity is evil, and that murdering the unborn, legalizing physician-assisted suicide, and homosexual marriage are good. The sheer malignant hatred of some of the “gay rights advocates” may indicate demonic influence or even something close to possession in some cases. In a world in which “the center cannot hold” (Yeats), people lose a sense of identity, having been stripped of traditional identity through a radically individualistic, pleasure-oriented society that leaves them stripped bare of belief in the transcendent. They are empty inside, filled with anomie, and something will come in to fill that gap. Sometimes what comes in may be a demon. Thus the higher rate of demonic possession, both in the United States and in Europe, may be due to empty people, shells of personality who only wish to “shop until they drop.” As Jesus said, an empty house is a prime target for demonic attack. Empty, lonely people seeking their next pleasure-burst, having abortions when the birth control does not work, engaging in a perversion of the natural order by same sex marriage, trying to alter nature itself by their prideful acts, may be the perfect opportunity for an evil being to not only tempt, but also to possess. The rising rate of demonic possession is due to a systematic rejection of God in both European and in American society. Unless there is a fundamental change in world view, the number and severity of attacks may rise so high that the situation will become unmanageable—then more than an “exorcist hotline” will be needed to help those who are possessed.

American Civil Religion

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English: The United States Esperanto: Loko de ...

English: The United States Esperanto: Loko de Usono sur la terglobo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If I said there was a country in which during church services, church members sang tribute to their nation, carried flags in processional, celebrated national holidays, sang patriotic songs,  praised soldiers as war heroes for the native land, honored soldiers in uniform who came to church, of what country would you think first. My first thought would be of Nazi Germany, where civil religion was a way to honor the Nazi state and show loyalty to the Fatherland. Hitler hated Christianity but was willing to use it for his advantage and to stir up patriotism in the German people, especially in gaining help for the war effort. Worship of God was closely tied to worship of the nation-atate of Germany.

The United States, however, is similar to Nazi Germany in the sense that civil religion is a powerful force in American society. It first role with the coming of the Puritans in the seventeenth century, who envisioned America as specially blessed by God, “a shining city set on a hill.” That passage was quoted multiple times by Ronald Reagan. The idea was originally that America would set an example of Christian government to other nations of the world. That idea was reinforced by the Second Great Awakening at the end of the eighteenth century, American Civil Religion grew with the notion of Manifest Destiny and the rise of the American Empire after the Spanish-American War. This was tied in to European ideas of empire, of spreading “Christian civilization” throughout the world. That idea became more dangerous with Woodrow Wilson’s notion that the United States has a duty to spread democracy throughout the world. Thus, “Christianity and Democracy” should be the key words used to describe American Civil Religion. Instead of one’s land being considered a gracious gift of God, and the state ordained by God to punish evil-doers (as St. Paul put it), the nation-state became an object of reverence that rivaled God. American flags are marched in procession in churches along with the cross and are placed close to the altar at many churches. National holidays are celebrated such as Memorial Day and July 4, with hymns and the National Anthem played and/or sung. Soldiers returning from war are treated like Catholic saints. Sermons focus on the greatness of America and how “Christian” America has always been, despite scholarship that shows this was not the case in early America, not even in the case of the founding Fathers. Some churches are openly supportive of wars, including the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Church members dehumanize the enemy and call on America to “go over there and kick their a….”. Church members often support every American military adventure, claiming that God is on America’s side, ignoring the one million Iraqi children who died due to sanctions and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed in the Second Iraq War. Only American lives are held precious by God.

The similarities with the Nazi German state church are striking. The state is venerated almost to the point of adoration. The United States flag, which has no business being inside a church sanctuary, is held in reverence almost as much as the cross. If ministers had any integrity and put loyalty to God first, the would take all national flags out of the sanctuary and not celebrate a national holiday as a Christian holiday. That may be too much to ask of American Christians, too many of whom buy into American triumphalism and silly theories such as Premillenialism that help to poison America’s policy toward the Middle East

Worship of the state should be decoupled from worshiping God. The church should pray for “all Christian rulers,” as the Anglican Prayer Book says, but not make the nation-state into an object of reverence. Traditionally it was one’s ancestral land that was worthy of veneration, not the nation-state abstraction. “Honoring the emperor< as St. Peter puts it, does not imply semi-worshiping the emperor, as the early Christians recognized when they refused to pray to the genius of the emperor. If only contemporary American Christians had the same level of wisdom.

Students Cheating and American Subjectivism

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Ethics class

Ethics class (Photo credit: aditza121)

Students cheating in school is not a new thing, but it has become an epidemic in recent years. The Internet has made cheating easier, with thousands of term papers students buy and pass off as their own work. Cell phones are now used by students to get answers from their classmates or to look them up on a website. What is most surprising is how many students see no moral problem with cheating. Sometimes irate parents will visit a high school principle or college dean and complain that their child did not cheat, even when the evidence is overwhelmingly against the student. Is it any surprise that there are so many scandals in business and in government? Children are emulating the values of their parents, who reflect the terrible trend in American culture to want something for nothing.

The rampant relativism to which students are exposed on television, by celebrities, by the media, in the K-12 school system, and in colleges and universities makes it easy for students to become subjectivists on ethics. “Whatever floats your boat” or “Whatever I think is right is right for me and whatever you think is right for you” becomes the mantra of many students today. The most dogmatic relativists are as closed-minded as any religious fundamentalist. The fact that they become angry and try to cut a professor off when he argues against subjectivism reveals that they only want their views to be heard. Apparently the position held by the professor and by other students that everyone, including the professor, has the right to speak his mind has not sunk into these students.

I am at a loss to determine how to get beyond the impasse of relativistic propaganda in society. When the United States accepted a traditional Judeo-Christian ethic, as it did from the Second Great Awakening in the late eighteenth century through around 1963, one could argue from a common morality held by the vast majority of Americans. With the decline of Christianity and the proliferation of different religions and cultures, one could try to find common values between them–and between deeply devout people of all major religions much commonality in moral beliefs is present. Radical secularism, agnosticism, and atheism can try to develop a non-relativistic deontological or utilitarian system, but other secularists who desire to do what they want without restraint could say, “Okay, there’s a common morality needed for the good of society, but I don’t care about the good of society. There’s no God to stop me from being a self-centered ass. So that’s what I’ll be.” Without transcendent meaning, how strong is the force of the “ought” in ethics (I am borrowing this point from George Mavrodes). Students may intellectually believe in some kind of deity, but the secular relativism they have been taught from kindergarten onward has already sunk into their psyche. This fact, along with the inherent immaturity and selfishness of youth, make for a combination that will inevitably result in rampant cheating. I have had students of all grades brag to me about how they successfully cheated in school. It is a matter of pride to them. It is a matter of shame to American society that its cultural rot since 1964 has destroyed any notion of transcendent meaning (beyond trying to find it through pleasure), has promoted self-centeredness, has promoted “success” by any means necessary, and has lied to people by telling them they should be proud of their accomplishments even if they did not earn them. With churches catering to the relativist, postmodern young person without trying to correct their relativism, all that results is high recidivism and young people who leave church with the same twisted values they previously had accepted. Without a large-scale religious revival, which I do not see coming in the United States, growing irreligiosity will cause societal destruction in the U.S.–Europe had enough residual tradition to withstand falling into chaos when Europeans gave up on Christianity, but how long will that last? I expect more cheating in the future by students. Some will get caught, most will not care unless they are caught (and even then for selfish reasons), and the shred of integrity left in the American educational system will be threatened.

Why I am not a Democrat

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George McGovern, in Congress

Image via Wikipedia

My granddaddy loved the Democratic Party. He always said “it is the party of the poor man while the Republicans are the party of the rich man.” He thought that FDR was the best president the U. S. ever had, appealing to WPA and Social Security as evidence. For many years in the South, the Democratic Party was the conservative party, and while it held some positions (on segregation, for instance) that were wrong, it also defended the Tenth Amendment regarding state’s rights–and I must agree with their view on that. Sending federal troops to the South, putting school boards under dictatorial federal judges who imposed asinine social engineering schemes such as forced busing, were abuses of power by the federal government. Better to use persuasion in a grassroots movement to encourage a change in people’s attitudes than to send in the 101st Airborne. Those in power could have been pressured by a grassroots movement to end segregation from within the individual states–with enough pressure, they would probably have given in, segregation laws abolished, and race relations would have been better than they are today.

Republicans had no problem abusing federal power, especially liberal Republicans in the North. The Republican Party had historically been the party of corporate welfare, and had formed an unholy alliance with railroads and with banks in the nineteenth century. It was the Republicans who forced states, which would have been almost universally considered to be sovereign just a few decades before, into the federal fold using U. S. military forces, with the attendant loss of over 600,000 lives.

There were some liberal democrats in the South in the 1950s–Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee is a good example–but even the liberals of that time period accepted the Judeo-Christian ethic that had been dominant in the United States since the Second Great Awakening. Except for a few radicals, abortion was wrong, and no one would have dreamed of supporting same-sex marriage. Even with the expansion of federal power and the government’s use of the military against the states, the federal budget was relatively small as well as the number of federal employees. The budget was balanced three times during the Eisenhower administration.

Then came the 1960s with the spoiled baby boomers calling for a radical transformation of society. These radicals gained control of the Democratic National Convention when it nominated Senator George McGovern (who seems almost moderate by today’s standards) for president. The Democratic Party became the party of radical social change, advocating abortion rights, looser rules concerning the family unit, and, more recently, same-sex marriage. It also extended the federal welfare system immensely, especially during Lyndon Johnson’s administration. This in turn helped to expand a permanent underclass, leading to more money being spent on welfare, leading more people to become dependent on the system. It became a vicious cycle.

The Democratic and Republican parties “switched” in the South, especially after the old George Wallace voters voted for Ronald Reagan in the 1976 presidential primaries. He almost the Republican nomination from Gerald Ford that year. In 1980, the trend continued, and over time, the Republican Party moved to the right at the same time the Democratic Party shifted radically to the left. Republicans were not always true to their promises, unfortunately, but to many voters, including me, they were the “lesser evil” to voting for a liberal Democrat. There are a few conservative Democrats around, and I will vote for one from time to time. Now, though, almost all my votes are for Republicans, with an occasional foray into voting for a Libertarian.

Why am I not a Democrat? Because:

(1) Most Democrats believe in nearly unlimited abortion rights–and I believe abortion to be murder. It is difficult for me to vote for someone who believes that it is morally acceptable for a mother, with the help of her “doctor,” to murder her own unborn child (and to someone who claims Catholic identity who told me an unborn child was not a child, my message is, “You are an utter hypocrite to call yourself Catholic).

(2) Democrats have generally supported radical social changes such as same-sex marriage, something I believe to be an affront to natural law and something that will be, long term, destructive to society.

(3) Democrats have, for the most part, supported social engineering schemes such as forced busing of schoolchildren.

(4) Most Democrats continue to support an overly large welfare system. They also have the idea that they can spend themselves out of any economic crisis. The United States will never recover from its debt given the amount of money the Democratic Obama Administration has spent.

(5)  The Democratic Party engages in race, sex, and class warfare. Many Democrats falsely accuse those who oppose the party’s policies on welfare, for example, of racism. Many Democrats love to stir up racial strife it can help the party with the minority groups in its voting base. The Party supports the most radical measures of certain feminists, supporting unlimited abortion and the continual disempowerment of men. The Party seems to think that “taxing the rich” will solve all our problems, although if the government seized all money from the rich it would only make a drop in the deficit.

(6) When Democrats could do some good and stand up to the warmongering Neoconservatives in both parties, the majority of Democrats  fail and end up supporting unnecessary wars just as much as Republicans (this is my biggest beef with the Republican Party).

(7) Many Democrats are hostile to traditional Christianity. They do all they can to remove traditional Christianity from the “public square.”

I get frustrated with both parties. I do not remember who wrote in Chronicles magazine that politics in the United States consists of the “Stupid Party” (Republicans) and the “Evil Party” (Democratic). He went on to say when they compromise one gets “stupid evil.” Given my choice between the alternatives, I would rather support stupidity rather than support evil. That is why in the presidential election between Bush and Kerry, I voted Libertarian, since I believe that both the Iraq War and the U. S. use of torture was evil. I am not duty-bound to the Republican Party–but I cannot be a Democrat unless the party makes a 180 degree turn to the Right–and that is not going to happen.