Monday, July 4, 2011

The New Apostolic Reformation and Demon Talk

In the course of blogging, I've noticed that some New Apostolic Reformation preachers attribute evils to demons, "witchcraft", and the occult (see here, here, here, and here for examples). Recently, while watching two videos from New Apostolic Reformation preachers, I was struck by their references to demons.

First, as a guest of Marcos Barrientos, Lou Engle gave an impassioned speech to a Spanish-speaking audience on May 22nd.

At the start of this video, Engle describes abortion as a demonic force that is allegedly threatening the Hispanic community. Speaking through Marcos Barrientos as his interpreter, he urges listeners to refrain from voting for pro-choice candidates.
"There's a young Hispanic lady right here ... This young lady, she called me last year, said they're building the largest abortion clinic in the western hemisphere in Houston. Six stories high, the fourth story for late term abortions. It looks like an ancient Aztec temple. The ancient bloodshedding that fuels demons is rising in America. Psalm 106 said you offered up your babies' blood and you gave them to demons. Abortion's demonizing the whole culture. It's fueling the powers of darkness. And when I looked at the demographics of Houston, that abortion clinic was in the middle of three super-neighborhoods. Ninety percent Hispanic. Abortion's targeting our children. You don't want to come and immigrate to America for the sake of your children, and then offer up those very babies for the destruction of your community. I hear a voice of prophesy coming out of the Hispanic people: we will never vote for anyone who's pro-choice."
Engle's May 22nd talk can be seen as part of his ongoing anti-abortion outreach to Hispanic communities, which includes projects such as AVIVA and previous talks to/about people of color. His literal demonization of abortion, however, is not new, as New Apostolic Reformation rhetoric often includes references to the supernatural.

Second, in the June 20th edition of God Knows, Generals International founders Mike and Cindy Jacobs talked with Mark Gonzalez of the U.S. Hispanic Prayer Network. Gonzalez began with a discussion of drug cartel violence at the U.S.-Mexico border, including human trafficking and killings. Although his talk began with reasonable observations about a devastating problem, the conversation took an unusual turn at the 7:17 mark.
GONZALEZ: There's really only one way, truly, to deal with those matters. And that's for the body of Christ coming together and dealing with this at the spirit level because whebn it comes to the cartel ... there's a lot of, when you get to spiritism, occultic practices, and it depends so much on that.

CINDY JACOBS: They pray to all these gods for demonic protection.

MIKE JACOBS: Even idols, Cindy. Recently they tore down some of the idols along the border that these drug cartels had been using. I think it was San La Morte, Saint Death.
I agree that the violence along the U.S.-Mexico border is harrowing, and that prayer might bring spritual comfort to communities scarred by violence. I do not agree, however, that drug cartel violence has demonic links, no do I see prayer as a concrete, practical solution to the border violence. To attribute such violence to demons is to ignore the complex roots of cartel violence, as well as the need for prudent real-life solutions to the crisis.

Why do some New Apostolic Reformation preachers blame demons and the occult for things they consider evil? Does their theology assumes that social forces have cosmic underpinnings, be they divine or infernal? Do they seek to motivate believers to resist these social forces by giving them supernatural significance? Is it simply easier to attribute situations to demons rather than analyze their messy, complex roots? Perhaps all of the above are in play.

The problem with blaming situations on demons and "witchcraft" is that it makes it nearly impossible to have rational dialogue about those issues. For example, if one assumes that abortion is demonic, one immediately excludes the possibility of respectful dialogue with pro-choice people. Why have dialogue over an evil, demonic activity? If one assumes that homosexuality is caused by demons, why listen to LGBT people's demands for rights? Demon rhetoric reduces situations to evils that must be destroyed, rather than issues that must be understood.

Parts I, II, III, IV, and V of Engle's talk are available for viewing at YouTube. Episodes of God Knows are available for viewing at godknows[dot]tv/video/


  1. Great post. It's so hard to have a discussion about these problems, and to find a solution to them, when the other half of the conversation is convinced it's demonic. It's a complete shut down for conversations.

  2. Reverend -- Yes. This kind of demon talk is not constructive by any means.

  3. Your last sentence is both simple and profound, Ahab. That is exactly what that demon and good vs. evil rhetoric is all about.

    Although I am no longer surprised by anything I read on your blog, I still find it unbelievable. Strange considering my own background where demon rhetoric had its own place in the culture.

  4. Cognitive Dissenter -- Tell me more about the role of demon rhetoric in Mormon culture. When does it come up? What is it used to justify?

  5. I don't know what's more appalling to me. The demon rhetoric or the fact so many people believe it.

    I'm so disgusted, I can't bring myself to finish reading this article in one sitting. I'm going to need to return to it.

  6. Ahab, from the time that Mormon children are knee high to a grasshopper, they are taught at God loves them and Satan hates them and wants to drag their souls to hell. Satan and his innumerable followers dwell on Earth and follow all of us around, whispering temptations into our ears. First a little background basic Mormon theology.

    According to Mormon doctrine, we are all god's literal spirit children and lived in his presence during what is called the pre-existence. Because god loved us so much, he wanted us to have the opportunity to become gods (goddesses in the case of women) like him and his wives. To do that we had to gain physical bodies and while we had those physical bodies, be obedient to god's commandments. Then we would qualify for exaltation which = the ability to be like our heavenly parents and create our own worlds.

    God called a great council in heaven to discuss this and two different plans were presented by two of our brothers: Jesus Christ and Son of the Morning (Satan). The plan presented by JC allowed us the ability to make our own choices (the gift of agency) and offered us the gift of repentance made possible through his atonement on our behalf. That way if we sinned and thus did not qualify for exaltation, we could go through the steps of repentance and rely on Christ's sufferings on our behalves.

    Under Satan's plan, no one would be lost because no one would have agency. We could not have chosen to drink beer if we wanted to. ; ) Obedience would be compelled. Satan's plan was rejected and there was a great war in heaven over it. JC and his followers prevailed. Satan and his followers (1/3 of our spirit brothers and sisters) lost and were cast down to Earth ... where they are always looking for opportunities to make us miserable like them and drag our souls to hell. You see, they don't ever get to have bodies -- which they covet -- so they hate our guts.

    The Book of Mormon is full of warnings about Satan and how he lies in wait, looking for opportunities to deceive us. If we sin, we are in Satan's power. Part of Mormon temple worship services include what is called an Endowment Session where patrons are shown a film that depicts the creation and the subsequent fall of Adam and Eve -- after Eve succumbs to Satan's temptations. The actor(s) who portray Satan say this line while looking right at the camera, clearly intended to warn and to instill fear into the hearts of the patrons: "If they do not walk up to every covenant that they make at this altar in this temple on this day, they shall be in *my* power!"

    According to Mormon doctrine, the powers of "the Adversary" (aka Satan, etc.) are manifest in everything considered evil by the Mormon Church. That includes abortion, homosexuality, Planned Parenthood, alcohol, and "anti-Mormon" literature. He is a constant presence and if Mormons are not diligent in keeping god's commandments, he has power over them.

    There is more, including lots of urban Mormon legends about individuals having personal encounters with Satan, but that gives you the gist of it.

  7. Paul -- That's fine. This rhetoric makes me unhappy too.

    Cognitive Dissenter -- Thanks for the details!


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