Fr. Dale Matson
“That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew Him.” (Portion of Gospel lesson for Epiphany V from Mark Chapter I)
Why do the Scriptures spend so much time on demons? Aren’t demons really just a way people in those days understood things that they couldn’t explain? Weren’t those who were mentally ill confused with those who were possessed of demons? When we talk about evil today, aren’t we really saying that someone is psychopathic not really evil; Not really demon possessed?
As Christians we are encouraged to invoke the Holy Spirit. As St. Seraphim stated, “The true aim of our Christian life consists of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God.” However, some of what Christians do invokes the presence of other spirits. Our flesh itself is not sinful but it does make us vulnerable. Our flesh is the avenue into our souls. Our sense organs are needed to process our environment and this sustains our very existence. What we expose ourselves to however is important. What we allow in front of our eyes, into our ears, mouth, and even our imaginations, we do have control over. We sin by exposing ourselves to sights and sounds that diminish and eventually can enslave us.
Whether we want to admit it or not, our culture embraces evil. If we look at the top ten music albums of 2011, the top ten songs, the top ten movies, many deal with unspeakable violence, sexual immorality and demons. One of the most successful performers and producers today is Kanye West, who In January 2006, appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in the image of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns. Ryan Gosling played a criminal protagonist in the movie Drive that is packaged so well that its unforgettable extreme violence is dismissed in the run for the Oscars. This is on the heels of violent movies such as Fargo, The Matrix and No Country For Old Men, to name only a few. Violence is as evil, destructive and contagious as pornography. Violent video games are the new pornography of adolescent males. These movies and music are not any different than the cool aid laced with cyanide served up by the evil Jim Jones to his cult followers. It may go down easy but it is deadly. Two of the most successful films Twilight and Harry Potter deal with the vampires and the occult.
Through our eyes and ears, we are exposing our souls, the souls that Christ died to save, to the world of demons. Through our physical senses, we make ourselves vulnerable to the spiritual world. We are invoking evil in our lives. In the movie True Grit, Rooster Cogburn the alcoholic marshal is told by Mattie Ross, “Don’t put things in your mouth that steal your thoughts”. I say this to every substance abuser. “Don’t put things in your mouth that steal your thoughts.”
When I was transitioning from construction to the profession of psychology, I took a job as a psychiatric technician in a Wisconsin county mental hospital. There were at least two people there that I can remember who appeared to be psychotic but not in a classical sense. By this I mean, they had a palpable seriousness to their demeanor and an intense hatred toward anything symbolic of the church. One male patient saw a photograph of Pope John Paul II on the cover of a Time magazine lying on a table and immediately flew into a rage and tore up the magazine. The female said she had made a pact with Satan for protection. I have never seen an individual, who was once beautiful, decompensate so rapidly. When I looked into their eyes, there was a kind of soulless stare barely covering a ready rage.
For those of you who wonder, “Can a Christian be demon possessed?” Can a demon live inside of a Christian? My answer is an emphatic no! I would respond with this verse from 1st John 4:4. “You are from God, little children, and have overcome; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” In your conflicts with sin, temptation, and error, you, as a Christian, should never despair, for God will insure you the victory. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world”.
Focus on the positive and you will not be exposing yourself to this evil. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8) Measure your thoughts by these words of God. Amen