Archives For spiritual warfare

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

  • Moonhenge in Cambridgeshire was recently dedicated and blessed by local Pagans. Quote: “For Jo-Ann Childs, a druid from ­Huntingdon, the experience was ­particularly spiritual because she said she had dreamed about the henge during a trance three weeks before the artist Derek Massey’s design appeared in The Hunts Post. She said: ‘It was exactly what I saw in my dream – tonight is a dream come true.’ Ms Childs, 72, a retired anaesthetic technician, has been a druid for many years. She explained that by blessing the site, druids hope it will be a sacred place for everybody, no matter what their religion.” Moonhenge is a wooden replica of Stonehenge built in honor of the land owner’s late wife, and featuring 19 outer trees representing a lunar cycle. BBC News notes that there’s a bit of bother over planning permissions, though nothing too dire it seems.
  • The Christian obsession with witchcraft continues unabated, with spiritual warfare peddler Landon “The Rev” Schott‘s new book entitled “Jezebel: The Witch Is Back” that will “equip and empower you to wage spiritual warfare aggressively” against “Jezebel’s diabolical characteristics and behaviors.” Quote: “Her assault will continue until all of God’s people are dead or defeated. Jezebel’s bloodlust for death and destruction will only be stopped when met with spiritual violence.” This is hardly the first book about the “Jezebel spirit,” she’s practically a household name among certain Christians (see here, here, here, and here). So what happens when you explain away everything from depression to simple illness to witchcraft? Do you start looking for scapegoats when your “spiritual violence” isn’t enough anymore to keep things as Christian and stable as you would like? Make no mistake, we’re considered a “symptom” of Jezebel’s reign.
  • For some time now I’ve been covering the Phoenix Goddess Temple saga. Were the practitioners devout tantric healers, or was it merely a front for a prostitution ring? Now, two years after the temple was raided and shut down by police, founder Tracy Elise will be headed to trial in October, and will be representing herself. Quote: “According to court paperwork, Tracy Elise has fired her attorney and has chosen to represent herself in court. Two years ago, police raided Elise’s church, known as the Phoenix Goddess Temple. Investigators claimed it was a house of prostitution, but parishioners said they were just practicing their religion.” For the curious, Elise has a Youtube channel where she outlines some of her beliefs. We will be covering this story as it continues to develop.
  • The trial of psychic matriarch Rose Marks continues, with gripping testimony back and forth over how successful her services were, and whether she was merely conning people for lucrative pay-outs. Quote: “Walker said she became unhappy, though the psychics felt they’d had successes: Walker’s husband had returned to live with her before he died; no child had been born; and Walker’s legal team had negotiated an initial payment from the estate to Walker.” My previous reporting on this story can be found here, and here.
  • Bloomberg, Salon.com, and Discovery all write about the deteriorating water supply in Caracas, Venezuela. While Bloomberg largely focuses on the political and structural failures that are causing the unsafe water, the others seem to focus in on Santeria practitioners dumping dead animals into local reservoirs (which the processing plants are unable to filter toxins from). Quote: “Witch doctors regularly dump animal sacrifices into the reservoir meant to quench the thirst, clean the dishes and wash the clothes of 750,000 Venezuelans, reported Bloomberg. As a result, citizens of one of the most dangerous, crime-ridden cities in the world, Caracas, Venezuela, can’t even take a drink of water from the tap safely. The 60-year old water treatment plant at the reservoir lacks the ability to filter out the toxins from the putrefying carcasses.” None of these articles seem very balanced to me. The problem isn’t the dumping per-se, if it is indeed as pervasive as claimed, the problem is a decaying infrastructure, law enforcement, and a political system in turmoil. The bad water is a symptom of a problem far larger than dead animals.

  • Self-help “Secret”-peddler James Arthur Ray, currently free on parole after serving two years for negligent homicide in three 2009 sweat-lodge ceremony deaths, has decided to drop his conviction appeal. According to the Associated Press, Ray “wants to avoid the possibility of a retrial and resentencing.” Quote: “I wish to ensure the prompt, complete and definitive termination of these criminal proceedings by dismissing this appeal and allowing the conviction and sentence to stand undisturbed.” In other words, the appeal to his not-that-harsh sentence considering 3 people died was generating a lot of criticism, and he feared that being sent back to prison was a real possibility if a new trial went forward. So perhaps this is the end of the James Arthur Ray saga? Let’s hope he sinks into a quiet and isolated retirement.
  • BBC News Scotland has the tragic story of how one abused girl’s testimony was manipulated into what would be known as the South Ronaldsay child abuse scandal in 1991. Quote: “The tiny Orkney island of South Ronaldsay became the centre of a worldwide media storm in 1991 when nine children were removed from four families following allegations of satanic sexual abuse. Two decades on, Esther, who was the child at the centre of the scandal, believes none of it would have happened if she had spoken out at the time.” Esther has published a new book entitled “If Only I Had Told.”
  • Interfaith activist Andrew Luisi says that Indian culture teaches us plurality. Quote: “India has taught me that there are endless paths to reach the same destination. Hindus believe in many deities, but ultimately and regardless of the deity they choose to worship, they believe that they will be lead to the same truth. To this point, Hindus believe that they are worshipping the manifestation of the deity in the specific image that they are performing the puja, or religious ritual, to. It is not as if each Hindu believes that the image is the deity because most understand that divine power is greater than any one physical figure; divinity is present anywhere in the world and at any time.”
  • The Revealer interviews Ronald L. Grimes, ritual theorist, and author of “Deeply into the Bone: Re-Inventing Rites of Passage.” Quote: “His book “Deeply Into the Bone: Re-Inventing Rites of Passage“ (University of California Press, 2000), for example, mixes personal accounts of the ways people have performed rites of “hatching, matching, and dispatching” with theoretical approaches to those rites. Through his detailed explanations, Grimes also makes arguments for why rites of passage matter, not just as an academic discipline, but for our lived lives. These passages are difficult, when fully comprehended, and it takes performance, imagination, and community to work through them. Crucially, they have to be updated, changed, and “re-invented” to continue to have impact.”
  • Paganism is resurgent, and thus, people are throwing away babies. Modern Catholic thought in action folks.
  • Matt Hedstrom at the Christian Century admits that a “come-one, come-all” open prayer policy would unfairly favor Christianity, but can’t bring himself to endorse either “ceremonial deism” or complete elimination of opening invocations. Quote: “As Stephen Prothero recently reminded me, many evangelicals and fundamentalists actually supported—for this very reason—the landmark 1962 Supreme Court ruling in Engel v. Vitale, which banned school-sponsored prayer. Fundamentalist leader Carl McIntire made this point clearly: ‘Prayer itself without the name of Jesus Christ’—whom the prayer in question did not name—’was not non-denominational prayer—it was simply a pagan prayer.’ McIntire continued: ‘No Government agency or power in the United States can be used to establish a religion.’ Prayer without Jesus represented a religious orientation, one McIntire found objectionable.” Again, this is why the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway is so important.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Over in the Catholic section of Patheos, Fr. Dwight Longenecker explores the idea that James Holmes, responsible for 12 deaths in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting that happened last week, may have been demonically possessed. According to Longenecker, “demonic infestation is a rare, strange and terrible psycho-spiritual affliction” that “maybe” afflicted Holmes.

James Holmes in court.

James Holmes in court.

“What makes a mild mannered, promising young scientist decide to arm himself to the teeth, walk into a suburban movie theater and start killing innocent people at random?”

What a tempting idea, that an external evil took control of Holmes and instigated his actions. That it was an embodiment of Evil itself that guided the hand of the shooter, gunning down innocent people. However, this idea is pernicious, particularly within a Christian context, and only serves to prop up a system of abuse that targets anyone who steps out of line with a narrow idea of Christian morality and behavior.

The idea of spirit possession is not unique to Catholicism, or Christianity in general, most religious cultures have a version of it, and many also have rituals of exorcism or appeasement when a possession happens. In some religious cultures, like Haitian Vodou, possession is part of a larger religious structure (and generally seen as a positive force). Yet, the Christian conception of demonic possession is unique in how exorcism is used as a form of boundary maintenance, a social-political tool to hammer those who stray from  proper behavior. This is hinted at in Longenecker’s essay.

“The second level of demonic influence is obsession. At this level, there is still no sign of anything paranormal happening. The person starts to give in to the temptation. He may become reclusive and secretive as he becomes obsessed with the evil that he is entertaining. This evil may be in the form of occult activity, violent video games or movies, pornography, drug abuse, sexual perversion, sexual promiscuity, or obsession with power and violence.

In other words, if someone you love is gay, into kinky sex, likes to play video games, or is Pagan, they might already be influenced by demons (and, by inference, that can lead to terrible tragedies). This isn’t simply my interpretation, it’s an assertion that has been flatly stated by Catholic exorcists.

“Father Euteneuer does not speak as a theorist. Since 2003 he’s had extensive experience ministering to those possessed by demons … Father Euteneuer told mepossession is almost always a result of someone getting involved in some sort of occult practices, such as witchcraft, Wicca, tarot cards, and Ouiji boards. ”Harry Potter and these Twilight vampires glamorize the power of evil,” Father Eutenener explained, “and this has lead to many, many cases of possession among young people.” It may begin with a child or teenager simply “playing around” with the occult, but that seemingly harmless act is “opening a window” to possession.”

Of course, Father Euteneuer is embroiled in sex scandal, so the demons must have gotten to him, so lets turn to another source.

“A lot of folks dabble in the occult, or they will be involved in practices that … classical Christianity at least would consider to be idolatrous.  People can get themselves involved in Wicca, or people will go see some sort of fortune-teller, or people will go to a séance, or they can go and they can learn how to channel spirits. …”

That’s Catholic exorcist Father Gary Thomas, a Catholic exorcist who was featured in the book “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist” (adapted into a feature film starring Anthony Hopkins). So he’s probably the most famous Catholic exorcist currently making the rounds. Thomas is also believer in Ritual Satanic Abuse, despite the fact that the moral panic that held sway during the 1980s and 90s produced no credible proof of a underground network of Satanic abusers. This is because exorcisms are tied to upheaval and crisis within a religious body, not to any definable war in the spiritual realm.

“Portable manuals detailing ever more elaborate and standardized rituals of exorcism proliferated during the papal schism of the 15th century, when two men claimed to be the rightful pope. The manuals surfaced again during the Protestant Reformation. “In general, exorcisms are associated with these turning-point moments when the church [feels] challenged in some way and tries to centralize power and clarify the delegation of authority from God down through the hierarchy,” [historian Nancy Caciola] says. The challenges now confronting the Catholic Church in the United States are legion: the sex abuse scandal, a secularizing society, and a restive flock that, studies show, loses one out of three adult Catholics, to name just a few.”

The reality is that when these exercises in centralizing power, and casting out heretics, is imported to other cultures the results can be catastrophic. When missionaries inserted Christian triumphalism and a spiritual warfare dynamics into traditional African beliefs about malefic magic, they created deadly consequences the missionaries could not (or would not) understand.

Missionaries have commonly responded [to witchcraft accusations] in two ways, said [Robert] Priest [professor of missions and intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School]. The power of witches to harm others is dismissed as superstition, but this seldom persuades local Christians to abandon the concept; or the reality of witchcraft is endorsed by missionaries not wanting to be “post-Enlightenment rationalists” with a non-biblical skepticism of spiritual warfare.

The result is that traditional witch ideas are fused with Christian theology, which obscures the social consequences: Accused witches are often destitute or outcast, and thus socially defenseless. Instead of seeing old women or children as scapegoats, said Priest, Christian leaders suggest that witchcraft participates in genuine spiritual evil and that the accusations are reasonable. “The church is providing the cognitive underpinnings for the past system in the contemporary world.”

Again and again, we are shown that Christian exorcism and spiritual warfare, when applied to pluralistic or non-Christian cultures, spread a madness that can result in false imprisonments and death. If Catholics want to exorcise other willing Catholics, fine. Likewise, every religious tradition is free to negotiate with the numinous in whatever fashion works best for them, but when you start using these technologies as an external weapon, a dangerous line is crossed. No matter how reassuring it might be to think that a minion of Satan used a mortal form to slaughter those movie-goers, that this is why Holmes snapped suddenly and without warning, it does nothing but muddy the waters and push us further from what may have actually been going on in this man’s mind leading up to that fateful day.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker‘s essay is irresponsible and does more harm than good in an already tragic circumstance. He peddles the beliefs that fuel ex-witch narratives, passing it off as a possible explanation for those asking how this could have happened. The truth has always been that humanity needs no external spiritual help to do gross and inhumane things to one another, for reasons that can seem as opaque as this current case. We should collective reject any attempt to place a demonic possession narrative, especially a Catholic possession narrative, on these killings and instead focus on practical prevention and using our faith(s) to comfort those affected. Anything else is cynical, self-serving, and unneeded.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Ellwood "Bunky" Bartlett

Ellwood "Bunky" Bartlett

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of them I may expand into longer posts as needed.

From Media Matters, a bit of levity from our old pal Pat Robertson.

So remember kids, cemeteries don’t pose a threat of spiritual attack, unless there are COVENS!

I’ve got more coming on the blog later today, so stay tuned…

[The following is a report from Cara Schulz at PNC-Minnesota on a message sent to Pagans from the organisers of "DC40," a spiritual warfare event put together by leaders from within the New Apostolic Reformation movement.]

The Reformation Prayer Network, led by Cindy Jacobs, and the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, headed by John Benefiel, have joined together to produce a nation-wide event called “DC40.″  The goal of DC40 is to effect “eternal change in our nation’s capitol so our elected officials can govern from a new position of uncompromising light and understanding as we change the spiritual atmosphere over Washington DC forever.” This effort is variously named DC40, Forty Days of Light Over D.C., and 51 Days of Reformation Intercession.

The change DC40 wants to make is electing leaders who fear the Christian God and “find that compromise is not the way” as it is impossible to “compromise with unrighteousness.” The “uncompromising light” refers to a statement released by Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, which says God’s word should be the legal authority in the United States and Christians should acknowledge no other,  “no power to purpose or accept any compromise of the promises of God, and we declare illegal in the earth any action or any people, Nation or nations that undertake what is contradictory to the Word of God.”

Pagans are pushing back against what they see as malefic magic aimed at erasing the separation of church and state and DC40′s attack on the goddess Columbia. Bloggers Hecate and Literata, both of whom live in the Washington DC area, are calling for Pagans to make daily devotions to the Goddess Columbia and to pray to Her to help this country preserve its foundational commitment to religious liberty.  “I will be spending this time making a daily devotion to her, not against these conservative Christians, but in hopes that they and I might find ways to live peaceably together in a nation that values religious pluralism,” writes Literata.    Hail Columbia is organizing positive interfaith responses to DC40 to counter their agenda.

In their latest newsletter, DC40 sent out this response to the Pagan community:

We are well aware of the websites and blogs rallying to try and curse our effort and counter it. Always remember, You can’t curse what God has blessed! Read Psalm 2. Remember also that Jesus is the light of every man. We have read some of your accusations and false perceptions of us, and we say “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We were once in darkness too, and we call you out of the darkness and into the light. We release the power of blood-covered light over you.

Here is our prayer for you:
“Father, through the faith of Your Son and through the power of His Blood, we come on behalf of those who would curse us. Because of their actions toward us, we have legal spiritual access and we take it!

We release perfect Blood-covered love into the core of your being!
May eternal light flood your hearts this day with the revelation of who you really are, and, more importantly, who God really is! We also pray that this revelation will dismantle and refute all arguments, theories, reasonings, and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the true knowledge of God. Your ladder has been placed on the wrong wall. We call you to your right mind through the finished work of the cross.

You see, there is no DC40 Prayer War. It is finished, you just haven’t come to the truth of it yet. However, if you are reading this, it is too late – we release the arrow of blood-covered truth and convicting power of Holy Spirit into the core of your being, and release grace for you to SEE in Jesus’ Mighty Name!”

We don’t hate you, we love you – you were created by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for greatness. “

DC40 plans to have teams in the capital cities of all 50 states and Washington DC linking state capitals to the nation’s capital to help harness the intents and wills of thousands of Christians for this working. They have also released a new app called “Bell 333,” which refers to a Bible verse where God reveals “great and mighty things.” The mobile device app will play the sound of a ringing bell every hour during the event to help affect the spiritual atmosphere in our nation’s capitol.

“I think the idea of ringing the bells on the hour throughout the day is an effort to get people who are involved to pray more frequently and consistently. It is a magical technique to increase the power of their intent through repetitive reinforcement. Even if Christians say that they are petitioning their god to act, this kind of working is functionally equivalent to an effort to use magic on their god’s behalf.” – Hail Columbia blog post titled “DC40 Writes: “The point is our intent. Intent is a force.”

The 51 day events start in Hawaii on October 3rd and moves to each state in reverse order of its entry into the union and continues until November 22.  Christians in the state for the day are to “take point” in praying for the District of Christ, the repudiation of Columbia and other non-Christian deities and religions, and the election of Christian God-fearing candidates.  The rest of the country is to pray that the point state “Fullness of its destiny.”  The group will have Christians by act in concert using a 51Day Prayer Guide to be released on their website.  Minnesota is scheduled to be a point state on October 21st.  The Facebook event “Minnesotans for Liberty and Religious Freedom: Stop the Bigotry of DC40″ can be found here.

Columbia is considered by some Pagans to be the patron goddess or genius locii of the United States.  She is a guardian of freedom and a generous granter of plenty.  In early depictions of Columbia, she wears the cap of freedom and holds a cornucopia.   The eagle and the rattlesnake are sacred to Her.

[For more on the New Apostolic Reformation and DC40, check out The Wild Hunt's coverage. If you'd like to see what Cindy Jacob's message to adherents of indigenous religions might be, you can get a preview of that here.]

The English-language site for the Arabic news outlet Al Jazeera recently featured an editorial by Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor of Random Lengths News, on the neo-Pentecostal Christian network known as the New Apostolic Reformation. In the piece Rosenberg compares NAR with Islamist militia group the Taliban.

“Prior to 9/11, the Taliban government in Afghanistan did not register very much on American radar screens, with one notable exception: when it blew up two colossal images of the Buddha in Bamiyan province in early 2001. But destruction of treasured artifacts isn’t just limited to the Taliban. There’s a right-wing politico-religious presence centred in the US, but with a global reach, engaging in similar practises, destroying religious and cultural artifacts as a key aspect of its ideology of “strategic level spiritual warfare” (SLSW). Until recently a fringe evangelical movement, warned against as deviant, “spiritual warfare” is rapidly positioning itself within America’s mainstream political right. It’s well past time for political journalists to start covering what this movement is up to.”

Is the New Apostolic Reformation really comparable to the Taliban? I dislike making such comparisons because it clouds the issue. It gets people debating about Islam, terrorism, and comparing movements primarily based in the West with movements primarily based in the Middle East. It produces more heat than light. That said, I entirely agree with Rosenberg that reporters should take “a long hard look at the NAR figures endorsing Rick Perry’s prayer event on August 6.” So far most investigation of this group has come from specialty sites like Talk to Action, Right Wing Watch, and Religion Dispatches, along with a number of evangelical Christian critics, who see NAR’s practices as heretical. Even figures within the American Family Association have criticized the group, though political expedience has led them to cover that up.

“…leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation, a heretical movement that sprang from the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, claim that they hear directly from God, Jesus and angels. They even encourage their followers to contact angels despite the fact that Scripture expressly forbids contacting the spirit world because Satan and his demons can appear as an “angel of light” to deceive people. (2 Cor 11:14) Like the apostles who established the early church, these “restored apostles and prophets” believe they are called by God to lay the foundation and government for the new earthly Kingdom. Moreover, they believe that soon they will take dominion over government and dominate the world politically and spiritually.”

Some have questioned whether I am exaggerating, misunderstanding, or distorting NAR’s intentions. My only answer is that I truly hope so. I would rather be exposed as alarmist and have to eat a bit of crow than be proven right on this issue. But all the digging I’ve done, all the research I’ve done, points to disturbing trends and intentions within this network. Ever since they first came to my attention during the Sarah Palin witch-hunter blessing controversy, all I have ever found from them is uniquely focused dislike of Pagan and indigenous religions. Even if it were only dislike, I would not be worried, lots of Christians dislike Pagan and indigenous faiths, but their adherence to a doctrine of spiritual warfare in conjunction with that dislike is, in my mind, a dangerous mixture. They spread lies and misinformation about our faiths, believe that their prayers against “demons” are literally killing people, have taken credit for the earthquake in Japan, and claimed to have moved God to blind and give cancer to a Wiccan chaplain. That isn’t colorful exaggeration on my part, let’s quote the prayer warrior in question.

“In 1995, Mary mobilized a prayer network for Alaska’s prisons and began experiencing spiritual warfare as never before. She had received word that a witch had applied for a job as chaplain of the state’s prison system… Mary recalls, “As we continued to pray against the spirit of witchcraft, her incense altar caught on fire, her car engine blew up, she went blind in her left eye, and she was diagnosed with cancer” … “Ultimately, the witch fled to another state for medical treatment. Soon after, revival visited every prison in Alaska. At the women’s correctional facility in Anchorage alone, 55 of 60 inmates found Christ. “Ask largely,” Mary says. “Intercessory prayer is making a major difference in North America.”

This is not generalized prayer to convert the world to Christianity, this is willfully malefic. If you truly believe that God would blind and give cancer to a Wiccan through intercessory prayer, that’s “black” magic. Nor is that the end of it. They brag about burning Native art, and thought that the upside of the Haitian earthquake was that it broke the “strongman of the occult’s” back.

Even taking all that into account, I wouldn’t make too much of a fuss. There are lots of crazy groups out there, I’m not going to worry about all of them. But in the last decade or so they have made massive inroads into political politics, and are trying to mainstream themselves by holding events at places like Harvard. That the endorsers list of the upcoming Texas prayer event The Response reads like a partial who’s who of the New Apostolic Reformation is disturbing, not simply because Governor Rick Perry might be sympathetic to them, but because it means this “Third Wave” has succeeded in becoming a part of the mainstream Religious Right. Anti-Pagan attitudes, plus spiritual warfare tactics, plus political power is the formula that worries me. That keeps me writing on this subject.

So when I mention their latest prayer initiative, DC40, on this site, it is through this lens that I analyze it. They have been crystal clear in their goals, and in naming their enemies. They don’t try to hide it. Simply scratching the surface of their quest to bring “light” to Washington DC exposes the underbelly of their ambitions. To pretend otherwise is to simply ignore what they themselves claim to want. Again, perhaps some of you will disagree with me that this group, this network, isn’t something to worry about, or pay attention to. That I’m being sensationalist. I hope you’re right. I hope they are simply an aberration that will fade away, but I’m not sure. I think they are gaining in influence and popularity. I’m not asking anyone to engage in spiritual or magical “battle” with these people, what I’m really asking is that we stay informed, and press our mainstream media to pay attention to the politicians who accept their endorsements, emerge from their churches, or woo them for votes. I’m asking for hard questions, for direct and informed questions. That we shine the “light” they so crave back on their own activities.

“There is no essential difference between sticking pins into a wax image of an enemy and burning candles in front of a wax image of the Virgin. You may think that both these practices are gross superstition, but you can hardly think that one is real and potent and deny reality and potency to the other.” Dion Fortune, Psychic Self-Defense

Yesterday I covered an ambitious spiritual warfare campaign that’s being planned by New Apostolic Reformation leaders. The campaign, “DC40,″ which aims to “lay siege” on Washington D.C. and bring about “the advancement of the Kingdom in the earth.” The New Apostolic Reformation, a neo-Pentecostal movement, is extremely anti-Pagan in its orientation. They call Washington D.C. the “District of Christ” because Columbia is an aspect of the Queen of Heaven, essentially the feminine divine in all its many forms, from Isis to Mary. They are obsessed with this (in their minds) demonic figure, and have devoted talks, written several books, and performed coordinated prayer campaigns against her.

The event starts on October 3rd, places special emphasis on Samhain/Día de los Muertos, and continues through most of November. It’s very clear that they expect real-world political dividends from this action, including the end of “compromise” and a return to Christian dominance in the United States. At the end of my post yesterday I asked what our collective response should be, could we continue to simply ignore them, or was some sort of working/action necessary to counter the energies being raised by this network? So far, several Pagans have weighed in, starting with Pagan blogger Hecate, who says that “this time it’s personal,” and proposes defending Columbia by warding the Capitol against their intervention.

“So what does that mean: to defend her? Well, I propose (and thanks to Literata for the suggestion) to seriously ward my Bit of Earth, my own tiny temple to Columbia. I propose to, a number of times between now and November 11, 2011, circle the United States Capitol, sprinkling, inter alia, rosemary (that’s for remembrance) and warding the beautiful statue of Columbia that presides over, and directs energy into, the United States Capitol. I propose to write to my Senators and Congress person, on paper that I’ve charged and with ink that I’ve mixed with sacred herbs, and ask them to disavow this hateful group of Dominionists. I propose to ask my own Circle if we can do some protective magic. I propose, as Summer slips into Autumn and as the Veils Between the Worlds begin to thin, to call upon all of my ancestresses and ancestors, especially those who have worked to make America the Home of the Free, and ask them to block what the Dominionists are doing to this country and to my beloved City on a Hill. I’m an urban Pagan and I propose to do magic to sustain my urban area.”

Another Pagan bloger, Literata, is making a daily devotion to the American personification of Liberty.

“In response to this, I have made a commitment to the personification of Liberty. You may call her Freedom, as in the statue crowning the dome of the Capitol building, or you may call her Columbia, patron goddess of the district, or you may know her as the ideal of religious toleration that Thomas Jefferson worked so tirelessly to embed in Virginia’s laws and which became part of America’s Bill of Rights, the very fabric of our legal existence.”

PNC-Washington DC has a statement from the locally-based Open Hearth Foundation.

“The Open Hearth Foundation will take precautions that are necessary in preparing for Samhain festivities in the light of this new campaign.  We recommend that Pagan groups who are holding festivities in the DC area during this time take extra care and make sure to have a plan in mind with what to do if protesters or dissenters showed up at their events.  While it is not likely that they would confront us in the physical, we could only be so lucky that dissenters would give us this kind of warning before arriving.  We will stay alert and informed, making sure to monitor the situation and make adjustments to our plans as deemed necessary for the safety and security of all.”

At the Patheos Pagan Portal,  Star Foster has announced that she’s working to create “an interfaith project devoted to more positive ends.” Foster also notes that “spiritual warfare Is essentially black magic.”

“Labels do not define our morality. They do not evaluate our character. It is not calling yourself a Pagan, Christian, Witch, Evangelical, Thelemite, Catholic or Wiccan that identifies you as a good person, it’s what you do. If what you do is declare spiritual warfare against others, if you devote your time and energy to harm, destroy and  confound others, then you are not a good person. You soul is blackened and corrupt.”

Finally, Hawaiian Pagan Lamyka has taken offense at this group kicking off their initiative in Hawaii, and is rallying Hawaiians for a “Hawai’i Against Hate” response.

Oct. 3rd, spread the word to every Kahu, Kahuna, & Kumu to use our Mana to block their sickness from the world! You don’t need to be the same faith you just need to believe that hatred has no place in Hawai’i or anywhere else in this world. If you want to pray before the 3rd, on the 3rd, and after the 3rd that’s also very welcome! As a suggestion let us all simply pray. “Let the hate spread by the DC40 group and likeminded individuals be stopped and returned to them. Ho’i no ‘ai i DC40!”

For more, I would also suggest you check out the comments section of my post from yesterday, which contains some intelligent discussion on what the proper response should be. I’ll be keeping track of reactions to this campaign by the New Apostolic Reformation, and update as necessary. For all of my coverage on the New Apostolic Reformation (also known as the “Third Wave”) check out this link, and this link.

ADDENDUM: Here’s a report on this from PNC-Minnesota.

I’ve written at some length about the upcoming prayer rally “The Response” and its problematic organizers and endorsers, and I have also devoted quite a bit of time to the New Apostolic Reformation, a neo-Pentecostal Christian movement that regularly engages in spiritual warfare tactics, displays a disturbing anti-Pagan emphasis, and has intertwined itself with Perry and his prayer event. While I use the terminology “spiritual warfare” quite often, I think that it’s hard to envision what this practice is like among the Christians who engage in it. I’ve mentioned that it is, in essence, malefic magic, but that’s often a difficult picture to square with the usual harmless image of devout Christians with heads bowed and hands clasped. But an upcoming New Apostolic Reformation-led event, brought to my attention by fellow Pagan blogger Hecate, does an very good job of illustrating how “spiritual warfare” works in their context.

The above video is from an upcoming prayer-war event called “DC40″ which will “lay siege” on Washington D.C. to change the “District of Columbia” into the “Disctrict of Christ” (they even issued a faux-legal “divorce decree”). This initiative is being co-led by Cindy Jacobs (who managed to find the spiritual bright-side in the Japan and Haiti earthquakes) and John Benefiel of the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network (HAPN), both influential figures in the New Apostolic Reformation movement, and both are national endorsers for Rick Perry’s “The Response.” In anther video, organizer and “prophetic artist” James Nesbit makes clear that the goal is to return Washington D.C. to Christ, and to eliminate compromise in our government.

That animus towards compromise isn’t an aberration. Benefiel’s HAPN released a “Declaration of Light” that made it very clear that they have “no power to purpose or accept any compromise of the promises of God, and we declare illegal in the earth any action of any people, Nation or nations that undertake what is contradictory to the Word of God.” In short, if it isn’t God-sanctified, it doesn’t apply to them.

Now many see these sorts of things and simply scoff. But for a large number of modern Pagans the focused intent of will, the use of prayer to achieve goals, the harnessing of intent towards a shared goal is taken very seriously, we call it magic (or magick). If we believe that groups of Pagans working towards some shared spiritual goal is effective, then by extension we can’t help but take an initiative to harness the wills and intents of thousands of Christians towards a goal that would marginalize or harm our faiths seriously. These prayer warriors make plain that their “struggle is not against flesh and blood” and that they “do not curse those deceived,” but disclaimers do not make malefic magic positive. These groups have made it very, very, clear that our gods are their enemies.

The question is how do we respond? Some want to respond with their own magical action, but would that simply feed their spiritual warfare paradigm? As the New Apostolic Reformation climbs the ladder of influence and power within politics, organizing their massive group spells, simply ignoring them seems to be quickly fading away as an option.

Religious Right watchdog site Talk to Action recently noted that the Harvard Extension Service & Leadership Society is hosting the 2011 Social Transformation Conference on April 1st and 2nd. HESLS wants to reassure us that this conference is a positive, diverse, and hate-free event.

“This conference is focused not on drawing lines of division, but on providing an opportunity for students and the community at large to explore how we can transform or improve our society. We have been assured by our speakers that they have not supported any hatred directed towards any group, and that allegations to the contrary are untrue and/or misinterpreted.”

The only problem with this statement is that it isn’t even remotely true. You see, the backers and speakers at this conference are members of the New Apostolic Reformation (aka the “Third Wave”), a neo-pentecostal Christian group obsessed with waging a spiritual war against indigenous religions, Pagan religions, homosexuality, and even Catholicism! Three of the featured speakers have publicly inveighed against the dangers of Witchcraft and “New Age” religions, spurring Bruce Wilson at Talk to Action to note that “it’s been a few years now since witch hunting was in vogue in Massachusetts, but an upcoming conference to be held at Harvard this April 1-2 could help rekindle the practice.”

The staff of the Harvard Crimson have also weighed in, strongly criticizing HESLS’s defense of the event, noting that if some of the participant’s “expressions do not seem like hatred, we are hard pressed to understand what does.”

“By hosting a panel discussion whose participants will merely voice their opinions without being called upon to justify their past incendiary remarks, the event seems to accept incredibly offensive opinions without providing any internal challenge. In a sense, the intellectual integrity of the entire Harvard community is consequently on trial with this coming conference. Regardless of their subject matter, conferences must nevertheless be held to basic standards of intellectual honesty and accountability, and we simply cannot imagine what value the Social Transformation Conference will bring to our community.”

For those who haven’t been following my coverage of this extremist Christian movement, they have taken credit for the crisis in Japan, and blamed Shinto for God’s wrath, praised the Haitian earthquake for breaking the “strongman of the occult’s” back, provided Sarah Palin a religious mentor who claims to have given a Wiccan chaplain cancer through prayer, believes Japan’s emperor literally slept with a demonic succubus, thinks worship is a weapon, gives fiscal aid to African witch-hunters, burns indigenous/Native art, and are obsessed with destroying the “Queen of Heaven”. In short, they are consumed with a theologically-driven hatred of indigenous and Pagan faiths. Oh, and I think it goes without saying they are rabidly anti-gay.

Let me echo the Harvard Crimson and say that these individuals have the right to believe as they do, and the First Amendment right to air their opinions in the public square, but for them to go unchallenged here, using Harvard to legitimize and paint a veneer of respectability over their almost cartoonishly nefarious goals seriously endangers “the intellectual integrity of the entire Harvard community.” As for the New Apostolic Reformation, their conceptions of resistance to this conference are typical.

“Today, however, Harvard is known as one of the most liberal universities in America.  Recently, a student felt a leading of the Lord to host a Christian marketplace conference on social transformation.  Little did he realize the level of opposition that would come against him.  It wasn’t long before this conference was met with real opposition from a gay activist group that is seeking to prevent the event from taking place.  This group has been effective at causing the Dean to question the merits of such an event.  We believe the root of this concern is simply spiritual forces seeking to keep Christ off this campus and fear caused by the gay activists.

One wonders if all it takes to have Harvard host a hate group is a willing student and a heavily edited press packet. By hosting this group, a message is being sent to religious minorities, indigenous groups, and GLBTQ individuals that they aren’t safe at this campus. That claims from extremists that they in “no way seek to convey any negative message about any group,” are taken at face value despite obvious evidence to the contrary. This isn’t the usual debate about conservative speech being allowed at liberal college campuses, or even conservative Christian speech, this group’s theology and mission transcend the usual left-right debates. This is a group on a mission, one that should concern anyone who doesn’t fit into their very narrow Christian paradigm.

Several mainstream news outlets have reported on a two-day conference of American Catholic bishops and priests regarding the rite of exorcism (more than 50 bishops and 60 priests signed up to attend). Taking place in Baltimore, Maryland, and organized by Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, the meeting is designed to “respond to demand”, but not, allegedly, to “revive the practice.”

…to R. Scott Appleby, a professor of American Catholic history at the University of Notre Dame, the bishops’ timing makes perfect sense. “What they’re trying to do in restoring exorcisms,” said Dr. Appleby, a longtime observer of the bishops, “is to strengthen and enhance what seems to be lost in the church, which is the sense that the church is not like any other institution. It is supernatural, and the key players in that are the hierarchy and the priests who can be given the faculties of exorcism. It’s a strategy for saying: ‘We are not the Federal Reserve, and we are not the World Council of Churches. We deal with angels and demons.’ ”

To paraphrase Dr. Appleby, Catholic bishops and priests want to be seen as players in an ongoing supernatural battle. Conference organizer Bishop Paprocki told CNN that discussions about the devil and exorcisms were a small but “regular part of our faith.” Of course, he also said that the force behind sexual abuse lawsuits against the Catholic Church were “none other than the devil.” Further, Paprocki has at least one theory as to why there’s been an increase in demand for exorcists.

No one knows why more people seem to be seeking the rite. Paprocki said one reason could be the growing interest among Americans in exploring general spirituality, as opposed to participating in organized religion, which has led more people to dabble in the occult. “They don’t know exactly what they’re getting into and when they have questions, they’re turning to the church, to priests,” said Paprocki, chairman of the bishops’ committee on canonical affairs and church governance. “They wonder if some untoward activity is taking place in their life and want some help discerning that.”

What Paprocki dances around, others, like Father Thomas Euteneuer, state more baldly.

“Father Euteneuer does not speak as a theorist. Since 2003 he’s had extensive experience ministering to those possessed by demons … Father Euteneuer told me possession is almost always a result of someone getting involved in some sort of occult practices, such as witchcraft, Wicca, tarot cards, and Ouiji boards. ”Harry Potter and these Twilight vampires glamorize the power of evil,” Father Eutenener explained, “and this has lead to many, many cases of possession among young people.” It may begin with a child or teenager simply “playing around” with the occult, but that seemingly harmless act is “opening a window” to possession.”

So what does this matter? Why should Pagans even care what sort of rites Catholics perform? When European bishops warn against “esoteric religiosity”, or the Pope warns of “subjugation to occult powers” in his encyclical on love, does it have an effect on our lives? There’s been a marked rise in the popularity of exorcism and spiritual warfare of late, not just with Catholics, but with Pentecostal and evangelical Christian groups as well. While still a small percentage, some of these fringe groups have powerful allies in political circles. Further, professor Ebony Utley says we should take “all the silly devil talk” seriously.

Conspiracy theories ebb and flow in waves associated with how confident people feel about their social environments. When times are hard and unemployment rates are high, individuals get creative in where they look for explanations. Joshua Gunn, author of Modern Occult Rhetoric explains, “Whenever there’s a sense of social anomie and crisis these things do tend to flair up.” He also noted that “white guys who feel disempowered in some way” are most likely to be conspiracy theorists.

Another clue that many of these claims are catch-all conspiracy theories is the conflation of disparate vocabularies. Occult — a word which simply means secret, or hidden — is not a term necessarily linked to evil. The negative connotation has been added over time. The claimants also conflate masonry, Egyptian mythology, Satanism, and the Illuminati, as if they were all the same.

Right now we have a simmering pot of assumptions, prejudices, conspiracy theories, and demonization that only occasionally bubbles up into something truly worrisome; but as economic hard times continue to drag on, and fringe ideas about spiritual warfare and exorcism start to become mainstreamed, we increase the likelihood of a new moral panic breaking out. Right now some folks (and media outlets) are torn on whether Pagans are harmless eccentrics or dangerous cultists, but that calculus can always change. Few could have thought that a pulpy book on a secret Satanic underground could help spark a panic that imprisoned dozens and ruined the lives of many more. By essentially facilitating the mainstreaming of exorcisms these bishops and priests are playing with fire, but perhaps not the sort of spiritual fire they imagine.